I am a product specialist. A long time ago, I was a product marketing manager for a large technology company. I have shipped hundreds of products over the years. Every need required a solution. And when you fill enough needs, people buy your product.
But in general they should think they have a need for it. Oh, of course, that’s the role of marketing. His job is to create demand where there is sometimes none.
Marketing can make you sensitive to something. It can also generate leads when it finds people who might be interested in a product. Other times, it creates enough buzz for the product to become a trend and take off on its own.
An object that imposed itself on everyday life
Why is Alex here? In 2014, Alexa seemed strange. No one knew why to desire this product. It didn’t fit with any of the usual product marketing formulas.
All in all, it was a Pringles box-like talking device. But why talk to him? Why spend hundreds of dollars on something that any app does? Why let him take up space just to answer you? As for turning on the light… all it took was the push of a button.
What about listening to music? Well, that’s what stereos were for, iPods and smartphones, and plenty of other ways to listen to music. Of course, the intercom function can be useful. But who needs an Internet-connected device that listens to everything you say?
I know this is subjective, but Alexa, more than Siri or Google Assistant, seems to strike the right balance between personality and utility, between features and functionality. Whether it’s setting a timer while you’re cooking, doing math, pausing a streaming service you’re watching on TV to ask a question of general interest, Alexa is usually relatively helpful.
Alexa will be everywhere in 2022. Many families have it in almost every room.
But that utility seems to be about to change. Amazon recently announced that it is going to introduce vendor-provided answers to common questions about Alexa. Here’s how Amazon describes it:
“This feature is called Customers Ask Alexa, and it works like this: When customers ask Alexa questions, including questions related to product features or compatibility, Alexa responds with helpful answers provided by brands in those product categories. (…) For example, a customer shopping for cleaning products on Amazon might ask, “How do I remove pet hair from carpet?”. The brand can now provide answers to such questions along with links to its Amazon storefront. »
Amazon clarifies that this is not paid advertising. Sellers do not pay for placement. Instead, Seller Central will feature a new “Customers Ask Alexa” feature, where sellers can view and answer questions using “self-service tools.” Responses will then be moderated by the Amazon team responsible for those questions. All responses will be attributed to the responding brand.
According to Rajiv Mehta, CEO of Alexa Shopping at Amazon, “Amazon recognizes brands as experts in their products. With this new capability, we’ve made it easier for brands to connect with shoppers to help them answer common questions and better inform their buying decisions.”
So there is no chance that something will go wrong. Playing with the priority algorithm in SERPs (the search engine response page) has already irreversibly changed editorial journalism. Most articles (including mine) are SEO reviewed. Even if the title is extremely attractive to readers (or just makes more sense), it can be discarded in favor of one that has more weight in Google.
Yes, you still get quality content (so to speak), but SEO heavily influences almost every editorial decision on almost every website. This is exactly what everyone needs to do today to keep generating income (needed to produce and manage high-value publications). We all need good content and we all need to pay our bills.
Points of sale or advice?
It’s perfectly reasonable to expect sellers to compete for prominence in the Alexa seller response system. It’s also perfectly reasonable to expect sales pitches, even disguised as very helpful answers, to outperform those answers.
This “service” is not expected until October, so there are currently no sample responses. But we can certainly expect questions like “should I use scissors or electric hair clippers” to lead to something like “never pay for a haircut again with this new design.” This answer gives you the ManGroomer, the perfect grooming kit. Do you want to get one? He might be here in two days. »
To be honest, this kit is amazing and saved me a lot of embarrassment during a Zoom meeting in the midst of a pandemic. But that’s not the question. Getting featured, even for products that work, destroys the helping relationship many of us have established with Alexa. She is no longer a reliable friend, but just another salesman trying to sell you something. Except that she’s already in the house.
Admittedly, Alexa has offered certain items at random times before (Amazon Music comes to mind). We always say, “Oh, no. No no no”. It sometimes appears with a yellow ring alert reminding you to do something about the upcoming “Subscribe and Save” command. But for now, these promotions and notifications are not tied specifically to third-party sellers. They do not give sellers the opportunity to beat the system for getting the best SEO response results.
That’s what worries me about Alex. Amazon engineers managed to teach Alexa how to find the right balance between usefulness and discretion. But if she’s constantly trying to push us to sell, she’ll get bored.
I’m sad about this situation. Alexa has been a fantastic (and frankly unexpected) boon for many of us. At the moment, she is practically a trusted member of the family. But if his essential nature is corrupted by Bezos’ excessive pursuit of even more money, that would be a real shame.
For example, I would feel much less comfortable leaving Alexa at my elderly parents’ home if I thought she was going to push them to buy new products through these marketing methods. The same goes for young children or people with poor impulse control. It’s all too easy to say yes to a trusted family member. After all, how many times have you answered yes to his helpful little questions in the last nine years?
For the record, I emailed Amazon asking if Amazon customers would be able to opt out of these potential upsells and how, in addition to content moderation, Amazon could prevent Alexa from becoming a do-it-yourself machine. SEO based advertising. I haven’t received a response yet.