Amazon has acquired a search engine and data analysis start-up called Graphiq, a deal potentially worth around $50 million that occurred in May but has only now come to light, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Graphiq reportedly was conceived as a search engine built around comparison shopping, enabling users to search for products and services, and be presented with an organized view that compares prices, details and product reviews from various sources and sellers.
Graphiq at one point developed an Alexa skill that allowed consumers to ask questions like, “What is the fastest 2016 sedan?” and get comparison-driven answers based on Graphiq search information. However, this skill is no longer available via Alexa, according to the LA Times.
In recent days, we witnessed the kick-off of the first Alexa Accelerator session, Amazon's effort with Techstars to mentor (and hand a six-figure check to) start-ups that could help grow and enhance the Alexa ecosystem in the years to come. In the case of Graphiq, Amazon liked the small company's technology enough that it brought it in-house.
When it comes to shopping searches, Amazon already has an impressive reputation as the site that consumers go to first — before Google and other search engines. As we move into the era of voice-driven search and conversational commerce, both of which Amazon has had a major hand in enabling, the notoriously competitive company is looking to keep and increase its edge by acquiring technology that is a natural fit for this channel.
Alexa has not been around for that long, but the virtual assistant may have already altered the expectations that people have for voice search. When they ask Alexa a question, they are not looking for random search results; they are looking for a specific, intelligent, maybe even thoughtful, answers. Graphiq's technology could be key to helping Alexa provide more such answers, especially in cases where consumers are using searches to comparison shop.
Shoppers also want to use information resources that they can trust. Amazon earlier this year talked about the possibility of offering a paid search program on its site, which quickly led to speculation that it could offer paid search through Alexa as well. Amazon hasn't said much about it since, but it will be interesting to see how Graphiq's technology aligns with that strategy. It would seem to have tremendous value to a consumer as an ad-free resource, though obviously more monetary value to Amazon and brand partners if integrated with a paid search program in some way.
Either way, it seems like this acquisition could play a major role in how shopping search evolves for the de facto shopping search engine. No wonder Amazon kept quiet about it for two months.