New Alexa Skill Data Show New U.S. Skills Launched in 2019 Fall to Lowest Level Since 2016

  • U.S. Alexa skills climb to 70,729, up 24.6% for the year, but the smallest total increase in skills since 2016, with only 38.2 new skills added per day in 2019 compared to 85.0 per day in 2018
  • There were fewer Alexa skills generated in the U.S., UK, and Germany in 2019 than in 2018
  • Reduction in developer incentives appears to be a contributing factor in reducing new Alexa skill introductions
  • New Alexa skill growth is strong in Spain and Italy with the former showing 200% growth in the second half of 2019 alone

Amazon announced in September that there are more than 100,000 unique Alexa skills worldwide. The largest of those markets, the U.S., had 70,729 alone at year-end followed by other English-speaking countries the UK at 36,341, India at 32,879, Canada with 25,950, and Australia 24,651. The combined numbers will tally far beyond 100,000 because these figures represent the number of Alexa skills available in January 2020 to users in those countries and some skills, particularly English-language skills, are published simultaneously in multiple locations. The largest non-English Alexa skill store today is German with 10,065 skills.

Italy and Spain Lead in Alexa Skill Growth Rate

The fastest growth rate of new skill introductions in 2019 was Spain with over 200% growth in just the last six months of the year. We don’t have full-year data for Spain but it is by far the fastest adoption in our sample. Italy is another country that is adding Alexa skills quickly where we have only partial data but appears to have almost as fast of a growth rate. It has over 3,700 Alexa skills after only about 14 months in the market. Amazon Echo was introduced into Italy and Spain in October 2018.

France has had Amazon Alexa devices for more than 18 months and has only 2,094 skills available to users suggesting less developer enthusiasm than in Italy and Spain. However, the French Alexa skill count did rise over 100% in 2019. In addition, there are now more Alexa skills in French than Google Actions despite the latter arriving in France nearly a year earlier.

Lowest Number of Alexa Skills Introduced Since 2016

For a growing market, it is not unusual for the growth rate to fall simply because it is calculated off of a larger base. The growth rate of U.S. Alexa skills was 24.6% in 2019 compared to 120% growth in 2018. That is a big drop on a relative basis but the nominal decline was also sharp. You can more easily compare year-to-year growth by simply looking at new Alexa skills introduced per day and total new Alexa skills. Both figures were far lower in 2019 than in 2018.

New Alexa skills per day in 2017 was 51.3 and rose to 85.0 in 2018. In 2019, that figure fell to only 38.2. The Alexa user base is growing quickly but developer activity is actually shrinking in terms of new skill output. The first half of 2019 saw only a rate of 35 new skills per day which rose 15% to 41 per day in the second half. Previous year data have shown second-half skill introduction rates rise as well, but were at much higher rates than 15%.

However, you can simply look at the number of total skills added for the year to see what happened. Nearly nineteen thousand new skills were added in 2017 in the U.S. followed by over thirty-one thousand in 2018. In 2018, there were fewer than 14,000 new Alexa skills in the U.S.

A similar pattern emerged in Amazon’s other two most mature Alexa markets. About 21,000 new Alexa skills were added in the UK in 2018 but only 6,431 in 2019. In Germany, 4,751 new Alexa skills came to market in 2018 but in 2019 the figure was just 2,196.

Why the Alexa Skill Introductions are Falling in Mature Markets

Much of this decline is likely attributed to less aggressive promotion in 2019 for new Alexa skill launches and a reduction in both the number of contests and rewards programs. Amazon has historically offered many incentives to developers ranging from t-shirts to smart displays for launching new skills. In 2019, these were curtailed compared to 2016-18 and Amazon started asking developers to focus more on quality than quantity of skills.

Amazon also didn’t run many contests with monetary prizes and began reducing payouts in the developer rewards programs in the U.S. These were both tangible incentives for developers to invest in building new skills for Alexa. The contests could deliver immediate payouts and the rewards program might lead to a recurring check for successful skills. Some Alexa developers have shared privately with Voicebot that they have reduced their activity on the platform or stopped working in the ecosystem altogether because of these changes.

Sarah Andrew Wilson of thinks that the hobbyists are no longer experimenting with Alexa skills and that is invariably reducing new skill introductions.

Eric Olsen, an Alexa Champion, said that there are likely several factors at play that go beyond incentives. Clearly there are more people that are maintaining Alexa skills and that takes time away from developing new skills. In addition, the greatly expanded Alexa skill feature set means that it takes more time to launch skills today than in the past.

Voicebot confirmed with an Amazon spokesperson that they did not actively remove skills from the Alexa store in 2019. This does happen occasionally due to policy violations and some developers do decide to voluntarily remove skills they no longer wish to support. However, Amazon did not have a program to cull lightly used skills even though they have contacted developers encouraging them to make updates. Skill removals do not appear to have materially impacted Alexa skill store totals.

Another reason for the decline is likely a combination of crowded skill stores and a lack of a clear path to successful monetization. There is no doubt that more skills in the Alexa store make it harder for new skills to become discovered which makes it more difficult to build an audience that can justify the investment.

When it comes to monetization, there are some success stories. Nick Schwab of Invoked Apps, presented at Project Voice this week and showed a chart (without numbers) of his rapidly growing in-skill purchasing (ISP) revenue. He is not alone in successfully monetizing through Alexa but based on information shared with Voicebot, Nick appears to be among a small group that is succeeding in generating significant revenue from the platform.

Many thanks go out to several people that assisted Voicebot in compiling and assessing Alexa skill data including Braden Ream, Giulio Caperdoni, Bahubali Shete, Francisco Rivas, Tom Hewitson, Alexis Hue, Jan König, Matt Ware, and Simon Zhang.

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