Brands Are Now Invading Your Alexa Queries

A new Alexa capability allows sellers to directly provide answers about products on Amazon's voice assistant, potentially blurring the lines between information and advertising

Man on floor asking an Amazon Echo device a question. Is this really just Amazon Alexa ads?
"Customers ask Alexa" is a new feature for sellers and brands to provide information.

Alexa may start giving answers that sound more like ads or product placement. At Amazon’s annual Accelerate conference this week, the e-commerce giant announced a new capability called Customers ask Alexa, where questions posed to Amazon’s voice assistant related to a product’s features or compatibilities might be answered by “helpful answers provided by brands from those product categories,” according to a press release. The brands may also provide links to their Amazon storefronts.

This Alexa feature (which is certainly not its most controversial one) begins a limited rollout later this year and the company stresses that these brand-created answers will go through content moderation and quality checks.

“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,” said Rajiv Mehta, general manager of Alexa Shopping at Amazon.

On one hand, this isn’t all that different from a brand answering a written question on a product page on Amazon or even what you’d see if you did a Google search (where a lot of ads crowd the top search results). As well, brands do not sponsor or pay for this service, although they do register for it on Amazon Brand Registry.

But as Kyle Wiggers at TechCrunch notes, not everyone is going to want thinly-veiled ads during their queries. “I can’t say I have much faith companies won’t try to hijack answers to the most popular questions, angling for prime placement in Alexa users’ households,” writes Wiggers.

This news follows the announcement that Amazon will now allow brands and merchants to send marketing emails to shoppers. Because your life certainly needs not only more advertisements, but more spam as well.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.