The Alexa Skill Store for France is a Fast Growing Land of Opportunity
Amazon Alexa is still in its infancy in France. The Echo smart speakers were launched on June 13th and Amazon hasn’t released any figures concerning sales, so there are no solid indicators. Nevertheless, a few data points collected from Google Trends and the main forum dedicated to Alexa show a strong increase in interest and usage of Alexa in France.
The French Alexa skill store has also shown increasing momentum. A study done by the Journal de la Voix mid-September indicated about 500 skills were available. As of November 1st, the skill count is now at 643. That’s a 28% growth in about 6 weeks which is very promising.
Voicebot.ai data show France trailing the U.S., U.K. Germany, and Japan in total skills, but all of those countries have had Alexa support for 12 months or longer.During the past 5-6 weeks, the growth rate in French Alexa skills has outpaced those countries by 2-3.5 times. Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) for developers was first introduced in France in March of this year and the Amazon Echo smart speaker didn’t arrive until June. As a result of this late arrival in France, there is a big gap to close, but interest among developers and consumers is strong.
Local Developers Wake Up to Alexa
The momentum shows that local developers have been convinced to launch on the platform, despite the fact that the Alexa Rewards are not yet available in France and that monetization via Amazon Pay is only available since September 26th. Amazon also seems to be putting significant effort into evangelizing to developers as well as supporting them. While certification took about a week a few months back, it now takes only a day or two.
Developers on the platform represent a mix of local media powerhouses, international smart home devices manufacturers and a few independent developers, some of them busy launching pale imitations of successful US skills.
The French Skill Store: a land of opportunity…
With 67 million inhabitants, France has a population of about a fifth of the US and like any other Western European country has very good indicators in terms of Internet penetration and technology usage.
Developers can make money today and the current state of the skill store also means that now is the perfect time to secure a spot as a recommended skill that receives a mention in the Alexa newsletter or a hero banner in the skill store. U.S. and U.K. developers have confirmed that these Amazon-led promotions are the most reliable means for driving new user adoption. The options for marketing remain limited, but the landscape may be very different after the holiday season when Alexa has found its way into many households. There is an early mover advantage today.
With that said, American developers considering entering the market do have an extra (unfair?) advantage. Amazon consistently releases new features first in the U.S. and a few months later in Europe. This gives plenty of time for U.S. developers to experiment technically, gather user feedback and improve their skills before rolling them out overseas.
…but some challenges to be solved
Now, if you are considering launching some skills in the French store (why wouldn’t you?), there are two main challenges to be aware of: Alexa skill localization and discovery.
Alexa Skill Localization
Your skill must be available in French. However, a simple translation via one of the commonly used online tools or an external translating agency just won’t cut it. For those that remember their French classes, there are at least four different ways to say “are you ready?” depending on your audience (male/female) and the tone (casual/formal). Ooh là là.
Taking the context into account is also key when localizing your skill. What is the use case of the skill? How is the skill accessed? Is the skill multimodal? What about competition and the local context? How are my audio cues perceived locally? These are just a few of the considerations.
Based on those elements, you need to localize all of the possible interactions with the skill that users will have as well as the elements needed for a proper distribution such as invocation name, description, and keywords. This represents a fair amount of work.
Alexa Skill Discovery
Skill discovery is a common problem across all geographies and not limited to France. How will people discover and then enable your skill? Like every other internationalization challenge, local knowledge is key.
How to position your skill? How to localize your messaging stack and creatives? Where and how should you promote your skill in order to attract the desired audience? What are the local practices in terms of performance marketing? The challenges inherent to skill discovery here are tenfold more complex when one is not familiar with the local market.
The French Alexa Skill Market: well worth considering
The steps needed to conquer the French market for U.S. developers are much steeper than those needed to enter the U.K. or Australian markets for example. That barrier to entry combined to the maturity and momentum of the French skill store means that there are significant challenges as well as opportunities to be seized for those willing to put the effort.
The first piece of good news is that you won’t have to brush up on your French and become a specialist of the local media landscape, as some agencies like ours (Voice & You) specialize in the localization and marketing of Alexa skills in France. The second piece of good news is that once you have internationalized to France, tackling other non-English speaking markets like Italy and Spain will be much easier as you will have gained significant and valuable experience.
So “à bientôt” on the French skill store?
About the Author: Alexis Hue is the managing director of Voice & You, a boutique marketing agency helping developers localize and market their Alexa skills in France. He is also a co-founder of the Journal de la Voix, France’s #1 media dedicated 100% to voice. A practitioner, he has also developed skills himself, some of which have received Alexa rewards.