Citing comments made by Amazon Media Group Vice President Seth Dellaire during last week’s Industry Preview in New York City, Business Insider's BI Intelligence research services unit states the e-commerce giant is planning on launching a paid search solution that takes it a step closer to enabling paid voice search capabilities through its Alexa virtual assistant.
Consumer Intelligence Research Partners indicates that 8.2 million U.S. Amazon customers now have Alexa-enabled Echo devices, according to data mailed to Retail Dive. About two-thirds of Echo device owners reported to CIRP that they use the devices for information queries, including searches.
Meanwhile, online spending coming directly through paid search ads was up 45% during the 2016 holiday shopping season, compared to the same period in 2015, according to data from Adlucent, a digital marketing agency.
About 55% of consumers now start their product shopping searches on Amazon, a number that has been rising at the apparent expense of traditional search engines, and with its expected move into paid search, Amazon is looking to capitalize on that trend.
Meanwhile, voice is becoming an increasingly viable method of performing online searches, not just through Alexa (though it certainly is leading the way) or Alexa’s other virtual assistant pals like Siri and Cortana, but also through Google and other search engines.
Google has been a leader in paid search, and during the last year has been looking to put itself on the forefront of paid voice search, so in a sense, for Amazon to extend into paid voice search would be both an offensive and defensive play. The retailer certainly wants a piece of what looks to be emerging as a new segment in the search engine market, but its also wants to protect its lead in the area of voice-driven applications and commerce. But Google, Amazon and other potential paid voice search players still need to figure out how to make this emerging segment happen in a way that doesn't annoy users of voice-driven devices.
We've gotten the sense from some of Amazon's recent efforts around Alexa, including its moves to build a broader ecosystem, that the company itself believes it has only scratched the surface in regard to the voice assistant's ultimate potential. Enabling paid voice search is something it will have to be very careful about pursuing. Amazon has been very good about maintaining a customer-first attitude with its various innovations, and it will need to continue to do that with Alexa. Everyone really seems to like her now, but what will happen if she starts providing search results influenced by the highest bidder?