Driving 5-Star Reviews to the Top Alexa Skills

Key takeaways

Using StackPath to stream audio to smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo reduced latency-related issues for the company’s Alexa skills and supported the founding developer’s growth in a new market.

  • 4.5 petabytes of audio streamed monthly
  • 300,000 daily users served with quick responses to Alexa commands and an uninterrupted listening experience
  • 5-star reviews replaced small waves of negative reviews that listeners published due to network-related issues
  • A month-to-month CDN package with StackPath gave the founding developer confidence to grow his business

Situation

Network-related issues were interrupting users’ sleep routines

Software engineer Nick Schwab, founder of Invoked Apps, was the first third party developer to create ambient noise apps for Amazon’s Alexa in 2016. And the apps were a big success: only a year after publishing them, Schwab was helping more than 100,000 people sleep, meditate and relax every day.

By 2018 the apps’ number of daily users had doubled but many users were experiencing timeouts due to the poor network reliability of Schwab’s CDN provider. These timeouts equated to pauses in listening experiences and long delays between someone’s Alexa command and Alexa’s response.

Because many users depend on Schwab’s apps to drown out unwanted noise and relax before bed, these issues interrupted people’s sleep routines. When this happened, people did not hesitate to leave 1-star reviews on Amazon’s Alexa skills store. This put the visibility and consumer trust of Schwab’s apps at risk.

Objective

Find a more reliable network for audio streaming

Smart devices that support Alexa skills don’t actually cache or download app content; they get it straight from the Internet. So every time a user asks Alexa to play ambient sounds from Schwab’s apps, the audio has to be delivered from where the audio is hosted. To reduce pauses in listening experiences and delays after commands, a CDN with a reliable network is needed. This is what Schwab set out to look for.

In addition to finding a more reliable network, Schwab also needed a provider with flexible terms.

Before Schwab became a StackPath customer, he was serving 300,000 daily users and delivering more than four petabytes of audio per month. But because Alexa skills are still relatively new, an algorithm change to how people find and consume Alexa skills can impact these numbers overnight. New technologies are also always emerging that improve file compression which affects bandwidth consumption. All of these factors make signing an annual commitment with minimum consumption requirements unfitting for a cutting-edge software business like Invoked Apps.

Approach

Speak with the best networks; choose the most flexible offer

Because network reliability was priority number one for Schwab, he started considering some of the better-known CDN providers to replace his existing CDN.

  • Cloudflare: Schwab had used CloudFlare for projects in the past, but even as a paying customer it was difficult to get timely and effective customer support. He also read reports of customers getting shut down without any prior warning or being pushed into an expensive enterprise plan for surpassing undisclosed bandwidth limits.
  • AWS: Amazon offers significant pricing discounts for many of their AWS services, but they often come with a caveat: signing a long-term contract. Although Schwab happily uses many AWS services for his business, getting locked into a long-term financial commitment didn’t make sense for his startup.
  • StackPath: Unlike Cloudflare, Schwab found bandwidth pricing that was clearly presented. And unlike AWS, competitive pricing was available on a month-to-month basis. No contracts were necessary. This way, if a sudden traffic shift or an improvement in audio file compression lowered his bandwidth consumption, Schwab wouldn’t be stuck paying for nothing.

Results

More 5-star reviews and great support

With StackPath Schwab’s apps started receiving more five-star reviews from removing instances of network instability and slow delivery times. Downloading an audio file from his previous CDN took a minute. With StackPath it takes less than a second.

In addition to these performance gains and the flexibility of month-to-month usage, Schwab also received a level of customer support he did not expect to find during his search for a new CDN provider. “StackPath’s customer service is what made my decision final,” said Schwab. “They are super responsive to email and always ready to hop on phone calls.”

With his previous CDN provider Schwab had to wait up to 30 minutes to hear back about an issue, which was too long given the amount of people who use his apps. Now, he has instant access to support whenever he needs it.

Knowing there’s a team behind the service to support me at any time is very important. This is what finalized my decision with StackPath.

Nick Schwab • Founder, Invoked Apps

Company Description

Invoked Apps is a top-rated application developer on Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The company’s voice apps have thousands of reviews and an average rating of 4.8 stars.

Industry

Startups & Open Source

Use Case

Audio streaming for Alexa skills

Products

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