- Amazon is letting users of its Alexa virtual assistant donate school supplies with a simple voice command. By saying, "Alexa, donate to Happy School Year" to an Echo smart speaker or other Alexa-equipped device, shoppers are presented with a backpack offer from Amazon, according to a company announcement.
- After a donor confirms the order, Amazon will fill the backpack with basic school supplies and ship it directly to Communities In Schools, a provider of in-school resources and support to students in need. Amazon will match up to $200,000 of supplies during the program, which runs through Sept. 9.
- The donations are tax deductible, and donors will receive a thank you message through Alexa from Shaquille O'Neal, the former NBA star and member of the Communities in Schools National Board.
Amazon's "Happy School Year" program aims to make it easier for time-pressed customers to help families during the busy back-to-school shopping season. By equipping Alexa with a voice skill to handle donation requests, Amazon can reach the millions of U.S. households that either own an Echo smart speaker or can use the virtual assistant on Alexa-equipped devices like mobile phones and smart TVs.
By letting customers make donations through Alexa, Amazon may also help to familiarize more consumers with voice-powered transactions. Shopping on smart speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Home is growing faster than previously expected, leading researcher eMarketer to raise its forecast for the number of people using the devices for voice commerce. U.S. consumers who shop by smart speaker is now forecast to rise 31.6% to 31 million this year, and by another 11.8% to 34.7 million in 2020, per the revised estimate.
Amazon is no stranger to offering charitable donations through Alexa. During last year's holiday shopping season, the e-commerce giant celebrated Giving Tuesday by letting Alexa owners donate to Toys for Tots with a quick verbal command, potentially driving more people to donate.
Back-to-school shopping can be an expensive proposition for lower-income households. The National Retail Federation estimated that parents with children in elementary school this year will spend an average of $697 during the back-to-school season, including $117 on supplies such as notebooks, pencils, backpacks and lunch boxes.