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Retailers hear Amazon Echo sales potential


The Amazon Echo smart home device represents a potential threat to Amazon’s competitors, but sales are sales.

Amazon Echo will be available in more than 3,000 stores around the country in time for the holiday shopping season. Select locations of ABT, BJ’s Wholesale Club, The Home Depot, Staples, Sears, Brookstone, RadioShack, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Hhgregg, P.C. Richard & Son, and R.C. Wiley will offer Echo.

The Echo device, currently available via Amazon for $179.99, is designed around the consumer’s voice. Echo is hands-free and always on. Customers can ask for information, music, news, traffic, weather, and more and get results instantly. Echo uses far-field voice recognition with an array of seven microphones to clearly hear consumers around the room.

Advanced beam-forming technology combines the signals from the individual microphones to suppress noise, reverberation, and competing speech. Echo’s advanced audio design includes dual downward-firing speakers that produce 360-degree, omni-directional, room-filling audio. It is built on a cloud-based artificial intelligence platform called Alexa, which leverages Amazon Web Services and learns as it is used.

Echo offers a variety of entertainment and connected home features, However, the feature which makes Echo a tool for Amazon to directly compete with almost any retailer is voice-activated ordering of Amazon Prime-eligible products. Echo uses the customer’s order history and can place orders using default payment and shipping settings.

If Echo can't find the requested item in the order history, it may suggest an alternate item using Amazon’s Choice, which picks highly-rated Prime-eligible products.

Amazon is trying to make itself a fixture in the homes of its customers with automatic purchase devices like Echo and the Dash button, which lets consumers reorder select staple items at the push of a button-shaped device.

It is understandable that competing retailers want to obtain a portion of what may be significant Echo holiday sales, but they also need to account for the impact Echo may have on how consumers shop in their customer experience strategy development.

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