You Can Now Schedule Your Alexa Skill Launch Date with Self Service Alexa Skill Publishing
Whether you are launching an Alexa skill or Google Action, all developers must go through a certification process before their voice app is live. The process can be frustrating because the time that it takes is variable. One Alexa skill might be reviewed and certified within a day while others may not be reviewed for several days depending on the current backlog. Even at that point, there could be items that Amazon wants you to address before certification is granted. This uncertainty can be particularly hard if the developer or brand has marketing efforts tied to the skill. How do they know when to kick off the campaign?
An example of this was the recent campaign for the Oreo Mystery Flavor Challenge. A major brand was running a national advertising campaign that included paid online and televised media along with a novel Alexa skill. It was important to coordinate the launch of the Alexa skill with these complementary activities. It is not clear whether this was soft-launched or Amazon made an exception for a large brand and only brought it live when ready. At the time, there were no programmatic controls for Alexa developers to control this variable.
Google implemented the concept of Beta releases in 2017. This feature enabled developers to complete the certification process but withhold publication for general for a period of time. In the interim, the Action could be used by beta testers but it would not show up in the Google Action directory nor would it be callable by the invocation name. That feature offers developers more control on timing their Action release.
Amazon Introduces Self-Service Skill Publishing
In the Amazon world, developers have had no control over when their skill is pushed live. They could influence this by controlling when they submitted their skill, but as soon as certification was complete the skill was auto-published and available for consumer use. This led to a lot of soft launches where Alexa skills were actually live before they were marketed because the campaigns weren’t designed to start until a certain date.
For some content or features, that was not ideal as the marketers wanted to keep the concept or information secret until they were ready for launch. Submitting a skill near the anticipated launch date also incurred risk because if it was not certified quickly and required rework, a brand could miss its launch date and have marketing teed up with nowhere to send consumers.
Amazon quietly changed this about 10 days ago. In an Alexa developer forum post, an Amazon engineer highlighted the new Alexa Skill Self-Service Publishing feature. This change has propagated to the certification screen in the skill review submission process.
Now, when developers submit their skill for certification, they can indicate whether they want it to publish immediately upon certification or if they would like to control the publication date. If they choose to “Just Certify,” after certification is granted they can go in and manually push the skill live anytime or schedule a day and time for it to launch for public use.
Turning Alexa into a Mature Marketing Channel
This may seem like a small change, but it offers significant benefits for brands and media companies that want to orchestrate coordinated launch campaigns. Voicebot research from June 2019 found that less than 30% of 200 top brands in 20 product categories had launched Alexa skills. As Amazon recruits more of these brands to support Alexa, the enhanced control offered by self-service Alexa skill publishing will help align their efforts with how the industry is accustomed to doing business.