Alexa is getting its first celebrity voice, and it’s Oprah. Before you get too excited, Oprah won’t respond to your day-to-day questions, as Alexa does – instead, the addition of Oprah’s voice is part of a holiday shopping promotion between Oprah’s O magazine and Amazon, where Oprah will help Alexa customers shop her “Favorite Things.”
O, The Oprah Magazine and Amazon have worked together over the past couple of years to co-promote Oprah’s Favorite Things online and on mobile through a dedicated Amazon storefront, but this is the first time the shopping experience has been offered through Amazon’s Alexa platform, and its Echo line of smart speakers.
To trigger Oprah’s voice, Alexa users have to say, “Alexa, let’s shop Oprah’s favorite things.”
Oprah will recommend one of her favorite products, and give you background on why she picked the item this year. Alexa will then ask if you’d like to buy the product, and you can respond “yes” or “no.” If “no,” Oprah will move on to the next item on the list.
If anything, this integration is more of a gimmick to promote Oprah’s holiday list and Amazon’s Echo speakers. It’s not, however, a very efficient way to shop. Not only does it force you to listen to items one-by-one, it’s also difficult to encourage people to shop based on product suggestions and descriptions alone. Most people want to see photos – and sometimes even videos – before making an online purchase.
That’s not to say that Alexa speakers can’t be useful for shoppers. They’re just more helpful with everyday purchases – like re-orders of common household items, or one-offs that you don’t want to run out to the store for, such as paper towels, diapers or pet food. Alexa hasn’t as of yet proven itself as a useful discovery platform for new products.
But if anyone can sell items, sight unseen, it could be Oprah, given the sizable fan base for her annual gift guide. And if not, well, it didn’t hurt Amazon to try.
This year, there are 102 products on Oprah’s list – the biggest list in the 21-year history of Oprah’s Favorite Things. The 2017 list includes a Samsung TV, a 25-pack of Julep lipsticks, waterproof snow boots from Sorel, Emu slipper sandals, Oprah’s new book “The Wisdom of Sundays,” frozen wild blueberries, monochromes bicycles, Gourmia automatic healthy frozen dessert maker, and many other items. The list is also filled out with perennial favorites, like Philips Sonicare toothbrush, Casa Dragones tequila, Beats earphones, Butter London nail polish, and more.
Of course, the list is still available on Amazon.com and in its app, where it’s easier to shop.
Unfortunately, if you just generally like the idea of changing Alexa’s voice for a celeb or anything else, there’s not much you can do today beyond swapping out the U.S. version of Alexa for one with a British accent or have her speak in German. Hopefully this will change soon, given that both Apple and Google already offer male voices, and virtual assistants shouldn’t have to be women.