Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000, on Wednesday is scheduled to announce new Alexa-driven devices as it looks to embed the digital voice assistant more deeply into consumers’ lives.
Amazon hasn’t said what products are coming, but Bloomberg has previously reported that the company is working on Alexa-powered earbuds, a better-sounding Echo smart speaker, a health tracker and a domestic robot.
Bloomberg reports that at least one of the following products will take center stage at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters:
- Earbuds: They would compete with Apple AirPods and include a case for carrying and recharging. The earbuds will be cheaper than Apple’s $159 headphones, but require a smartphone to function as they won’t have cellular connectivity.
- High-End Echo: Look for Amazon to position a better-sounding Echo as a rival to Apple’s HomePod, the Google Home Max and the latest offerings from Sonos.
- Health tracker: The health and wellness bracelet is designed to pair with a smartphone app. Code-named Dylan, the device could even give Alexa the ability to recognize human emotions and offer wearers tips on how to interact more effectively with others.
- Home robot: People familiar with the project have said the bot, dubbed Vesta, could be a sort of mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in rooms where they don’t have Echo devices.
Amazon is also likely to roll out annual upgrades to its existing array of Echo speakers and television set-top boxes, as well as to continue its strategy of embedding Alexa in more device categories.
How Amazon leverages the data it gathers
In expanding Alexa’s reach, Amazon is continuing its push to gather more valuable data about consumers. After all, consumers’ interactions with Alexa—which consumers can use to get the weather, tell jokes, operate home appliances and serve as the operating system that powers consumers’ smart homes—provide Amazon with valuable data on consumers’ consumption patterns. That’s evident from Amazon’s integration of Alexa into its AmazonBasics Microwave. The retailer offers consumers who order microwave popcorn on Amazon a 10% discount when they allow the retailer to automatically reorder popcorn when their supplies run low. That approach has helped Amazon gather valuable data on consumers’ consumption patterns while also helping it capture sales that might otherwise take place elsewhere.
Alexa’s home automation services, including enabling consumers to use the Alexa app to control the heating in their homes remotely, creates a pipeline of information that helps Amazon get a better sense of how its customers behave and how and when consumers consume the items they purchase. And it is taking similar steps with Amazon and non-Amazon items, such as LG’s Ultra Large Capacity Front Load Washer as it encourages other manufacturers to incorporate its technology into their devices, which send shoppers an alert to let them know their clothes are clean and enables them to start a load of wash with a voice command.
There is a direct connection between the advance in Alexa software and Amazon’s lead in smart speakers, a category in which Amazon was first to market and where it commands 70% of the U.S. market, according to CIRP. 21% of U.S. consumers 18 or older own at least one smart speaker, according to a 2019 NPR/Edison Research survey. That translates to roughly 53 million consumers, and 14 million of those consumers purchased their first voice-activated, web-connected speakers last year.
The number of smart speakers is on the rise, partly because some consumers who own one are buying a second or third speaker to spread around their homes; 30% of smart speaker owners own three or more devices, a 13 percentage point increase from a year earlier, according to the NPR/Edison Research survey. And the number of smart speakers in U.S. households grew 78% last year to 118.5 million from 66.7 million a year earlier.
That’s good news for Amazon, as Echo owners spend $1,700 on Amazon annually, compared with $1,300 for non-Echo owners, according to CIRP.
Read more about Amazon’s strategic positioning in Internet Retailer’s 2019 Amazon Report. The full report is available as part of Internet Retailer’s U.S. Reports Pro Membership and as part of Internet Retailer’s Platinum All-Access Membership. Single copy sales are also available.