Amazon today took another step toward enabling notifications for Alexa skills. Notifications debuted earlier this year with Amazon first using them to indicate order shipment statuses. More recently, Amazon enabled third party skills Life 360 and Domino’s (in the U.S. only) to experiment with notifications. The company is now accepting applications for additional third-party Alexa skills that wish to implement the feature.
Amazon’s Jeff Blankenburg commented in a blog post today:
“Customers opt in to notifications per skill using the Amazon Alexa app. After opting in to notifications on a given skill, the customer is alerted when there is new information to retrieve—with both a sound and an on-device indicator (LED or on-screen equivalent) on their Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, or their Alexa-enabled third party device. The customer can simply ask, “Alexa, what did I miss?”, or “Alexa, read my notifications,” and Alexa will read the new notifications. Users must opt in before a skill can send them notifications, and can disable or suppress notifications using the Alexa app or by putting devices in Do Not Disturb mode.
Notifications a Key to User Retention
Amazon Alexa skills are gaining a reputation for poor user retention. Voicebot reported in September that VoiceLabs data showed user retention doubled since the beginning of the year. That sounds wonderful until you realize that it rose from 3% to 6%. The analysis suggests that for every 100 new users of your Alexa skill this week, 94 won’t be around next week. The number one problem today for Alexa skill developers is user acquisition. Problem number two is retention. Push notifications proved a useful retention tool for mobile apps and could have a similar impact for Alexa skills. Urban Airship found:
If you don’t send push notifications to new [mobile] app users within 90 days you risk wasting 95 cents of every dollar you spent acquiring them
[Mobile app] users that opt-in to push notifications are retained at nearly 2x the rate of those who don’t
That second point is supported by data from Localytics. It found 41% of users that enabled push notifications were still using those mobile apps after 90 days while only 18% of those without notifications were still around.
It is not guaranteed that notifications will apply equally well to Alexa skills. The impact may be bigger or smaller than with mobile apps. But the retention and re-engagement data from mobile suggests that notifications can deliver strong benefits for Alexa skill developers looking to retain their audience over time. The feature is also likely to increase frequency of use.
How to Apply for Alexa Skill Notifications
Notifications are not available to all developers today. You can apply here for a developer preview by filling out a short survey. Amazon will pick from a subset of applications for the preview. Eventually, notifications will be generally available, but you can bet they will be subject to scrutiny during certification. If you get into the preview, let me know on Twitter (DM is fine) and I will check out your skill and notification implementation.