Amazon Alexa Skill Developer Rewards Program Comes to India and May Boost the 26,000 Alexa Skills Available Today
Amazon reported this week in a blog post that it is extending the popular Alexa Developer Rewards program to developers in India. The program offers cash rewards to developers that produce popular Alexa skills. In the U.S., developers have reported earning up to $5,000 as the leading skill in a particular category. Cash payouts decline from there to just a few dollars for lower ranked skills. Amazon has never revealed its ranking algorithm but has said that it reflects a combination of usage and engagement signals. In other words, if your Alexa skill generates a lot of users that return frequently and stick around for long sessions, you will maximize your chance of an award. Amazon’s Jeeta Das wrote,
We evaluate customer engagement and determine skill rewards on a monthly basis. You can increase customer engagement and potentially earn more rewards by publishing more engaging skills to the India Alexa Skills Store, and by improving your existing skills.
Not All Alexa Skill Categories are Eligible
Notably, Amazon is only offering rewards for eight of the 22 Alexa skill categories. Amazon has made restrictions like this in the past in other countries as well. In the U.S., where the rewards program was pioneered and first reported by Voicebot in May 2017, for many months only games were eligible before opening up to other categories. Eligible skill categories in India include:
- Education & Reference
- Food & Drink
- Games, Trivia & Accessories
- Health & Fitness
- Music & Audio
The rewards program is clearly designed to drive developer interest in categories that Amazon sees as strategic for the growth of consumer engagement with the platform and not necessarily those with fewer skills. A review of the India Alexa skill store shows that the Education & Reference category has over 6,000 skills and is included in the rewards program while Business & Finance has only 643 and is not. Similarly, Games & Trivia lists over 8,000 Alexa skills and is included while Smart Home with 462 results isn’t. But, it is not just the popular categories that are getting the monetization boost. Food & Drink only lists 544 Alexa skills and is included. Developers may notice that some categories will be easier to rank for rewards due to lower competition.
India has 26,639 Alexa skils today. Many of those were originally developed for other English-speaking markets are were then launched in India but not necessarily localized. Developer rewards may indicate whether localized skills or those originally developed for other markets fare best among Indian Alexa users (N.B. Thanks go to Bahubali Shete of Klove Chef for his help in researching the total Alexa skill count).
Driving Developer Commitment to Alexa
Initially, the Alexa Developer Rewards program provided an important incentive for developers to commit to the platform in part because Amazon restricted nearly all forms of monetization. The program was Amazon’s way of incentivizing independent developers to invest in Alexa even with uncertain returns. Combined with other factors it seems to have worked. In January 2019, Voicebot reported that there were over 56,000 Alexa skills available to just U.S. users. That was up over five times from around 10,000 Alexa skills in March 2017 shortly before the program launched. In fact, the number of Alexa skills doubled in the six months after launching the developer rewards program. Google Actions arrived two years after Alexa in the U.S. and Google has not offered its own rewards program. As of January 2019, there were only 4,253 Actions available to U.S. users.
Alexa developers such as Nick Schwab of Invoked Apps, Tom Hewitson of Labworks.io, and Max Child of Volley have all told Voicebot in the past that the developer rewards program was an essential incentive for keeping them committed to the Alexa platform while getting their businesses off the ground. While in-skill purchasing (ISP) has become a way to drive user-based monetization today, the rewards program helped sustain their businesses and provided income to invest in growing their customer bases, feature sets, and offerings. Amazon is clearly looking to engineer in India a repeat of this successful approach.