Amazon is making its play to monetize its virtual personal assistant, Alexa, while it still dominates the category’s market share.
A series of new features announced this week pivot Alexa from a personal virtual assistant to a more capable salesperson for brands looking to sell services and products via voice. Developers will be able to charge customers for premium features in Alexa skills and they can also use customers’ payment info from Amazon so users can pay seamlessly via voice, with Amazon Pay.
With this update, an Alexa skill can now pull payment and shipping information directly from Amazon. This offers Amazon the ability to take a cut of each sale while simultaneously discouraging users from leaving the Alexa interface to create an account with the third-party seller. This new feature is similar to Amazon’s e-commerce marketplace, where it serves as a technology and logistics platform for other retailers to sell products.
One of the first skills with this capability, 1-800-Flowers, asks that you turn on Amazon Pay in the Alexa app, and then gives two flower suggestions after querying about your relationship to the recipient and the occasion. Once you select flowers, the skill requests the name and address of the recipient.
Another announcement last week also opens the possibility for Amazon to expand its growing advertisement business into voice, by giving Alexa the ability to suggest skills when a user asks a question it can’t answer itself.