Amazon wants Alexa owners to buy more things. That’s the clear impetus behind the new Alexa feature announced today at Amazon’s Accelerate conference, called Customers Ask Alexa, which will allow brands to get answers to common questions like, “How do I remove pet hair from my carpet?” ?” can submit. and “How do you get rid of floor stain odors?” Previously, in response to such requests, Alexa provided general tips from the web and other sources. But Customers Ask Alexa essentially turns answers into sponsored product spots.
“Brands enrolled in Amazon Brand Registry will see the new Customers Ask Alexa feature in Seller Central, where they can use self-service tools to easily find and answer common customer questions,” Amazon explained in a blog post. “Customers ask Alexa will be available to shoppers via the Amazon search bar in late 2022 and on Echo devices in mid-2023.”
Is that desirable? For sellers maybe. For Alexa users…probably not. I don’t want to be bombarded with ads every time a random question comes up on a term paper. Amazon says all responses submitted by brands will be subject to content moderation and quality reviews, and that the program will begin by invitation-only (in October 2022) ahead of a broader U.S. rollout in 2023. But I can’t say I have much faith that companies won’t try to hijack answers to the most popular questions by looking for prime placement in Alexa users’ homes.
Customers Ask Alexa integrates with another feature unveiled today at Accelerate, Tailored Audiences, which allows sellers and brands on Amazon to send marketing emails directly to customers. Bloomberg is right to point out that this could backfire — especially if the same brands aggressively push their products to Customers Ask Alexa.
In any case, it seems unlikely that unwanted product placements will greatly boost Alexa-driven sales on the Amazon marketplace. The estimated tens of millions of Alexa users around the world have historically loathed making purchases with their voice, with statistics from an eMarketer survey showing that just 10.8% of customers will use Alexa for online purchases in 2020 used.
Low adoption — and waning interest in Alexa in general — hasn’t stopped Amazon from increasingly using Alexa-powered products as a promotional medium. In 2021, the company launched interactive audio ads on the ad-supported layer of Amazon Music, enabled by default on supported Echo devices, allowing listeners to add items featured in an ad to their Amazon carts by typing ” Alexa, add to cart.” Amazon has also recently started working with brands to run promotions as static images on Echo devices and display them during “Around Usage” and alternating with content like weather, recipes, sports and news.
In order to get higher ad bids from advertisers, Amazon uses personal language data – a fact that not all users may be happy with. According to a report published in April – key details of which were confirmed to The Verge by an Amazon spokesman – Amazon and third parties, including advertising and tracking services, are collecting and sharing data from owners’ interactions with Alexa through speakers, TVs and other devices them with up to 41 advertising partners.