“Alexa, how do I get rid of a stain?”
Normally, Alexa wouldn’t know the answer. But under a new initiative demonstrated April 25, Alexa will be able to hand off that question to a source with vested interest in the answer.
“Here is Tide Stain Remover,” Alexa will say.
The Q&A is a new feature touted to make Alexa smarter, but could double as Amazon’s foray into voice advertising, allowing the ecommerce giant to potentially sell ads to companies like Procter & Gamble, which makes Tide laundry detergent. Amazon could conceivably charge companies to supply branded answers to common consumer questions. It isn’t charging companies for the answers—yet.
Amazon has already released tools for developers to monetize their third-party Alexa skills, but has not discussed how it could earn recurring revenue from its market dominance in smart speakers. With the ability to link searches to skills—and therefore brands—Amazon could become a competitor to digital advertising companies like Google, whose entire business model is to find what people are searching for, and sell premium billing.
Ruhi Sarikaya, the Amazon executive that announced the new Alexa capability, says that the feature is currently in beta and will gradually be rolled out to US users.