Back in June I wrote about the then new Amazon Fire TV Cube and its potential to drive increases in conversational commerce. Now Amazon has released a new wave of devices aimed at making Alexa even more ubiquitous. The most recent announcements on Thursday, September 20, included a DVR, subwoofer, wall clock, microwave, smart plug, and the new Echo Auto. Clearly, Amazon is on a mission to dominate the smart home space and isn’t waiting around for third-party developers to produce Alexa-compatible devices, although there are those too. As more and more devices have the capability to accept voice commands, I believe that the trend toward increasing usage of conversational commerce will continue at a rapid pace. As reported by TechCrunch, there are already 450 million voice assistant devices in the United States.
Amazon has a head start over its competitors in the smart home market, namely Apple and Google, and is working hard to maintain that edge by crowding out other competitive solutions with its own vast array of options. Although Amazon has typically been very successful in the various businesses it enters, one notable failure occurred when it took on Apple and Google head on with the launch of Fire Phone in June 2014. Amazon Echo with Alexa had not yet been launched (it would launch several months later, in November 2014). Fire Phone seems to have been an attempt to get the Amazon digital experience in customers’ hands with preloaded Amazon apps and services. But the device never took off with consumers and was discontinued a year later. The failure of Fire Phone has not had a dramatic impact on Amazon since consumers have plenty of ways to engage with Amazon services through IOS and Android handsets. What might have had more impact, although not apparent at the time, was the opportunity of having an Alexa-powered device in more consumers’ hands all the time as opposed to just when they are at home. This might have alleviated the need for the Echo Auto, as consumers generally have their phones with them when driving their cars. Perhaps Amazon’s aggressive move into the smart home segment is in part driven by the fear of competitors getting a toehold in the voice assistant market via their phone devices (e.g., Siri or Google Assistant) or their automotive infotainment solutions (e.g., Apple CarPlay or androidauto).
As these titans of technology continue to battle, I’m not sure whose solution will ultimately dominate, but all the signs are pointing toward increased adoption of conversational commerce whatever the platform.
You can read more about conversation commerce in the Mercator Advisory Group research report Conversational Commerce Speaks to New Market Opportunities for Merchants written by Raymond Pucci, Director of Mercator’s Merchant Services Advisory Group.