- Oprah Winfrey is the first celebrity to lend her voiceover talents to Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant as part of a holiday promotion between the e-commerce giant and Winfrey's O magazine, TechCrunch reported. Alexa users can say, “Alexa, let’s shop Oprah’s favorite things” to shop for the 102 products on her wish list, the biggest in the 21-year history of Oprah’s Favorite Things.
- Oprah’s voice can recommend one of her favorite products and provide background details on why she picked the item this year. Alexa then asks if the listener wants to buy the product with a simple “yes” or “no.” A “no” answer will prompt the virtual Oprah to move on to the next item on the wish list.
- Her 2017 list, which is easier to scan on the Amazon website or mobile app, includes a Samsung TV, a pack of Julep lipsticks, waterproof boots from Sorel, Emu slipper sandals, Oprah’s new book “The Wisdom of Sundays,” Casa Dragones tequila and Butter London nail polish, among other items.
Amazon and O magazine have worked together in previous years to promote Oprah's Favorite Things list in a dedicated Amazon page for mobile and desktop users. Extending the wish list to the e-commerce giant's voice-activated assistant seems like a natural extension as consumers become more accustomed to completing tasks in the growing "age of ask."
It's unclear how well the short-term promotion will do, as using voice commands to look through more than 100 items is a daunting task and most shoppers generally want to see photos or videos of products before purchasing online. At the same time, the underlying goal of partnering with Oprah for a seasonal push appears to be centered around boosting awareness around Amazon’s voice-powered devices and their growing list of capabilities.
Amazon on Wednesday said its Black Friday store is officially open for business, even though Thanksgiving is weeks away, Forbes reported. The e-commerce giant is offering deals on Alexa-powered devices, Fire TV streaming media players and TVs, among other products and services. Amazon wants to provide incentives to sign up for its $99-a-year Prime service by offering subscribers a 30-minute early access to some deals, which Amazon likely hopes will give customers a taste of the service and lure them to keep it.
While 2017 has so far been a tumultuous year for many retailers after mass store closings, layoffs, bankruptcy filings and complaints of "being Amazon-ed," even Amazon itself has had some worrisome metrics splashed across financial news pages. The company’s operating income of $347 million was the worst in three years, but Amazon also took advantage of low interest rates to add $16 billion in debt to finance the takeover of Whole Foods, bringing its long-term debt to $24.7 billion. That alone will push Amazon’s debt payments to more than $1 billion, compared with net income of about $2.4 billion last year.