Thursday, March 23, 2017

Alexa now takes orders from Amazon’s instant Prime Now and alcohol delivery services

After embedding its Alexa voice assistant into its main Amazon app last week, this week Amazon is expanding Alexa’s functionality yet again: Today the company announced that it will now let Prime subscribers order from Prime Now, its two-hour delivery service, as well as its newer alcohol delivery service, in cities where these are offered. Impulse buyers beware.
Amazon says that Alexa’s Prime Now implementation — usable on the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Fire Tablet and Fire TV — will let you order multiple items at once, make recommendations and automatically give you the next available two-hour delivery window. Prime Now is currently live in 30 cities, while alcohol delivery is live in just three: Seattle, Washington and Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio (beer and wine only for the latter two). It’s a safe bet that Amazon will be ramping up both of these into more locations.
Since its launch, Amazon’s Echo home hub, powered by the Alexa voice assistant, has been closely tied to Amazon’s e-commerce business, allowing users to link up and use the service to order items from as part of its bigger push into make commerce more frictionless. (Amazon’s Dash buttons, which let users buy specific items like laundry detergents with the touch of a button when they run low, is another example of how Amazon is trying to make it easier to buy from its massive marketplace.)
Prime Now and booze delivery, the two newest shopping experiences on Alexa that are going live today, are designed in the same vein. The idea is that you can use Alexa when you are multitasking at home and too busy to get on the computer or your phone; or are in the middle of something else like a dinner party or sports event and do not want to turn to your screen; or are just not in the mood to do anything but demand something out loud.
These two newest features are also a mark of how Amazon is giving Alexa a front and center place as a key interface between Amazon itself and its customers — but also how the company continues to push for more scale to make the service (and Amazon’s hardware) more useful.
And in turn, this will help Amazon’s products stand out more from and compete better against other products that are aiming to fill the same need. Chief among these: Google Home, the search and Android giant’s Echo-like home hub that in February introduced the ability to buy goods.
“Bringing Prime Now to Alexa voice shopping combines two of the most innovative shopping technologies available for an experience that our customers are going to wonder how they ever lived without,” said Assaf Ronen, vice president of Voice Shopping, in a statement. “We’re excited to offer the full Prime Now catalogue with Alexa, including tens of thousands of items, which allows you to refill everyday essentials you’ve just run out of like diapers or dish soap, or cater to unexpected guests with Merlot and ice cream, all without ever leaving your house or even getting up from the couch.”
Prime today has “tens of millions” of subscribers today (Amazon doesn’t give out concrete numbers), offering them a number of perks such as entertainment services like Prime Video and Prime Music, early access to certain e-books and other content and free shipping on selected items.
Prime Now is one of the newer of these features, aimed to compete with on-demand delivery services like Postmates in the U.S., which coincidentally has also jumped on the alcohol delivery bandwagon.

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