Amazon's Alexa Now Lets You Order Tens of Millions of Products With Your Voice


ENLARGE

Alexa is the voice-controlled digital assistant built into Amazon’s Wi-Fi-connected Echo, and other devices.


Photo:

Amazon/Associated Press

Alexa, Amazon.com Inc.
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’s voice-controlled digital assistant, just got a lot better at shopping. Amazon announced on Friday that Alexa will be able to purchase “tens of millions” of products from Amazon’s massive online store.

But Alexa—which is built into Amazon’s Wi-Fi-connected Echo and Tap speakers and its Fire TV set-top box—won’t be able to place an order for everything in Amazon’s online store and shopping apps. However, it will have access to all of the products in Amazon’s Prime shipping program. These are items Amazon already has ready to ship, including Amazon’s own products and those sold by third-party retailers who have authorized Amazon to handle their inventory and fulfillment. Generally, Prime products appear at the top of Amazon searches.

Before Friday’s update, Alexa could be used only to reorder items a user already had purchased or to buy products through a service called Amazon’s Choice. With Amazon’s Choice, you could request a product but not a specific brand. Instead, Amazon would decide which type of, say, toothpaste or toilet paper, to add to your shopping cart.

Now you can ask for a product and a specific brand as well, saying “Alexa, order Colgate
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toothpaste,” or “Alexa, order Charmin toilet paper.”

Interestingly enough, by expanding Alexa’s shopping skill set the company could be usurping the utility of its Dash buttons, which are physical buttons Amazon hopes consumers will place around their home to buy specific items, like Clorox
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disinfecting wipes or Ziploc bags. Amazon introduced dozens of new Dash buttons earlier this week.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to say whether Alexa would ever be able to order items that fall outside of the Prime purview. “We’re adding more products every day into that Prime product wheelhouse,” the spokeswoman said. “We really want to see how customers are using it and get their feedback on how it can be improved. We’ll continue to figure out expansion as time goes on.”

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