May 5, 2017

Amazon Alexa: Brands Beware!

Since its launch, the Alexa Voice Service (developed by online retail giant Amazon) has been welcomed into millions of households across the globe. In 2015, an estimated 2.4 million Amazon Echo devices were sold worldwide, and in 2016, an estimated 5.2 million. One of the popular features of the Alexa Voice Service is voice-activated shopping. Now, via devices such as the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Dot, rather than ordering products at the touch of a button, many consumers are shopping using their voice.

At L2’s Amazon Clinic in April, brand strategy and digital marketing professor Scott Galloway spoke about Amazon’s impressive growth trajectory, its technological developments and extensive workforce – the company now employs more staff than Google, Facebook and Apple combined. During the session, Galloway explored the way in which Amazon has been disrupting the retail landscape and leveraging smart tech to influence consumer behaviour. The digital marketing professor describes Amazon as a company that has conspired to “take brand building out of the ecosystem” in a bid to control purchasing preferences – an insight that should be enough to make most advertisers break out in a cold sweat. xx

Image Credit: Amazon


Amazon has been able to achieve this level of control due to the fact that unless consumers specifically request a brand name when placing an order with Alexa, they are met with product suggestions based on certain algorithms linked to price, popularity and ratings. It’s also worth noting that the voice-activated shopping feature is open exclusively to Prime members, and only ‘Prime-eligible’ products are available for order, meaning customers wishing to make purchases via the Alexa Voice Service are limited to a certain range of products. These factors combined leave us wondering how ‘challenger’ brands will fare, particularly in terms of keeping their brand name at the top of consumers’ minds when they interact with Alexa.

It appears that the shopping feature is most suited to customers wishing to repeat purchases that they have made previously using their Prime account or for the quick and convenient purchase of fast-moving consumer goods. When it comes to discovering new products or exploring a wider range of brand offerings, there’s still progress to be made – particularly given the distinct lack of visual cues.

In conclusion however, whilst Alexa has the potential to eliminate the role of brand for certain products, the voice-activated shopping service does not appear to be an immediate threat. There’s a long way to go before the Alexa Voice Service rules the retail landscape, however given the rise in voice-activated smart tech, perhaps this is a sign that brands should begin to look more closely at the relationship between voice, audio and brand saliency – before they’re spoken for.




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Team Curious

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