What does Amazon Echo have to do with shopping?

Discussion
Nov 10, 2014

On Nov. 7, Amazon surprised the tech community by introducing Echo, a voice-activated, personal digital assistant. While compared to Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana in many reviews, Echo is a speaker that’s designed to sit in living rooms rather than on smartphones.

Costing $199 ($99 for Prime members), the device (9.25 inches height, 3.27 inches width) is turned on after hearing a predetermined "wake" word. Using voice recognition software, commands can provide:

News, weather, and information: Up-to-the-minute weather and news from a variety of sources, including local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN from TuneIn. Example commands included: "What’s the weather in Los Angeles this weekend?"; "Will it rain tomorrow?"

Music: Promising "immersive sound," Bluetooth technology enables the device to link to Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora from the user’s phone or tablet. Example commands: "Play music by Bruno Mars"; "Play my dinner party playlist."

Alarms, timers, and lists: Voice-controlled alarms, timers, shopping and to-do lists. Example commands: "Set an alarm for eight a.m."; "Add make hotel research to my to-do list."; "Add gelato to my shopping list."

Questions and answers: Getting information from Wikipedia, definitions, answers to common questions. Example commands: "Wikipedia: Abraham Lincoln"; "How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?"

[Image: Amazon Echo]

Echo has seven microphones with noise-cancellation software so that users to be heard from anywhere in a room — even with music on. Using a smartphone or desktop app, the alarms, music, shopping lists, etc. can be managed away from home.

According to the company, Echo’s "brain is in the cloud, running on Amazon Web Services so it continually learns and adds more functionality over time. The more you use Echo, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences."

With the disappointing Fire Phone aggressively linked to Amazon.com shopping, tech bloggers speculated wildly on how Echo may work to bring "no-click" shopping to reality. Beyond adding to Amazon.com shopping lists, users can buy digital music from Amazon.com. But many predict users will eventually be able to add e-books to their Kindle library or purchase physical items from Amazon directly from Echo.

James McQuivey, at Forrester Research, told Wired. "Sure, it doubles as a connected speaker and some people will end up buying it for that, but the Echo will only achieve its real purpose when you start asking it questions, having it complete tasks for you — especially shopping tasks — just the way Apple hopes its users will interact with Apple Watch."

Do you see Amazon Echo as a potentially expansive shopping tool for Amazon? Do you see break-through appeal for Echo and potentially other home-based digital assistants?

Join the Discussion!

17 Comments on "What does Amazon Echo have to do with shopping?"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jason Goldberg
BrainTrust

It’s too early to say how big Echo will be. A low-friction interface to the cloud clearly has the potential to be a game-changing in-home interface, but until Echo is out in the wild, we won’t know if it’s on par with other speech interfaces, behind them or a leap ahead. It’s only a big deal if it turns out to be a leap ahead of Siri, Google Now and Cortana.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Amazon doesn’t put out anything that isn’t a shopping tool. Echo is hands-free, links to smartphones and tablets and, for some, could become a great digital assistant. Its success will depend on how well it understands questions and directions right out of the box. Think of it as a stationary robot, and the first wave in future robotics.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

The only purpose Echo has is to increase sales at Amazon.

I’ve been involved in digital personal assistant research for a few years and can say as a PA, in its first incarnation, it has a weak feature set compared to what is possible with today’s technology. My guess is that it is somewhat of a strategy to allow people to slowly and comfortably integrate it into their lives without throwing up too many red flags. As people accept it and use it more they are feeding lifestyle information to Amazon, and that information is the most important commodity Amazon can own. It will enable them to target shoppers across every touch point in ever-more-powerful and effective ways.

The fact that Echo answers questions from Wikipedia and sets appointments is simply window dressing given to consumers so that Amazon can get what it wants.

Tony Orlando
BrainTrust

Another way to shop is why Echo exists IMO, and who could blame Amazon for creating it? Do I need the time in China, or the weather in Norway? This product enhances Amazon’s image and will keep the consumer even more loyal to their website, which any of us in business wish we had. They could give them away free and still make money in the long run with their Prime customers, for sure.

Liz Crawford
BrainTrust

It’s true—Echo will only achieve its real value when it completes shopping tasks in connection with your television.

Perhaps Echo is the link which will finally allow the convergence we have been waiting for. I’m talking about the convergence of television, the internet and communications in consumers’ living-rooms. The advantage is that it uses a system other than visual and text. By employing voice, consumers can retain control of their TV remotes, mobiles and tablets while talking to Echo.

I have to believe that Amazon joint ventures with broadcast channels aren’t far behind. Will they facilitate the connection between TV and retail?

Ed Dunn
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

No but I know what to give as a gift over the holiday. Windows Cortona, Google Voice and Apple Siri can easily implement this same feature on their set-top boxes (Xbox, Chrome, AppleTV). This is an over-hyped hardware product that is not as advanced as the Windows/Google/Apple current offerings I just mentioned.

For retail, Google Chrome has a new voice command feature that can be programmed to add/remove items to and from a basket, view the basket, speak the payment method and say “checkout,” as well as operate as a kiosk to search an endless aisle, and this costs nothing.

gordon arnold
Guest

Like the competition, the Echo product looks like more of a learning/development tool for the company than the consumer. Direct feedback constantly streaming from the market is invaluable for hardware and software creation and enhancements. The problem with this approach is that it can cause the company to steer away from the mainstream’s needs and wants by relying on it too heavily and alone.

