During our 10in20 webinar highlighting 10 best practices for building a commerce-based skill with Alexa, we received an incredible number of questions around Amazon Pay, Alexa and voice commerce. Because we couldn’t get to all of your burning queries about the future of commerce, we followed up with our presenter and the Head of Connected Commerce at Amazon Pay, Kris Zanuldin, to answer a few more of your questions.

Q&A with Kris Zanuldin, Head of Connected Commerce at Amazon Pay

What is the best way to start building my Alexa skill? Do you have resources on how to create a skill?

A great way to get started with Alexa skills is by referencing the resources on developer.amazon.com, Amazon Pay also provides a demo store on GitHub, showcasing how you can integrate Amazon Pay into your shopping experiences on Alexa. If you still want more resources, you can register for the new AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – a specialty certification, the industry’s first and only certification that validates your ability to build, test, and publish Alexa Skills. Alexa has also prepared a best practices guide for creating engaging, premium experiences on voice. Lastly, download Amazon’s introductory Alexa Skill builder’s guide and get started today. If you haven’t already, connect with your solution provider or agency, depending on your setup. If you are an individual developer, or a business that is doing it in house or by yourself, again, there is also a lot of great material at developer.amazon.com from a self-service perspective.

What solution providers offer Alexa?

If your commerce solution is hosted by one of our premier partners, BigCommerce, keep an eye out for Alexa Delivery Notifications capabilities embedded in their internal admin tool for Amazon Pay merchants using their services. This capability will be available soon. For merchants with a hosted solution on Magento 1, we have integration details on Github here.

Can you provide more information about the Alexa delivery notifications?

We’ve recently made it easier to integrate voice into a merchant’s e-commerce offering with Alexa’s delivery notifications capability – further opening up an opportunity for merchants to leverage an Amazon channel. That means, Amazon Pay merchants can use Alexa to let their customers know when their order has been delivered, when they want, and in a natural, contextual, trusted way. This can be helpful for your customers, providing proactive shipment delivery notifications and less customer support required with fewer customer service inquiries for checking delivery status. It’s also a great way to differentiate your brand as an early adopter of voice commerce with Alexa. This simple, straightforward API, also enables you to integrate quickly so you can focus on providing a voice experience that delight your customers.

For BigCommerce merchants, this will be available soon in your administrative dashboard. For merchants with a hosted solution on Magento 1, we have integration details on Github here. If you are interested in integrating this capability, and are not working with one of these hosted solutions, contact Amazon Pay.

For developers, does Amazon provide a platform we can build an Alexa Skill on?

Amazon provides developers with Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) SDKs for Node.js, Java, and Python, as one way to help you build your skill. The ASK SDKs can make it easier to build Alexa skills by enabling you to spend more time on implementing features and less time writing boilerplate code. To build an Alexa Skill that integrates Amazon Pay, make sure you have an Amazon Pay Merchant account to handle the payment processing flows, an Amazon Developer account to create and launch your skill, along with the ASK SDK to build your skill.

You can also build, edit, and publish a skill without leaving the developer console using the Alexa-hosted Skill. An Alexa-hosted skill works in conjunction with a code editor in the developer console to edit and deploy changes to your AWS Lambda code. You can also use the ASK CLI to edit and deploy an Alexa-hosted skill.

Any tips on making my Alexa Skill more discoverable in voice search?

Your best opportunity for discoverability is building a quality skill that engages and keeps customers coming back. The team at Alexa has put together a guide highlighting the 7 Tips for Building Standout Skills Your Customers Will Love. Download their guide to learn the qualities of top-performing Alexa skills. Then build your own standout skill that wows customers.

How would you recommend incorporating Alexa into a mobile app experience?

It’s more important than ever to created connected experiences to meet your mobile shoppers where they are. To provide a more connected shopping journey across channels, we’ve recently released Amazon Pay Buyer ID to help merchants recognize their Amazon Pay customers across web, mobile and Alexa channels. This feature makes it possible for Amazon Pay merchants to build truly connected and personalized experiences for their customers. Essentially, the Buyer ID is unique and specific to each customer, allowing merchants to identify return customers to help customize their shopping experience. Amazon Pay Buyer ID can help your customers in a number of ways, but here are two key scenarios worth considering now: 

  • Reorder - Customer can reorder Alexa items they have previously bought on web or mobile with Amazon Pay. They will launch the skill for their preferred brand and simply say, "Alexa, Reorder my last order", or they can ask, "Alexa, What was my last order?” 
  • Add to cart or wish list - “Customers can add to cart via Voice on Alexa. Simply open the skill and ask, “Alexa, add X to my cart/wishlist” and the items will be placed in your cart for purchasing. Merchants who use Amazon Pay Buyer ID can offer a seamless checkout due to reduced friction and deliver transparency into customer identity and cross channel behaviors that assist in delivering personalized experiences.

Any sample Alexa Skill that you would recommend we refer to when we creating an Alexa Skill for our retail brand?

Atom Tickets has enabled voice purchasing with Alexa and Amazon Pay. Theirs is the only movie ticketing skill that lets customers reserve seats by voice, as well as helping them skip tedious steps during payment. Customer just say “Alexa, ask Atom for movie tickets,” to find out which movies are playing near them, buy tickets with their voice, and then pay with securely stored payment information. Starbucks has also done a good job with the design of their reorder Alexa skill, enabling their customers habitual shopping by letting them reorder their usual from one of the last 10 stores you’ve ordered from, check their primary Starbucks Card balance, and switch between their last and previous orders.

What nonprofits have developed what you consider to be the most successful skills, and what are those skills?

In Europe, the World Wildlife Fund has successfully developed an Alexa skill centered around WWF quiz to help donors become a nature conservation expert and immerse themselves in the world of plants and animals. Through the skill they can support WWF by making a quick and easy donation. This skill uses Amazon Pay to process payments with the details stored in the donors Amazon account.

If you are a charity and you’d like to accept donations, in just a few steps, you can enable 24/7 donations powered by voice. In fact we’ve already enabled 260 organizations to accept donations in the US. You can enable Alexa Donations simply by registering for Amazon Pay. No Alexa skill development or technical expertise is required. When you complete registration, we will begin the work on our side to enable you, and will notify you as soon as the work is complete. More information on the donations experience can be found here. If you have questions for Customer Support, please send an email to amazonpay-nonprofit-help@amazon.com.

How does Alexa work with subscription payments?

We’ve developed some documentation to help you enable subscription payments with Amazon Pay and Alexa here. We don’t handle the actual timing and recurring portion of the charge, enabling you to control that experience.

Learn more about enabling voice shopping.