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Amazon’s new “Customers ask Alexa” feature feels a lot like advertising in disguise

Tired of sponsored content on every platform? Well, you’ll also be getting it from Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant soon. Well, kinda. We’ll explain.During the annual Amazon Accelerate seller’s conference, the mega-retailer announced the launch of a new Alexa function called “Customers ask Alexa” that targets questions about products and brands. When users ask related questions, they’ll now get answers written by brands themselves, along with links to the brand’s Amazon storefront.The new function will be available to select sellers in October 2022, but will remain invite-only at launch. All eligible brands will get access to the feature in 2023. With this new function, customers asking their Echo (or other Alexa-enabled device) questions like “how do I clean up pet hair?” might be met with an answer from a vacuum company, urging them to buy their top-selling vacuum. Currently, Alexa uses information pulled from the internet to answer questions, but basic queries about household tasks, cooking, pet care, and more may soon include ads instead of just user-friendly answers. According to a blog post, all answers provided by companies are filtered by “Alexa’s content moderation, and quality checks” and Alexa allegedly will only share the most relevant answers. In the same write-up, Amazon stated that any answers given through “Customers ask Alexa” will always be attributed to the brands they come from and “are not paid for or sponsored” — but it feels a lot like sponsored content to us.Amazon launched this feature in an effort to acknowledge brands as the experts in their respective fields, but at the end of the day, brands are trying to sell their specific product, not offer consumers general advice and product options across multiple brands. While sponsored content is typically paid for by brands — not to mention properly disclosed to consumers — as a way to advertise their products, Alexa’s new feature will essentially offer un-paid spon-con. By allowing brands to write their own Alexa answers, customers will essentially be getting advice in the form of an ad whenever they use “Customers ask Alexa.” This roll-out might be a good thing for brands, as shoppable content on social media and other platforms has seen a huge boom over the last few years, but we worry that asking Alexa a question is now just another way for Amazon to get you to buy more things you don’t need. Our advice? Take Alexa’s new branded answers with a bit of skepticism. Brands will likely be vying for the top spot in related answers to expand their brand-recognition and sell more products. We recommend doing your own independent research on products before buying something solely off of an Alexa answer — the Amazon-recommended product might not always be the best one to spend your money on.

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