“Alexa, Buy Me Stuff”

We’re one month into our experience with the Amazon Echo, the voice-activated device that accesses music, information, and pretty much anything else on the web. There have been a lot of proclamations of “game changer” made around the Echo, and based on our experience, those proclamations are correct. It’s a game changer, possibly a life changer. 

The first thing that happens, immediately after setting it up, is that the Amazon Echo becomes Alexa, the name that you use to make stuff happen on the device. And right after that, Alexa becomes her own entity, your very clever virtual world helper. Alexa has no problem understanding several different people, and she’s very rarely stumped. Questions like, “Alexa, what’s the weather?,” “Alexa, play Adelle,” “Alexa, wake me up at 5:30,” are no-brainers for her (pun intended). She can answer just about any question that has a Wikipedia listing, and she’s fully up to date on the news about anything. 

My first reaction, before I actually experienced it, was that Alexa would be nothing more than Siri with better sound and a different form factor. What I didn’t think about is that Alexa lives in the same space that I do, while Siri lives on my phone. With Alexa I don’t have to open anything, touch any screens, or speak into a microphone inches from my mouth. It’s as if she is in the room with me, just waiting for me to ask her to help. For those of us of a certain age, the closest metaphor to Alexa is the voice-activated computer on Star Trek. And as you spend time with her, the interactions become more frequent and casual, because she can help with so many things. Interestingly, while an interaction with an anthropomorphic, disembodied device that knows a whole bunch about you could be seen as really creepy, Alexa isn’t like that. Maybe it’s the voice, maybe it’s the simplicity of the interface, but it feels very natural to speak with her.

In addition to entertainment and information, I can buy stuff through Alexa. One of her capabilities is to maintain a shopping list that I can either print out or, potentially, order everything through Amazon. Since Alexa has access to your Amazon Prime account, she knows what you have purchased before so repeat purchases are a slam dunk. For new items, she’ll describe the item and the cost and ask if you would like to order. When you say that you would, the order is immediately placed and paid for with your one-click transaction settings. 

The unique interaction with Alexa can change the way that you make purchases. Generally, buying something requires intention; you have to do something to make a purchase happen. You get into the car and go to the store, you go online on your laptop and visit a website, you pull up an app on your phone, and all of these are intentional acts. With Alexa, you can casually say, “Alexa, I need paper towels,” she’ll repeat your order, give you the price, and it’s done. There’s still intention involved, but it’s pretty minimal. 

As Alexa and other Alexa-like devices start to enter our homes and offices, the act of purchasing will become more casual, less complex, and more embedded into our daily routines. Buying things will “just happen” when you think about it. And since the payment “just happens,” its importance as part of the transaction will diminish. The payment vanishes into the plumbing that makes our lives go. This, I think is how the Internet of Things will penetrate our existence: quietly, casually, and with a friendly, helpful attitude.

If you want to see the future of payments as well as the future of a big chunk of commerce, buy an Amazon Echo and have a chat with Alexa. She’ll rock your world.

Reblogged from Mobilestrategies360.com


Well, it's been a few months now. A few of us would like to know if Alexa's charms have waned. Is she still rockin' or is she in the failed experiment pile?

Alexa has new friends! Google Home has arrived and Siri got a makeover and is going to come out with some new outfits. Alexa is going to be embedded in Ford vehicles next year. I'd say she's doing fine. They're trying something new at Amazon, instead of doing a periodic release to update they are adding capabilities as they come online so there's a steady stream of new stuff available. I'm not in love with the UI on the mobile app, it feels too linear for such a non-linear concept, but it continues to grow. For Alexa, the future's so bright she has to wear shades (if she had eyes).

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