Brands' Voices May Be Muffled on Amazon Echo

Alexa recommends Amazon’s Choice and private labels more often

Author: Krista Garcia

February 27, 2018

No surprise: Alexa might not be the most impartial shopping tool. 

When consumers use voice search on Amazon Echo for products and don’t specify a brand—e.g., "paper towels" rather than "Brawny paper towels"—Alexa first suggests an Amazon’s Choice item more than half (54%) of the time, according to October 2017 Bain & Company research. This is followed by the top search result, recommended 41% of the time.  

Meanwhile, when a shopper searches by voice for a product for which Amazon has a private-label version, Alexa suggests it 17% of the time—despite private labels only making up 2% of products sold on Amazon, per Bain & Company.

This isn’t the biggest problem facing consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers upping their digital presence, but as voice searching—and purchasing—becomes more widespread, voice-search rankings could be more of an issue. 

In November 2017, Capgemini predicted that current voice assistant users in the US and Western Europe will increase their share of spending via voice from 3% today to 18% in three years. (Even those who don't currently use voice assistants are forecast to spend 7% via voice at that time.) 

Kantar Consulting just released new data showing that 18% of US household shoppers owned an Amazon Echo or Google Home in December 2017, more than twice the number (7%) from January 2017. Amazon Prime members have higher usage—24% owned a voice-enabled device in December, according to the study.

eMarketer forecasts that 16.3% of US internet users will use a voice-enabled speaker at least once a month in 2018, which fits in with Kantar’s research. Amazon Echo is the most popular brand: eMarketer expects it will account for 67.9% of US voice-enabled speaker users this year. In this current Amazon-dominated landscape, who comes out on top in terms of product recommendation matters.

Ultimately, there will be a battle for brand share. 

Once a shopper buys a specific brand on Amazon, Alexa does tend to suggest it going forward. Neither Amazon Echo nor Google Home is offering paid search advertising yet, so for now brands must rely on good old-fashioned name recognition rather than a hard sell.