Retailers could help Amazon ‘double-down’ on Alexa

Amazon's AI-based voice assistant Alexa helped contribute to the company’s stellar online sales in its fourth quarter, but retailers could push the value of Alexa even further.

As more consumers use Alexa’s skills to engage with their favorite retail brands — outside of Amazon, Alexa’s reach is primed to expand even further going forward.

“Our 2017 projections for Alexa were very optimistic, and we far exceeded them," Bezos said in the company's earnings announcement. "We don’t see positive surprises of this magnitude very often — expect us to double down."

While Bezos didn’t give specifics on what these efforts would be, he has already tasked developers with building more — and better — skills. As an incentive, the e-retailer new ways for developers to earn money building for Alexa, including paid skill content through in-skill purchasing, premium subscription content, and a more frictionless checkout experience with Amazon Pay, according to the company.

The voice assistant is also getting a boost from the growing number of retailers that are integrating Alexa and conversational commerce into their omnichannel retailing strategies. Among the companies leveraging Alexa include:

• Brooks Brothers. The specialty retailer uses Alexa for Business, a service from Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s designed to automate and simplify tasks across the enterprise — in conference rooms, at associates’ work spaces and around the office.

• Perry Ellis. The menswear brand features the “Ask Perry Ellis” Amazon Alexa skill. Designed as a virtual personal assistant, the skill enables customers to use their voice to find the right look, and shop for merchandise. After “searching” among approximately 150 programmed occasions, taking into account the venue, weather and dress code, the voice assistant sends selections to the user’s Alexa app and email, where they can click through to to add items to their cart to purchase.

• The gifting retailer enables customers to place orders using the voice assistant via the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Tap smart home devices and Fire TV streaming media player. processes the order and arranges delivery.

• Best Buy. Leveraging its partnership with Amazon, the electronics retailer enables customers to order its Best Buy’s Deal of the Day products on an Alexa-enabled device.

• Calvin Klein. When the fashion retailer opened pop-up stores in New York City’s SoHo area and Santa Monica, Calif., during the holiday season, it outfitted fitting rooms with Amazon Echo devices. These allowed shoppers to ask Alexa various product questions, control the lighting, and play music of their choice.

• Poshmark. The online marketplace introduced Stylist Match, a tool that connects buyers and sellers in real-time via Amazon Alexa. Users can ask “Alexa” to style them, and the skill serves up curated looks from stylists across Poshmark’s fashion network.

• Sears. The department store syncs its full line of Kenmore Smart Appliances with Amazon's assistant, enabling customers to control the appliances with a voice command. The chain also sells its Kenmore-branded appliances on Amazon.

• Tuft & Needle. The startup mattress retailer startup outfitted its Seattle location with Amazon-branded solutions, including Alexa-powered Echo devices that answer customer questions.

• Peapod. The online grocer launched "Ask Peapod," an Alexa skill for hands-free, voice ordering that enables customers to add items to their weekly grocery carts in real-time.

and, of course,

• Amazon. Alexa gives users the ability to place orders on Amazon, and pay through Amazon Pay. It also offers an incentive to sign up for a subscription to the company's premium streaming music services.