Alexa Skills: Testing your invocation name

The invocation name is the most important few words you will write when designing your voice experience for Alexa or Google Assistant - it’s what users will say to access your skill for the first time.

Several factors have to be considered when designing your invocation name. Does it include the brand? Has the invocation already been used? How does this affect your brand being heard? Is it easy for your customers to say, and to remember? Can the voice assistant hear the name clearly and reference the correct skill? There’s a lot to think about so we’ve come up with some helpful suggestions on how you can develop the best invocation name for your brand.

Brand Name

First on your list should be the name of your brand.  Is it available to use as an invocation name? And if so is it easy to say and remember? If you’re lucky enough to have a well known brand name you’ll have to contact Amazon directly to prove you own the the rights to use it in your skill. If it’s less well known (for now) then you should be fine. Either way you should always test your invocation name to ensure it gets picked up correctly by Alexa. We’ve all been in a situation where Alexa has misheard us. Sometimes it can go quite wrong…

While it might be funny on occasion, most users get frustrated, turn off, and will never return to the skill if Alexa doesn’t correctly recognise the user’s intent. That’s a big blocker when trying to engage with your audience.

Testing your invocation name

To help us identify how Alexa interprets invocation names we built our own skill called Phrase Tester. Phrase Tester allows users to say a series of words to which Alexa then responds with its interpretation of the phrase displayed as text on an Alexa-enabled screen. You can also use Phrase Tester on your phone using the Alexa app. The best approach is to test the invocation name with multiple people to ensure it’s clearly picked up by Alexa. Using tools such as Phrase Tester can help identify any issues with your invocation name early on.

One shot invocations

It’s also important to think about one shot invocations. A launch phrase that uses the invocation name and a sample utterance is a one shot invocation, and can help users navigate quicker to the task or information they want within your skill. For example, one of our clients skills ‘Prime Resi’ allows users to access luxury property news. Users can dive straight into the content using the one shot invocation ‘Alexa, get the headlines from Prime Resi”. As opposed to launching the skill ‘Alexa, open Prime Resi”, and listening to the intro message before getting into the content.

Amazon Alexa invocation name guidelines

Amazon Alexa also have a set of guidelines you must follow when picking your invocation name to ensure your skill passes submission:

The invocation name must not infringe upon the IP rights of a entity or individual.

The invocation name must be more than one word, unless that word is unique to your brand.

Names of people or places must include additional words. For example ‘Tom Smith’ would not be allowed however ‘Tom’s horoscope’ would be.

Two word invocation names are not allowed if one of the words is a connecting word, for example (“the”,”a”, “an”,”for”, “to”,”of”)

The invocation cannot contain any Alexa launch phrases. e.g. “enable”, “launch”, “load”

The invocation name cannot include wake words. These are word you say to make Alexa start listening such as “Alexa”, “Echo”

The invocation name can only contain lower-case characters, spaces should be placed between words. Characters must be spelt out e.g. “1” should be “one”

Invocations names have to be clearly separate from existing Alexa features, to ensure Alexa provides relevant content based on the users intent.

The invocation name should be written in every language your skill supports.

Optional recommendations

Include the functionality of the skill in your invocation name, e.g. “Alexa, launch isle of wight news”. Unless the name is unique to your brand or IP you can then include the brand For example “Alexa, launch uber”.

The invocation should fit smoothly with one of the launch phases e.g. “enable”, “launch”, “load”.

For a handful of words it’s an awful lot to think about. But it’s an important decision to make, especially as you can’t change the invocation name after a skill is certified and published. The invocation name is something your audience will say multiple times when interacting with your brand through voice. It lodges itself into their memories and will directly impact their perception of the business. It’s important we get this right.