Basically, It all started when my dad has opened his E-commerce store. I was surprised by his decision because I tried to convince him to it for a long time and he always didn't want to. When I asked him what changed, he said that he received an offer of creating a store in 48 hours. More to that, the IT guy said that he will copy all products from my dad's auctions, so he will not be required to provide them manually.
This was interesting to me. For the first time, I really understood what matters in businesses - time. Business people don't have much time to learn about new solutions and figure out how they work. They want ready-to-use models and frameworks.
That's why I decided to create my skill - to save time and allow entrepreneurs to access the voice-commerce market in an easy, fast, and uncomplicated way.
What it does
First things first - this is not a single skill. It is only a part of the SaaS platform that I'm currently working on, which will allow users to move their entire E-commerce platforms into Alexa. The important thing is, that it will not require any additional management and handling.
The whole process will only require filling one form, with data such as a name for the skill, language, e-commerce platform and database information.
Next, the skill will be published. It consists of couple of functionalities, including product searching, categories browsing, basket management, and shipping and order handling. Moreover to that, at some point, I've decided to extend it even more.
We're truly living in the digital age. Most books are currently ebooks, and more and more physical products are replaced with digital ones. Those must be accessible somewhere. In most E-commerce stores, once the digital product is bought, it is delivered to the email, or granted via the store owner's platform. So, I thought - why not to allow this access directly in the Alexa?
And that's how the extensions idea was born.
How I built it
The whole application consists of three parts.
First, we have a core. This is where all Alexa interactions occur, like intent handling and slots updates.
Second, we have layers. The layers are outside the core. They are independent of it, as well as of each other. The layer is basically a condition for the application. An example of the layer may be the owner's primary e-commerce platform - currently, the skill can work with only some of them.
I like to say that layers work as the padlock - you have pins and you decide on which position set them up. If the one owner has a store in English and runs it on the Woocommerce, and the other one also has a store in English but runs it via Magento, the first pin will be in the same position, but the second one - not.
Because the layers are independent of each other, and from the core, the skill is very scalable and customizable. In addition to that, adding new features (such as new language support) doesn't require a lot of time - it is basically the matter of translation and creation of new speech files.
Another example may be the platform - adjusting the skill to a new one is mostly a matter of changing SQL statements since most e-commerce stores use MySQL and only the tables format is different.
Third, we have extensions. As I said before, this skill is primarily for use as a part of the SaaS platform. The extensions are designed to use with In-skill purchases as ways to gain access to digital content products.
Currently, this skill supports three extensions - article (ebook) extension, voice and video extension, and mind map extension. The first one allows the store owner to sell "text" products (articles, ebooks, guides, etc) via ISP and give access to them directly on Alexa.
The second one is designed for voice and video content. If the owner sells things such as video courses, audio guides, etc, now, thanks to this extension, those can be accessed via Alexa. Once again, it doesn't require almost any handling. The only thing that the owner does is to 'mark' that he wants to use the given product as a part of the extension.
The third extension is a more specific one - it allows to sell Mind Maps via ISP and explore them via Alexa. Thanks to this, the customer can learn the content (this is for what mind maps are primary for) when using the Alexa device.
The plans for the future include the development of layers (e.g. more e-commerce platforms integrations), creation of new extensions, designing the whole platform and building the brand.