Will Alexa-exclusive deals bring holiday cheer to Amazon?

Source: Amazon video
Nov 21, 2016
Tom Ryan

This past weekend, Amazon.com held its first ever “voice shopping weekend,” offering exclusive deals only available through its Alexa virtual assistant.

Prime members with the device were encouraged to find deals by asking, “Alexa, what are your deals?” each day or by visiting www.amazon.com/alexadeals. They could then order using their voice on Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire HD tablet or Amazon Fire TV. The specials ran from Nov. 18 to Nov. 21.

Among the deals (and corresponding voice prompts):

  • $80 on a 32-inch Samsung 1080p LED TV — “Alexa, order a Samsung TV”
  • $130 on a 10-piece All-Clad stainless steel cookware set — “Alexa, order an All-Clad cookware set”
  • $50 on an Amazon Tap — “Alexa, order an Amazon Tap”

“Voice shopping with Alexa takes the hassle out of the holidays, giving customers the ability to order from millions of items simply by saying the word,” said Assaf Ronen, VP voice shopping in a statement. “And the fun doesn’t stop after this weekend. Make sure to ask ‘Alexa, what are your deals?’ every day because we’ll have exciting deals throughout the holiday season and beyond.”

Customers must be Prime members with “1-Click” ordering enabled in order to shop with Alexa. Alexa-exclusive deals will arrive on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and every day in November and December.

Amazon, with Alexa, has an early edge in voice shopping over rivals because the Echo speaker is integrated into its e-commerce platform. But by it appears that Alexa still can’t target customers with personalized product recommendations.

The closest Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant have come to e-commerce is enabling users to create shopping lists, but both appear headed toward voice shopping. In June, Apple opened up Siri to developers to support third party apps. And on Nov. 10, the company announced the integration of Siri with PayPal to enable people to use voice commands to send or request money. In December, Google is launching a developer platform to support its Home products.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Could exclusive virtual assistant deals alter the dynamics of holiday shopping? Will consumers be likely to ask their in-home virtual assistants about deals throughout the year?

"Amazon is certainly starting to train their most loyal households to shop in a new way."
"Alexa deals won’t alter the dynamics of holiday shopping, but they will introduce millions of Echo owners to ordering by voice..."
"I don’t think we are going to buy simply because Alexa is fun or it’s called a deal. We are still going to shop for price..."

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21 Comments on "Will Alexa-exclusive deals bring holiday cheer to Amazon?"

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Keith Anderson

These deals won’t move the needle this year (too few households with Alexa-enabled devices and too little targeting with the deals).

But Amazon is certainly starting to train their most loyal households to shop in a new way, and is always reinforcing that Prime membership brings exclusive or early offers.

I don’t see a bright future for vocalization of untargeted deals during the holidays or year-round, but voice-assisted shopping itself is going to be a really big deal.

Sterling Hawkins

The big win for Amazon here is driving more users to take advantage of Alexa. Additional discounts represent yet another reason to have an Alexa-enabled device. No one promotion works for everyone and Amazon is really good at layering in multiple kinds of benefits to drive customer behavior and use. As the discounts become more personalized (just as is seen in more established channels), it will encourage existing users to spend more, more often throughout the year.

Kim Garretson
11 months 30 days ago

Actually, perhaps Alexa can target personalized recommendations. My two deals this morning included a remote Bluetooth speaker for Alexa at $50 off. I have been pounding Amazon all week looking for Bluetooth speakers. However, because this is an Amazon product, perhaps it’s not personalized to me because Amazon wants to push its own products to everyone.

Max Goldberg

Alexa deals won’t alter the dynamics of holiday shopping, but they will introduce millions of Echo owners to ordering by voice — something that will greatly benefit Amazon going forward.

Tom Redd

This is simple a voice command toy — no more no less. It is on-trend with people who are still laggards in technology, so it impresses them and friends.

Value delivered for the price? None, except lazy people do not have to press buttons or move their bodies. Alexa will sell well over the holidays — it is old technology from a hyped-up ad campaign. This Alexa babe will be in a junk drawer by summertime.

Oh, Alexa is another great hack doorway for your home and Amazon, so enjoy before you are hacked.

Tom Dougherty

Amazon has found an additional way to build connections to the consumer. They get their brand better than anyone. This is not some contrived and tired CRM device. This is a fun way to create simplicity. This will continue forever because … Amazon. They are getting to be a habit with me!

Ken Lonyai

Alexa was created as an exclusive shopping tool for the Amazon ecosystem, so this is just incentivizing their strategy. When people shop with Alexa, there is no possibility they will price shop or read reviews. It’s a strategic way to overcome the horrible capability browsers offer (from Amazon’s perspective) of enabling consumers to shop elsewhere.

Tony Orlando

Thanks Ken, you pretty much wrote my exact thoughts. Amazon continues to own the press and it will keep creating user friendly items with the intent of getting more money out of the pockets of their high-end Prime users without the hassles of price checking.

Ross Ely

The voice ordering feature certainly will be popular with the Amazon crowd, most of whom already turn to Amazon first to fill every shopping need. The Echo/Alexa platform is being quickly adopted by this audience, but much less so among the larger population which still prefers to comparison shop and is driving Walmart’s recent success. Voice ordering won’t have a significant effect during this year’s holiday season, but will grow in future years as Amazon refines the process.

