Amazon on Thursday unveiled “Alexa Skill Blueprints,” code-free templates that any Alexa owner, regardless of experience level, can use to create customized Alexa skills in a matter of minutes.

Amazon included over 20 templates across four categories — Fun & Games, At Home, Storyteller, and Learning & Knowledge — with plans to add more.

Each category comes with pre-filled content that can be customized or used as-is. Once a skill is published, it becomes instantly available to all Alexa-enabled devices associated with the creator’s Amazon account, as opposed to being stored in the Alexa Skills Store.

Amazon’s been striving to add personalization methods to the Alexa experience, and Alexa Skill Blueprints plays into this effort. Amazon in November 2017 introduced the ability for Alexa to respond to custom phrases as well as be programmed to carry out multiple actions from one input. In the same month, the company also rolled out the Your Voice by Amazon feature, which makes it possible to create up to 10 distinguished voice profiles, enabling Alexa to personalize its responses for everyone in the home.

The rollout of Alexa Blueprints could serve as a major advantage in securing Amazon’s long-term success in the voice assistant space.

It expands Alexa’s abilities, allowing for a more personalized experience. The introduction of Alexa Skills Blueprints marks a departure from the company’s prior strategy, in which only third-party developers had access to the tools to create Alexa skills. And by not solely relying on third parties to create skills, Alexa could become more appealing to consumers than ever before.

It could spur Alexa skill adoption. One of the main issues with Alexa is the lack of adoption of skills — while Alexa has access to more than 30,000 skills, about 53% of consumers use only one to three of them, while 14% of consumers haven’t even enabled one, according to Dashbot. But with the option to create Alexa skills, consumers will be more involved in the Alexa ecosystem, potentially motivating them to seek out more third-party skills.

It gives Amazon a leg up over its rivals. Amazon’s competitors, such as Google, Apple, and Samsung, currently don’t offer this level of customization to their customers. Allowing anyone to create custom voice apps will ultimately make Alexa a stronger competitor in the voice assistant landscape.

Bolstering Alexa’s capabilities could help Amazon sustain its early lead in the smart speaker market. Amazon commanded a 72% share of the total US installed base of smart speakers in 2017. By enabling the average person to create customized Alexa skills, interactions with Alexa-enabled devices like the company’s Echo smart speakers should grow as Alexa becomes more useful to consumers.

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has written a detailed report on voice apps that explores the two major viable voice app stores. It identifies the three big issues voice apps are facing — discoverability, monetization, and retention — and presents possible short-term solutions ahead of industry-wide fixes.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

The market for smart speakers and voice platforms is expanding rapidly. The installed base of smart speakers and the volume of voice apps that can be accessed on them each saw significant gains in 2017. But the new format and the emerging voice ecosystems that are making their way into smart speaker-equipped homes is so far failing to align with consumer needs.

Voice app development is a virtuous cycle with several broken components. The addressable consumer market is expanding, which is prompting more brands and developers to developer voice apps, but the ability to monetize and iterate those voice apps is limited, which could inhibit voice app growth.

Monetization is only one broken component of the voice app ecosystem. Discoverability and user retention are equally problematic for voice app development.

While the two major voice app ecosystems — Amazon’s and Google’s — have some Band-Aid solutions and workarounds, their options for improving monetization, discoverability, and retention for voice apps are currently limited.

There are some strategies that developers and brands can employ in the near term ahead of more robust tools and solutions.

In full, the report:

Sizes the current voice app ecosystem.

Outlines the most pressing problems in voice app development and evolution in the space by examining the three most damning shortcoming: monetization, discoverability, and retention.

Discusses the solutions being offered up by today’s biggest voice platforms.

Presents workaround solutions and alternative approaches that could catalyze development and evolution ahead of wider industry-wide fixes from the platforms.

Via Business Insider