Amazon says screw it, lets Alexa respond to search queries with ads

With the new Customers ask Alexa feature, brands can answer customer’s questions directed at Alexa and link them to its storefront.

An Amazon Echo multimedia smart speaker, taken on November 28, 2016. (Photo by Joby Sessions/T3 Maga...
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It was only a matter of time before Amazon turned Alexa into a glorified ad. Amazon revealed its new feature called Customers ask Alexa during its annual Accelerate seller conference.

This feature lets brands include their answers for any questions customers might ask an Alexa device. When a customer asks a question like, “How can I remove pet hair from my carpet?” Customers ask Alexa will let brands that have products in a relevant category respond to the customer’s question. Alexa will then (naturally) link the customer to the brand’s Amazon storefront.

Much like the promoted or sponsored results when you’re looking for a nearby restaurant, these brands’ responses function much like ads. The danger lies in how transparent Amazon will be with brand responses. For some people, they may have no idea that the product they’re being informed of is just the result of a brand willing to play ball with Amazon.

Age of ads — Brands will have to register with Amazon’s Brand Registry, where they’ll see the Customers ask Alexa feature in Seller Central. The dashboard will show brands the most frequent asked customer questions so that they can set up answers for Alexa to respond with. Alexa then selects the most relevant answer to share with the customer.

Brands will be able to set up answers to frequently asked customer questions.Amazon

“Amazon recognizes brands as experts on their products. With this new capability, we have made it easier for brands to connect with customers to help answer common questions and better inform their purchase decisions,” Rajiv Mehta, general manager of Alexa Shopping at Amazon, said in its blog post.

In other words, Amazon will use customer data to prop up brands, and itself obviously, instead of using it to deliver the ideal answers/products to consumers.

So long, customer choice — While it will be easier for brands to get more customers, this move could come at the expense of customer choice. Brands are only concerned with selling their product, but customers are likely looking for the best product or information. The two aren’t aren’t always the same, unfortunately.

The Customers ask Alexa feature will be available for a select group of brands starting in October. It’ll be an invite-only program at first, but the feature will be available to all eligible brands in the U.S. in 2023. Afterwards, Customers ask Alexa will be available to shoppers through the Amazon search bar in late 2022 and through Echo devices in mid-2023.