Alexa, Amazon’s digital voice assistant, seems capable of just about anything these days. It can guide you through a seven-minute workout, keep you abreast of the day’s news, order a pizza, switch your living room smart light on and off, and even hail a nearby Uber or Lyft. But those nifty tricks were just the tip of the iceberg, apparently. On Friday — just in time for Fourth of July sales — Amazon announced a new feature for its Alexa-powered Echo speakers and Fire TV stick that will let you kick-start a voice-guided Amazon shopping spree.
Alexa is gaining the ability to search and order products from anywhere within the online retailer’s cavernous warehouses. The functionality is not completely new — Alexa has been able to place orders for items you have purchased in the past. And the voice assistant has been able to tap Amazon’s Choice, a list of offers company curators handpick based on rating, shipping speed, and price, for some time.
But now, its selection has broadened in scope to the “tens of millions” of products across Amazon’s innumerable categories — food, electronics, apparel, and just about every category of goods in between. Running low on paper towels? Shout “Alexa, order a roll of Bounty,” and Alexa will helpfully provide a list of relevant products and their associated prices. Once you verbally confirm the one you want, Amazon’s voice assistant will automatically charge your preconfigured 1-Click payment method and send the item on its way. And, if you ask, “Alexa, where’s my stuff?” it will even give you information about its delivery status.
That is not to say it is holistic: Alexa cannot place orders for shoes, jewelry, watches, Amazon Fresh, Prime Pantry, Prime Now, or Add-On items. “There are some limitations around things that require sizing like clothes and shoes,” an Amazon representative told VentureBeat. “But, it’s still day one and we’ll be adding more items all the time.”
Impulse buying is only the newest trick in Alexa’s ever-growing bag. Earlier this week, Amazon announced that the platform’s library of apps had cracked the 1,400 mark (up from 1,000 a month ago and 130 a year ago), and that “tens of thousands” of developers were actively developing new ones. That momentum has been fueled largely by Alexa’s burgeoning ecosystem — Amazon has sold a collective three million Echo speakers to date, and more than 10,000 developers have tapped into Alexa Voice Services, Amazon’s free-to-use voice-processing toolkit.