The evolution of information technologies do not stem from a natural progression, they are inspired by scope and ease of use for radically different solutions versus current technologies and practicality of user interface. If this product is aimed at the development of voice command and language interpreter software, the ability and ease with which companies can move the applications into the retail market will be relatively seamless. The market will respond best to software and devices that can access the most, as in quantity and quality, retail e-commerce sites with the fewest apps.

Matt Schmitt
BrainTrust

Echo may seem to the consumer, at first glance, less about shopping and more about personal assistance and hands-free interaction with the cloud for quick access to news, entertainment, information, etc.

But as with most things related to Amazon, the big play for the overarching mission is likely for Amazon to learn more about the consumer’s interests, desires and needs. Data mining consumer info from Echo’s queries is the big win for Amazon. Whether that ultimately results in value for the consumer is the question. Does it provide enough value for it’s primary purpose, as a tool for the consumer? Hard to say yet, but it does seem Amazon is pushing very hard (and too quickly?) on a wide array of hardware initiatives and consumer interaction experiences.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
2 years 11 months ago

This “tool” creeps me out. I’ll be very surprised if this is “the most important product in years.”

W. Frank Dell II
BrainTrust

Amazon Echo is likely a prototype for what will be an Amazon shopping tool. It is unlikely to reach high distribution in households. Unless Echo can transfer to-do lists and to-purchase lists to a smartphone, it will have limited appeal. Smartphones are replacing watches. Smartphones are replacing computers and tablets. Soon many people will be paying with smartphones thus replacing the wallet. Like the old Palm products, the smartphone replaced them so consumers did not have to carry two items. Echo is just another item, but this one is not for carrying.

Melissa Snyder
Guest
Melissa Snyder
2 years 11 months ago
Like everything else new in the tracking device world (FitBit, Beddit, etc.,) it seems to offer little value to the consumer. Just recording information without actually fixing my problems. Do I need to tell something to remind me to add an item to my to-do list? How about you offer real value to the consumer and make the hotel reservations for me? Call my doctor and make my appointment. Don’t sit there being creepy under the guise of also being an infotainment speaker just to learn information about me and my family’s habits. I’m on to you. Unless the interface is actually going to HELP me: Me: Add bananas to my grocery list. Echo: The cheapest price for bananas is at Kroger this week. 39 cents per pound. Shall I consolidate your grocery list into one shopping location that offers you the best total savings?Me: Yes, Echo. Please also advise the best time in my schedule to shop. Coordinate my current schedule with that of the low-traffic times at the selected store.Echo: Done. Also plotting the best route for fuel efficiency.Me: Thank you, Echo. But it won’t do that. It will remember that I like bananas and populate my Amazon… Read more »
Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

There was an article written a long time ago called “High Tech – High Touch” that called for all new elements of high tech to keep in mind the fact that we’re still people and need the human factor to play a role. And that’s how I feel about this toy: Too soon. Consumers are going to need something like this demoed in person a LOT before they jump on board. Just too “Hal 5000.”

So to me, this needs a much more human introduction—in stores, in person, by a person. Maybe a free demo group, like with Google Glass, not just a PR-generating press release.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
2 years 11 months ago

No, I think Amazon has missed the mark again. Siri is with me always, everywhere. Having a lump of coal sitting on a desk, table or credenza just makes little sense to me. I’m sorry but this seems to be another “for the benefit of Amazon” gadget like the Fire Phone. Amazon doesn’t need to entrap consumers, they just need to provide great prices and great service. They should spend more time getting Prime two-day delivery straightened out and work on moving from 48-hour to 24-hour delivery.

An increase in convenience is the key to Amazon’s future. Trying to rope consumers into being an Amazon customer by using a device will go south the first time a consumer gets ripped off, and it will happen, as I now sometimes find that I can beat Amazon’s pricing significantly at other e-tailers.

If Amazon really wants to do something then take one of their devices, strip the bloatware out of it and set it up so seniors with little or no computer experience can operate email, Skype and put together a photo album.

David Dorf
BrainTrust

Following its usual strategy, Amazon has created yet another low-cost device that has many useful features, not the least of which is easier shopping. The question is, are consumers willing to give up some privacy for the features offered? Because you know Amazon is collecting lots of data that will be used for marketing later.

I would assume that Apple, Google, and Microsoft aren’t far behind in releasing their own versions of Echo, and Amazon was certainly smart to get there first. Google has a jump-start tying this to their home automation acquisitions, so you can assume their voice-response assistant can adjust the (Nest) thermostat as well. This could be the voice interface to the IoT hub that will eventually be in every home.

If it works as advertised, this device has the potential to create a new market for something we didn’t know we needed but can no longer live without.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

It does not matter what we think Echo will do. It is another “gadget” for those who have a need for everything new on the market. This will be good only if it is a step ahead of the others. But even then it will be an asset for Amazon because it is another tool in their customer loyalty arsenal.

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

While I agree that it remains to be seen whether or not the technology itself is better, the same, or worse than others, the whole point here is that it creates one more way for the shopper and Amazon to connect.

Seth Weisblatt
Guest
Seth Weisblatt
2 years 11 months ago

Just curious how many items we will start seeing on our Amazon “Suggested Products” that we either saw on the TV that Echo was listening to, or that my wife and I were discussing… or what my kids said “Dad, will you buy me that?” We all know that Apple, Google, Facebook are tracking our locations and whereabouts – now we will be giving Amazon permission to literally listen to us.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What do you think of the potential of Amazon Echo and similar personal assistant devices as shopping tools?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...