Amazon Turns Its Alexa Virtual Assistant Into a Prime Day Personal Shopper


ENLARGE

Amazon’s Alexa-powered speakers. From left, Tap, Echo Dot and Echo.


Photo:

Joshua Scott for The Wall Street Journal

Amazon.com Inc. is finally turning its virtual assistant Alexa into the shopaholic’s best friend. On Friday, the retailer introduced a set of limited-time deals that people could get only if they already had an Echo speaker or some other Alexa-equipped device—and a Prime subscription.

These three new voice commands, one of which expires at the end of the day, are intended to hype up Amazon’s annual sales promotion, Prime Day, taking place July 12.

Friday only, saying “Alexa, order an Amazon Tap,” will get you the portable streaming speaker for $79, instead of its usual $130. The other two new Alexa deals expire at the end of Prime Day: “Alexa, order a drone” gets you a quadcopter for $15, while “Alexa, order a Cuisinart Griddler” gets the kitchen gadget for $30. Nine more voice-command discounts will come on Prime Day itself.

Five Things Amazon’s Alexa Bot Can Do for You

With the arrival of the Tap and Echo Dot, WSJ’s Geoffrey A. Fowler revisits Amazon’s talking virtual assistant. She’s come a long way, but she’s still far from perfect. Photo: Joshua Scott for The Wall Street Journal (Originally published April 13, 2016)

Another Alexa-only Prime Day perk: The first $20-or-more purchase you make through July 12 will be discounted by $10.

When Alexa first appeared in the Echo speaker, its purpose was to serve as a home helper—providing music, news, weather and trivia. You could make shopping lists, but you couldn’t really buy anything. Little by little, it acquired additional third-party skills such as ordering you an Uber and guiding you through a recipe. The assumption, of course, was that Amazon would eventually align Alexa with its core mission, getting you to buy things.

Another case in point: Last week, Amazon gave Alexa users the ability to buy millions of different products with their voice, down to the specific brand. It was the first time Alexa could do more than reorder previously purchased products.

Outside of Alexa, on Amazon’s website and apps, Prime Day will offer dozens discounts across nearly every product category in Amazon’s online store. To take part in all this, of course, you have to pay for the $100-a-year (or $11-a-month) Prime subscription, which includes perks such as two-day shipping, unlimited streaming music, photo storage, streaming TV shows and movies.

Write to Nathan Olivarez-Giles at Nathan.Olivarez-giles@wsj.com