When Amazon introduced home listening and microphone devices featuring Alexa, its voice-enabled personal assistant, Amazon figured Millennials and other generations that had already given up their privacy on Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat would be early adopters for the commercial spying hardware. Yet even Amazon is surprised by the success of Alexa and the resulting demand for its associated devices.
“We are very happy with the results of Alexa,” Amazon chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky told investors Feb. 1, after the company reported 2017 fourth-quarter and full-year results. “It’s a very positive surprise for us.”
The company had originally hired 30 Rock star Alex Baldwin to pimp the Echo, filming several cutesy commercials showing the actor ordering socks and other mundane items after waking up from all-night benders or other hijinks. Alexa and Echo adoption exploded, leading other companies like Google and Microsoft to introduce competing products, although Amazon’s share of the audio spyware market is still about three quarters.
The beauty of the Echo, and Alexa on other devices such as tablets and phones, is that it is like placing tracking cookies on consumer’s every day lives without the need for computers and web browsers. Amazon can listen to everything the consumer is doing and saying and record it for later processing and analysis! Awesome!
“We’ll continue to invest heavily [in Alexa], and as you say, double down on that,” Olsavsky enthused.
Evidence of Amazon’s zeal abounds. After it bought Whole Foods in the middle of 2017, many grocery shoppers were greeted with tables of “farm fresh” Echos in their stores. In preparation for the Christmas present buying season, the company unveiled an extended line of new Echo devices that sported video screens and different form factors. Already in 2018, Amazon has managed to ink a deal to add Alexa to Toyota vehicles, and other auto manufacturers are expected to follow suit.
Why would Amazon want to spy on Americans? One would wonder about all their motives, but ultimately it is about money. Recently announced (and highly cited) analysis by Chicago-based mobile and online marketing private equity researcher Consumer Intelligence Research Partners revealed that Echo owners spent $400 more a year than the $1300 already spent by Prime members in general.
Bezos would likely jump through his butt to get a 10%, never mind 30%, increase in sales from any artifice in Amazon’s marketing. So let’s get those Chinese factories humming!! And as a bonus, Amazon earns the undying gratitude from the NSA and law enforcement! Wow–it is a win-win for everybody!