Amazon Alexa Skill Growth Declines Worldwide in the First Half of 2019, But Alexa Skills Pass 60k in U.S. and 30k in U.K.

  • Amazon Alexa skill growth in the U.S. fell from an average of 85 new skills per day in 2018 to just 36 per day in the first half of 2019
  • Amazon says skill growth is not the same throughout the year, but when comparing the first half of 2018 with the first half of 2019 in the U.S., the decline was still a significant 38%. The January to June period of 2019 was materially lower than the comparable period of 2017 and 2018.
  • New skill launches per day also declined in the U.K. and Germany from 57 to 23 and 13 to 7 respectively.
  • This led to only 11%, 14%, 16% rises in total skills available in the U.S., U.K., and Germany in the first six months of 2019, the slowest growth rate yet recorded for these Alexa skill stores
  • Australia showed the slowest growth rate at just 6% as all countries saw a new skill introduction slowdown

The growth of new Amazon Alexa skill launches in the U.S. has slowed in the first half of 2019 to the lowest level of a January to June period on record. New Alexa skills in the U.S. were introduced at a rate of 36 per day in the first half of 2019 compared to 57 per day during the same period in 2018 and 46 per day in 2017.

It is true that the introduction rate of Alexa skills was higher in the second half of 2017 and 2018 than in the first half. So, Alexa skill growth in the U.S. may recover. However, it is notable that the rate of new Alexa skill introductions in early 2019 was the lowest six month period on record since Voicebot has been tracking skill store activity. Patrick Givens of Vayner Media commented on the data observing:

I would suspect many companies and individual designers alike that intended to enter the space have already launched a skill. Now, their efforts are being spent on optimization informed by learnings from usage of the first (or first few) skills as opposed to launching net-new experiences as new skills. If that’s the case, I think it’s a great sign for the space. At this stage volume of experiences seems like a secondary concern with quality needing to be primary if we’re going to start building more interesting and engaged user behaviors.”

Pat Higbie, CEO of XAPPmedia drew a similar conclusion and is seeing a new focus on quality or quantity saying, “Seeing the pickup in serious skill plans by major brands, my sense is that number of ‘toy’ skills has dropped for lack of use/monetization. We know that skill promotion is essential for driving usage and major brands that understand the importance of voice and are willing to promote their skills are coming into the market.”

Slowdown in Alexa Skill Introductions Not Limited to the U.S.

The slowdown in new Alexa skill introductions was not limited to the U.S. Six countries evaluated by all saw the rate of new Alexa skill launches in the first half 2019 Alexa fall by at least 44% compared to full-year 2018 figures. Even if each of these countries see a 99% rise in the second half Alexa skill publishing rate as occurred in 2018, they still will not reach the average of 2018.

Gene Munster, a managing partner of Loup Ventures, says the lack of clear paths to monetization is causing developers to refocus on mobile platforms. He commented, “We’re still waiting for a compelling developer monetization path to emerge around voice. In the meantime, developers are spending their time on mobile. Once we get a voice unicorn, which is a function of time, developers will race back in.”

Brandon Kaplan, CEO of Skilled Creative, put a finer point on this concept saying, “Many early adopters may be finding that the revenue generated is smaller than they initially expected, and that has resulted in people shifting focus back to other channels. That will shift [back] over time, as In-Skill Purchasing (ISP) and other means of revenue grow.”

Developers in several countries have also suggested to Voicebot that a decline in Alexa Rewards payouts could be making it less attractive to build new skills or to fund development activities. At the same time, Amazon has been promoting skills that have In-Skill Purchasing (ISP) or multimodal capabilities. Both of these initiatives tend to refocus developer effort on feature extensions for existing skills as opposed to launching new titles.

N.B. The more lopsided figures of new skill introductions for Australia and Canada are in part due to both countries coming online with Alexa in late 2017 and early 2018 respectively. In addition, each country has benefitted in terms of new skill introductions by skills originally created for the U.S. and U.K. being enabled for use in Australia and Canada en masse shortly after the countries first launched Echo smart speakers. 

Alexa Skill Counts Hit New Milestones Despite Slowdown

Despite the slowdown in new skill introductions, each country analyzed did witness net growth in the first half of 2019. The U.S. Alexa skill store surpassed 63,000 skills during the period, the U.K. rose to 34,000. Canada now has more than 25,000, and Australia nearly 24,000. Germany surpassed \9,000 skills and France has nearly 1,500.

Amazon acknowledged in its Q1 financial reporting that worldwide, there are over 90,000 unique Alexa skills. Many of those skills are implemented in several countries.

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