Do you use Amazon Alexa to buy stuff? Report suggests 'no'

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Have you ever purchased something using just your voice with an Amazon Echo and the Alexa voice assistant? If the answer to that question is 'no', you're not alone – and even if you answered 'yes', the stats suggest you never tried it again.

That's according to a report in The Information that states that, despite the 50 million estimated Alexa-enabled devices out in the wild, "only about 2% of the people with devices [...] have made a purchase with their voices so far in 2018".

The numbers come from a pair of insiders who have been briefed on Amazon's internal figures, which we've run through in more detail below.

Silent sales

If true, that's a far smaller number of voice-activated shoppers than previous third party reports have estimated. Of those that did make a purchase, around 90% were said to have never tried it again. A more healthy 20% did however make use of shopping-related requests of Alexa, such as to ask about current deals or to track the status of an order.

Engagement with Alexa remains high, but this seems mostly centred around the assistant's Skills set – the commands that can answer questions, playback media, set timers and reminders and more.

So what could be holding Amazon's potentially-lucrative Alexa sales back? As far as product comparison goes (which Amazon's website does very well), audio-only feedback on an item isn't as reassuring as seeing a product on a screen in front of you. That's before the ability to scan user reviews comes into the equation or, more pertinently perhaps, the ability to compare prices with shops outside of the Amazon ecosystem. Alexa can really only return one response at a time, and they're all from Amazon's shop – it can be easy to fear that the wrong item has been ordered, or that Alexa is pushing an item with promotional value for Amazon, rather than for the user. 

In response to the report, Amazon stated that “millions of customers use Alexa to shop because it is the most convenient way to capture needs in the moment."

“We want to enable customers to shop in whatever way is easiest for them.”

The Amazon Echo Show, with its built in screen, could alleviate this worry somewhat – but with a smartphone app to hand almost anywhere an Alexa is, it's unlikely you'd choose to spend your money with a relatively unproven shopping medium rather than your phone.