A Month Living with Alexa, the Amazon Echo

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A Month Living with Alexa, the Amazon Echo

By Chris Bryson - 11/21/2016

The last four weeks have provided me with what feels like a window into the future. My home has become inhabited by a new creature unlike any other I've experienced. It's something I call by name, something I converse with, but it’s not a living being. It’s Alexa, the Amazon Echo. So much more than a piece of technology, Alexa has become a companion when I'm cooking, when I wonder what the temperature is outside, or when I'm simply curious with random questions about the world. However, what's most amazing about Alexa is not the technology itself, but the effortless nature by which she is becoming part of my everyday life.
 
At Unata, research has always identified that the digital experiences that are easiest to use are the most successful in increasing customer satisfaction and basket size. In the most simple sense, the more you can reduce the clicks required to complete an action, such as ordering groceries online, the happier the customer and the more likely they are to re-use the service.
 
What's incredible and completely unique about Amazon Echo is that it has enabled the most effortless experience possible through the least clicks required – none. There's no doubt that Amazon's endgame is to drive shoppers to turn to Alexa for their online shopping. However, the genius part of their strategy is to make the device so much more than a list taker, but rather something that provides value in everyday routines, thereby increasing the odds of it becoming a new habit and thus the trusted source whenever a need for shopping arises.
 
Alexa has become a part of many new routines in my life, convincing me that this technology is most certainly the way of the future. Other retailers will need to find white-label equivalents in order to compete with Amazon before the Echo becomes ingrained into people's habits and daily lives, effectively stealing their share of wallet at the same time.
 
In terms of my personal experience with Alexa, there were two specific experiences that really solidified the extent of the power this little machine holds:
 
1.  As I got used to Amazon Echo for managing kitchen timers, asking about the weather, finding out the time, and more, I one day came home from work and found myself wondering what was going on in the news. Normally, I would've turned on the TV, but suddenly wondered if Alexa would be able to help instead. I asked aloud, "Alexa, read me the headlines," not knowing whether or not she could do such as thing. Magically, NPR's bulletin began to play. And it was the first time in years I found myself listening to the news instead of watching it. A new, easier habit was formed.

2.  When friends came over, they quickly started to put this new device to the test. It wasn't long before they were trying to stump the technology with questions, or adding third party applications to get it to tell jokes or hail an Uber. Very quickly, the device became a source of social entertainment.
 
I believe we are witnessing a new way in which we interact with technology, and the implications for how this will change the way we shop cannot be underestimated. If this technology becomes dominated by one company alone, they stand to hold the keys to the kingdom. The question then becomes, how many other retail players will fight to be part of it?

Chris Bryson