Teaching Alexa New Tricks

Amazon’s Echo Dot was the online retailer’s most popular gift this past holiday season. It has been estimated that over 16 million of these devices have been sold. With that kind of traction, this little voice activated robot could totally disrupt how we not only perform tasks like turning on lights, playing music or asking for help with a recipe, but the way that customers find us online. Alexa may well become a search engine.

Alexa continues to get smarter every day. One of the reasons that Alexa keeps getting smarter is that Amazon has provded developers with a way to add new “skills” to Alexa. Thus, if you are the producer a new gadget automates, say washing windows, you can create a skill for Alexa that would be triggered when someone would say, “Alexa, wash my windows.”

If you are selling something of course, that capability is already built into Alexa, as long as you are selling on Amazon. But what if you want to add a new skill to Alexa like playing your podcast? The simplest way to do this is to build what Amazon calls a “Flash Briefing Skill.” Start by heading over to:


You will need to create a developer account if you don’t have one.  Under the section “Alexa Skill Kit”, click on “Get Started.”

Then click on “Add a New Skill”. You will be asked what kind of skill you want to add. Change this to Flash Briefing Skill.

Each of these skill types offers different capabililties, and can make Alexa do lots of creative things.  The Flash Briefing Skill however requires no programming knowledge. All you need is an RSS feed. Fill out the remainder of the steps and submit for certification. within a day or two, you should get approved. Now you can say “Alexa, play flash briefing” and your podcast feed will start playing.

But now imagine that you are one of the very first people developing a new skill for a restaurant. You want people to ask, “Alexa, what’s the best place to eat in Franktown, Colorado?” Rather than just getting the stock answer of, “Hmmm, I don’t know that one.”, you program Alexa to display YOUR answer! And with the new video Echo’s, your skill can play a video, showcasing your restaurant and the food. Can you see how this could make a significant impact on your business in the next few years?