The Amazon Alexa app has a new feature for skill discovery. While searching for skills within the app (hamburger menu / skills / search box) there are now autofill suggestions in text and a list of three skills that may meet your need. This provides a nice visual cue highlighting relevant skills and removes at least one touch since you can select from the drop down and don’t need to search and then select.
Will it Help Discovery and What Does it Say About Search
I don’t think it’s a game changer for discovery since someone who is typing in the search box is already expecting to pick from a series of results. However, what I do find interesting is that the Skills surfaced in the autocomplete don’t match the top 3 search results if you were to submit your query, indicating that Amazon is using the new feature to test out a different search algorithm.
Mr. Schwab is right that the search results often differ, although not always. One example where it does differ is in the search depicted above for “games.” The autosuggestions highlight three games: Jeopardy!, The Magic Door, Yahoo Fantasy Football. When you actually type games and hit search you get two skills that are not games and then an unofficial PlayStation game info skill followed by a quiz game. People familiar with search in the Alexa app will know that you can sort by Relevance, Avg. Customer Rating, Release Date and Featured. None of those filters will return today Jeopardy!, Magic Door and Yahoo Fantasy Football in that order. So, what is going on here?
Alexa Skill Search SEO
The Voicebot hypothesis is that the suggestions are driven by usage. We know that Jeopardy! and Magic Door are very popular. The presence of Yahoo Fantasy Football suggests potential seasonal popularity. It has long been clear that Alexa skill search is not following a clear set of patterns related to popularity or consumer reviews. The new feature may be a way to test out a new algorithm to see how that impacts consumer usage and whether the single touch option improves usability. However, it may well be that these results are curated and intentionally selected by Amazon skill store managers. That is how the banners work today that suggest new skills to try. It is not unreasonable to conclude that this new search autosuggestion could be following the same path.
Not Available for All Terms or on Desktop
The search discovery feature is not available for all search terms. Several other terms such as “Christmas,” “travel,” and “restaurants” offer up text autofill suggestions but no Alexa skill autosuggestions until you execute the search. Nor is this feature available on desktop. Search from your browser will only yield a longer list of text autofill suggestions.
More Tools for Alexa Skill Discovery
Mr. Schwab may be right that this feature will not address the many challenges associated with skill discovery because it only will help consumers that are intentionally looking for something. However, that is still part of the problem. Alexa skill discovery is suboptimal today both for intentional search and for passive discovery. This new feature may well help consumers to discover high quality skills when they are explicitly looking. That can help address half of the problem.