First look at the Echo Show
Just last week, Amazon announced four new Alexa-powered devices and an upgrade to the flagship Echo voice powered speaker. The Echo Plus has a built in smart hub that can power other smart devices, such as lightbulbs, thermostats and locks. The Echo Spot is a smaller version of the Echo Show, intended to be used as an alarm clock. The Echo Connect allows a person to use an Echo device to make phone calls from a landline telephone number. And Echo Buttons add a gaming component to the Alexa experience. This is on the heels of the May 2017 release of the Echo Show (with a 7 inch screen) and the Echo Look (an Echo with a hands free camera) earlier this summer. The new devices are due out at the end of October, in plenty of time for the Holidays.
In the chart above, we look at unit sales of all Bluetooth speakers sold online between June and August 2017 (after the launch of the Show and the Look). The low- priced Echo Dot is still dominant, accounting for 61 percent of voice-activated Bluetooth devices sold, followed by the Echo (31 percent) and the Google Home (4 percent). The Tap and Show accounted for 2 percent of units each, and the Look didn’t quite round up to 1 percent.
I’ve been a long time Echo fan, but often find myself fumbling when I want to do something that requires that I go through a list of potentially relevant responses. For example, if I want to listen to an album by Enya, but don’t know which one. Or, more likely, when I want to buy laundry detergent, but haven’t yet bought laundry detergent on Amazon, or want to try another brand. The introduction of a screen has the potential to be significant in the e-commerce space so I thought that I’d buy one and report back on what I found.
Despite the screen, most of the navigation on the Echo Show is voice-driven. Certain voice commands produce a search results page that can be scrolled across from left to right. If I said ‘Alexa, buy clothes, it wouldn’t try to take me through a hierarchical drill down from men’s to pants to jeans to Levi’s. This is intended for a shopper that has very specific intent. The good news is that that characterizes most Amazon shopping, so consumers don’t have to change their navigational habits.
The original Echo worked well when I wanted to re-order something that I had bought in the past. If, for example, I had bought Listerine mouthwash, I could say ‘re-order mouthwash’ and Alexa would ask if I wanted to buy the size and flavor variant of Listerine that I had last bought. If I declined that item it would propose the ‘Amazon’s Choice’ product for that search term, If I declined the Amazon’s Choice item, Alexa would next suggest the best seller. If I declined that, it would suggest that I try the Alexa app. This was a frustrating consumer experience, and dreadful for brands, which found themselves with a very narrow opportunity to win if they were hoping to win a new buyer (and, thus far, with no ad opportunities to buy their way there).
With the Echo Show, when I re-order an item that I had previously purchased at Amazon, it shows that item with the number one rank on a horizontal row of items from the same category of search results which can be scrolled across by swiping across the screen. There seems to be a maximum of 20 items shown, and it shows only Prime eligible items.
For each item, there is a buy button, as well as a ‘details’ button which allows the shopper to select size, flavor, color variants, and includes product details and aggregate customer ratings (you cannot yet read individual reviews on the Echo Show). There is no cross selling on the Echo Show at this time, nor is there any advertising. However, we can be fairly confident that this will change, as Amazon has sought to create ad opportunities on most of its consumer technology platforms.
While the Echo Show has not yet been widely bought in anywhere near the volumes of the original Echo or the Dot, we can be certain that Amazon will drop the price and will come out with more versions of the Echo with screens – the Echo Spot is only the first example. And its been reported that Google is thinking about offering its own version of the Google Home with a screen. While we should not expect that screens will be the default, we should expect that they will constitute a size-able share of voice powered speakers.
Brands must be aware of how their products are showing up (if at all) in all devices on the Echo platform and learn what tools are at their disposal to influence the rankings. When Amazon rolls out promotional slots, we recommend early experimentation in order to determine efficacy. In this early stage, learning trumps ROI. Commerce is not the principal use case for Amazon Echo and Google Home devices today, but we believe that it is just a matter of time before it becomes a common habit and brands would be well advised to be ahead of the curve rather than pursuing ‘fast follower’ strategies.