Cathy Hotka

Ken Lonyai hits it on the head. Amazon would like to train customers to purchase without checking the price or features first. It’s not hard to see a new program for ordering groceries where customers merely say “buy Cheerios” or “buy paper towels” without knowing the prices of each. There’s already a perception that Amazon Prime is free shipping — when it really is shipping paid in advance.

Zel Bianco

Way too easy to shop this way and way too easy to become habit forming. Nonetheless, it will catch on and all the other players who are trying to catch up to Amazon confirms this. It may not be significant this year but wait a year or two and it will be as ubiquitous as getting your coffee at Starbucks.

Gene Detroyer

When I teach business development, I teach it as a game of dominoes. The next development must be connected in some way with the business you are already doing. It should be connected by brand or customers or technology or channels, etc. The operative word is “OR.”

Steve Jobs was brilliant at this and Apple continues in this development vein. Look where they started and look where they are today. GE is another company that has practiced it for over 100 years, adding and shedding domino tiles as appropriate, but always connected to something.

Jeff Bezos may the absolute best at this. He is a systems thinker and uses every domino tile to enhance every other part of the business. (Does he still sell books?)

The Alexa connection has little to do with holiday selling and everything to do with SELLING!

Doug Garnett

We should be used to Amazon’s eternal use of shopping gimmicks for PR by now. And this is one more.

I know people who love Alexa. And when I ask about usage, almost all I hear about is playing music and getting the weather.

So this is a brilliant PR play … but it won’t change Amazon’s problem that their online retail doesn’t drive profit. If anything, it makes it worse — unless they’re hoping they can sell discount opportunities on Alexa as advertising.

Lee Kent

Maybe this just happens to me, however, I mentioned here before that when I go to order something on Amazon, the Prime prices are higher than non-Prime. While I can’t speak for the rest of the world, the trends I am seeing and hearing, especially involving Millennials, are about price. They are a very price conscience group. Will they ask about deals? Sure, but they still need to compare pricing.

With that said, I don’t think we are going to buy simply because Alexa is fun or it’s called a deal. We are still going to shop for price, delivery options that meet our needs and product quality.

Will it impact holiday shopping? My 2 cents says, I think not.

Ryan Mathews

If we are talking about this year, probably not. But in years to come, I certainly think so. As the voice interface technologies continue to improve, shopping just gets easier and easier. I believe that voice recognition will quickly (measured in years, not months) take over many, many functions. Once the line is crossed with that first voice-activated purchase and customers begin to feel more comfortable with the notion of ordering through the Echo or similar technologies I believe the retail floodgates will open. Next step, reminders to repurchase replenishment items and unprompted suggestions. And that will be the next big hurdle for the Amazons of the world. It’s one thing to tell Alexa to order a television and quite another to have her suggest you buy one.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Certainly the use of Alexa is low now because of the number of people who have a unit. However, the Alexa-only device sales may increase if consumers like the experience and talk about it. Will the Alexa-only daily sales be successful for this Thanksgiving? I don’t know. First, Black Friday lost its influence with Cyber Monday and sales on Thursday. Now we have a Black Friday week (or 10 days or month) with companies having different items on sale each day. I find this exhausting — trying to keep track of what is on sale when and where. I also do not find it to be helpful. There is enough stress over the holidays without this new sales approach.

Shep Hyken

I don’t know how much the virtual assistant deals will impact shopping this year. Small, if at all. It is just swapping out one form of shopping for another. And that is the key. Over time, the virtual assistant will become a more viable shopping channel. Just like getting people to buy online, we are now moving into another channel that will take time to become mainstream. I always think of the airlines and how they “taught” passengers through giving them more miles or a discount to buy their tickets online and then check in online. That’s what is happening now. We are in the consumer education phase. Let them experience how easy it is to do business with the virtual assistant and it becomes less of a novelty and more of the way we just do business. There will be a tipping point in the not-too-distant future where virtual assistant shopping is no longer a novelty.

Mohamed Amer

Amazon understands that future growth requires eliminating any friction that keeps a customer from “clicking” the Buy button. Amazon’s one-click ordering was exactly that — Alexa takes that convenience a step further.

The challenge facing Amazon is to create awareness so that they can accelerate adoption, achieve scale and lock-out competitors by setting new service standards. Expect a year from now that Alexa-type ordering will be far more popular and Amazon will be leading that trend.

Lee Peterson

So, what Amazon is saying by doing this is that Alexa is SO good, provides so much information (to them), and is so effective once you have one, that we’re going to do all we can in our power to get you to own one.

Next step is Alexa is free. Talk about a competitive take down. What retailer has even thought of something like Alexa? Amazon is clearly leaps and bounds ahead of all the traditional retailers. Clearly. This should be some holiday for them.

Ken Lonyai

Lee, FYI — I was involved in a very similar project before Alexa went public, but an NDA precludes me from elaborating. It’s not a matter of being the only one, it’s a matter of being the one who can execute and scale best.

Ed Rosenbaum

A new toy for more impulse buying. There is going to be a future here. But the competitive market will dictate how strong it will be.

"Amazon is certainly starting to train their most loyal households to shop in a new way."
"Alexa deals won’t alter the dynamics of holiday shopping, but they will introduce millions of Echo owners to ordering by voice..."
"I don’t think we are going to buy simply because Alexa is fun or it’s called a deal. We are still going to shop for price..."

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