Users of the Echo, Tap and other Amazon devices enabled with the retailer's Alexa voice-activated virtual assistant technology may now shop for additional Alexa features and applications on a dedicated skills detail page on the Amazon website.
There are more than 3,200 skills in 21 categories featured in the Alexa marketplace, including a Yahoo fantasy football virtual assistant, a Hipchat augmented conversation enterprise app, Alarm.com home security control functions and others.
The marketplace also offers new advantages for Alexa developers such as a detail page for each offering, enabling programmers to optimize specific pages to improve search engine discovery rates.
It probably says a lot about us that Amazon had us at "Yahoo fantasy football virtual assistant." The mere notion that Alexa could help us make smart waiver wire moves and set our roster for maximum point damage versus our weekly opponents seems like a godsend. Our spouses will no longer nag us on Sunday morning as our children sit hungry and crying in their dirty diapers while we're huddled over our laptops asking Yahoo experts chat questions like "Jeremy Hill or Jeremy Maclin at flex? In the name of all that is holy, which Jeremy should I start?!"
Even those who aren't fantasy football-obsessed should find a lot to like about this announcement. The investment that customers are making when they purchase an Echo, Dot, Tap and other Alexa-driven device is not just about the device itself or Alexa's capability to play music for them and order certain products for them. What they expect is that Alexa will be able to do more for them over time, and Amazon is not disappointing them in this instance.
It's in Amazon's best interests to continue to enhance the value proposition for Alexa. It has done this in a number of ways, including allowing consumers access to exclusive Prime deals through Alexa, and enabling Alexa recently — and in time for the holiday season — to shop for toys. As it looks to do that, it also pays to improve the visibility for developers of Alexa skills, the better for them to continue developing new features that Alexa device users really need. The new skill detail pages make that possible.
While Amazon may have pioneered how a virtual assistant could be used to drive shopping activity and purchases — quickly overpowering Apple's Siri in that department — Alexa is not the only virtual assistant on the block. It's set to face its biggest competitive challenge yet in the form of Google Home. Like Amazon, Google has the wherewithal and the imagination to build value around its virtual assistant and use it to enrich customer experiences in a number of ways.