The next time you ask Alexa for, say, tips on grooming your dog, the answer might come from a business hoping to entice you with its wares.
At its annual Accelerate sellers conference this week, Amazon unveiled a new tool that allows merchants to submit answers to questions that users might ask Alexa, TechCrunch reports.
The feature, called “Customers ask Alexa,” allows brands to submit links to their Amazon storefronts along with the answers to possible user questions, according to an Amazon blog post.
Sellers will get access to a dashboard that provides “frequently asked” customer questions. Any answers submitted by a brand will go through “content moderation and quality checks” before they’re released to Alexa, Amazon says.
Amazon offered some examples of Alexa questions that a seller might answer, including “How can I remove pet hair from my carpet,” “How to eliminate odor from soil stains,” “What products should I use to wash my dog’s hair,” and “How often should I wash my dog.”
The “Customers ask Alexa” tool will launch as an “invite-only program” starting later this year, with answers available to shoppers through the Alexa search bar by “late” 2022. Alexa on Echo devices won’t serve up seller-submitted answers until the middle of 2023, Amazon says.
Reached for comment, an Amazon rep said that any merchant-submitted Alexa answers will be attributed to the relevant seller, and that the attributions aren’t sold or otherwise sponsored.
If the concept of third parties submitting answers to Alexa questions sounds familiar, you might be thinking of Alexa Answers, the three-year-old program that lets Amazon users write responses to questions that are making Alexa draw a blank.
User-submitted Alexa Answers get an “according to an Amazon customer” disclaimer, and they’re also moderated, with filters that screen out “obvious profanity,” while Reddit-style upvotes and downvotes help to nix “low-quality” answers.
But while users have been submitting answers to Alexa questions for years, “Customers ask Alexa” marks the first time that merchants would be allowed to answer Alexa queries, with commerce being the motivator rather than the simple desire of being helpful.
Editor’s note: The author’s spouse is an Amazon Prime Video staffer.