Amazon just debuted a ton of new Alexa devices, but one thing was mysteriously absent

Getty/Stephen Brashear
  • Amazon announced a ton of new features and products at its Thursday media event.
  • It didn’t say a single thing about voice shopping, which was something of a marquee feature when Alexa was first developed.
  • It’s looking like the new phase of e-commerce that was promised for Alexa has not arrived.

Thursday was a big day for Amazon.

The retailer and tech giant made a splashy show of trying to own the connected home, with new products like a voice-operated microwave and updates to its popular Alexa-enabled Echo Dot, just to name a few. Among the newly announced products are devices that are promising to improve the smart home, make music listening easier or more enjoyable, and expand the ability to watch TV through Alexa-enabled devices.

There was one thing that Amazon’s head of devices and services, Dave Limp, did not talk about: voice shopping. There wasn’t a single mention of voice shopping throughout the entire presentation, even as Limp kept unveiling new devices that are compatible with Alexa and, therefore, voice shopping.

It isn’t the first time Amazon has avoided talking about voice shopping.

In its quarterly earnings call on July 26, the company’s head of investor relations, Dave Fildes, said that people were “enjoying” the company’s Alexa-powered devices, but didn’t directly address its role as a voice-shopping service.

“I think we’re having a lot of success with devices and customers are enjoying those,” Fildes said in response to an analyst’s question about the impact that Alexa is having on Amazon’s retail business.

He continued: “Coming out of Prime Day, [we] had some good success and happy customers enjoying some of the devices there. The focus now is really having a good and exciting roadmap of recent revises and more to come ahead, and getting those into customers’ hands.”

Amazon has made improvements to Alexa shopping with new initiatives like integrating it with Whole Foods delivery through Prime Now, but the company has shared few specific details about how customers are actually shopping with their voices.

Voice shopping is an often-hyped feature of voice assistants, but it has yet to reach the promise of it being the future of digital commerce.

Though the number of people who own smart speakers is rising dramatically, the ubiquity of the devices doesn’t appear to have led to an increase in sales done with the devices. A report from The Information, which cited internal documents from Amazon, said that only 2% of customers who own Alexa-enabled devices have actually used it to make a purchase at least once.

Of those 2%, only 10% of those who used it once came back to use it again, indicating that they either used it as a novelty or that they weren’t quite pleased with the experience.

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