In our review of the Amazon Echo, we noted that while the speaker / personal assistant was an undeniably cool product, the lack of integrated features for Amazon Prime members was surprising. Amazon has been working to remedy this, and since the Echo’s launch in November of last year, it has steadily gained more features. And it has now finally added something it should have had all along: hands-free shopping.
Of course, there is a catch. Currently this feature can only be used to re-order items, and it’s only available to members of Amazon Prime. So saying “Alexa, reorder paper towels” will work, but only assuming that you’ve already bought paper towels from Amazon, and that they’re in stock and eligible for Prime.
There is some extra intelligence being applied behind the scenes. If you re-order an item but Amazon Echo doesn’t find a previous order, it will attempt to locate a similar item from Amazon’s Choice. If it succeeds, Echo will notify you of the product it found, tell you the price, and ask if you want to order that instead.
Assuming that neither of the above options work, Echo will simply add the item to your shopping list, which has been the default behavior since the product’s launch.
If this sounds familiar, it’s likely because the functionality is similar to the Dash button that Amazon introduced in March, which allows users to re-purchase single items with the single press of a button. While Dash is handy if you constantly find yourself forgetting to re-order a single item, adding this functionality to Amazon Echo is undoubtedly more useful.
Echo had plenty of useful functions at launch, and has continued to receive improvements thereafter. Last month saw Echo gain the ability to control smart home devices like Phillips Hue and WeMo products, in addition to adding Pandora and support for even more sports scores.
The firmware update adding this new feature began to roll out yesterday, so most Amazon Echo owners should already have it available to them.