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Amazon still hasn’t figured out how to sell more stuff via Alexa

It looks like Amazon is still struggling to encourage Alexa users to shop by using their voice. A news report first published by The Information is based on two sources briefed on the company’s internal figures who say that only about 2 percent of people with Alexa-enabled devices have made purchases with their voices so far in 2018. The bulletin also reveals that Amazon has sold about 50 million Alexa devices, a statistic in line with Jeff Bezos’ claim earlier this year that the company sold “tens of millions of Echo devices” last year.

“Clearly, voice shopping is not yet in the stages of being a mass market product,” one of The Information’s sources said.

Of the users who did buy something via Alexa, only about 10 percent tried it again, while a more significant 20 percent engaged more broadly by tracking shipments or perusing deals.

Patrick Givens, who develops skills for Alexa and Google Assistant at the digital marketing firm VaynerMedia was approached by The Information, his hesitation about the voice-activated shopping market was evident.

“We’ve done a lot of work to manage back the expectations to say we don’t expect a high volume of purchase here right away,” he said. We would definitely think of commerce in voice today as a space to try to build learnings now, but not a place where we expect to see meaningful purchase volume.”

Some analysts think that new innovations, such as video engagement, are on the horizon for Alexa, while others believe the company’s new direction is to sell services, such as Amazon’s Unlimited Music Service, Amazon Prime Video, or potential future services from Amazon-owned Whole Foods.

In Amazon’s quarterly earnings call on July 26, the company’s head of investor relations, Dave Fildes, shied away from the question of Alexa’s potential as a sales platform.

“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 Alexa’s impact on Amazon’s retail business. “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.”

Despite some reticence on Amazon’s part regarding shopping, the concept of voice as a sales platform clearly has its cheerleader, given that analysis predicts a $40 billion-plus market by 2022, up from a mere $2 billion today.

“Millions of customers use Alexa to shop because it is the most convenient way to capture needs in the moment,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Information. “We want to enable customers to shop in whatever way is easiest for them.”

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