Amazon is looking to transform the Echo smart speaker and its Alexa voice assistant into an advertising platform, according to CNBC.
The e-commerce giant has talked with a number of consumer products companies about the potential ads and the form that they would take. Opening up Alexa to advertising could create a major revenue opportunity for Amazon and skill-making partners, but could also pose a risk to the company as it looks to build on its early lead in the smart speaker market.
Early indications are that Amazon is considering two primary approaches to ads on Alexa.
- One approach the company is looking at is promoted search results. Much like Amazon does on its website, this advertising plan would allow companies to pay to prioritize their products when an Alexa user searches for an item by voice. With voice search, though, that prioritization could be even more effective, since Alexa would read out the top results rather than display sponsored or promoted results at the top of a list of products matching the search criteria. But this could also risk alienating users should promoted or prioritized results not meet expectations or are more expensive than other options.
- Amazon is also experimenting with more targeted Alexa searches based on past shopping behavior. This could involve suggesting a cleaning product or kitchen utensil from a company based on past purchases from that same company, though it remains unclear exactly how or when those suggestions would be triggered. Another way this could be implemented is by offering suggestions for products based on general queries, such as how to clean up a spill or remove a stain.
There are no concrete plans for a wider framework for ads within Alexa skills. Last year, Amazon changed policies in a way that barred Alexa from readings ads within skills. The company’s current policy allows skills to serve ads so long as they don’t sound like Alexa or refer to the voice assistant
One thing that Amazon seems determined not to do is introduce unprompted ads into Alexa. Smart speakers only start talking under specific circumstances, like when they’re awakened and spoken to, when there’s a timer or reminder set up, or when someone calls the device. Introducing ads that either play without prompting or that precede what the user requested from the voice assistant could lead to a subpar user experience and push users away from Alexa.