It’s been said that no one uses Alexa for voice-based shopping. But retail giant still sees the potential for Alexa as a shopping companion — just in a different way. That’s why this month the company quietly rolled out a new feature designed to boost consumers’ use of Alexa’s Shopping Lists: cashback offers.
The company confirmed to TechCrunch it introduced “Alexa Shopping List Savings,” which puts rebate offers from brands and manufacturers directly into consumers’ hands through the Alexa app, its mobile companion app for Echo device owners. The company says the offers will be displayed in the Alexa Shopping List section within the app and then can be used across retail stores nationwide to help customers save money.
To use the feature, you’d first select the offers of interest and activate them in the app, then visit your favorite grocery store, drug store, or chain store to buy the product, the Amazon website explains in an FAQ. The details about the offers around how they can be applied are also available in the app, Amazon notes. When you’ve completed your purchase, shoppers claim their rebate by taking a photo of the store receipt that shows the store’s name, location, date and time of purchases, product price and total, then submit it to Amazon through the app. Customers also have to scan the barcode on the product itself to complete the process.
Amazon will send the rebate to the customer via their Amazon Gift Card account. This process may take up to a week but typically takes just 24-48 hours, Amazon says. The Gift Card balance can be used to shop across tens of millions of eligible products on Amazon.
As you may expect, this system provides Amazon with a treasure trove of customer shopping data beyond just the offers customers were interested in and were redeeming.
The website notes that by choosing to participate in the Alexa Shopping List Savings program, customers are agreeing to share their personal information and data with Amazon:
… we will get any information you provide, including receipt images and information we may extract from those receipts, and the offers you activate. You understand and acknowledge that your personal information may be shared with Amazon’s service providers.
Broadly, this business model is not unique to Amazon. Other apps offer similar tools to turn customers’ retail store receipts into “free” gift cards. (They’re not really free — you paid with your data!) For instance, apps like Fetch Rewards, Ibotta, Checkout51 and others make money through affiliate commissions, through the resale of customers’ anonymized data or both, then share some of that revenue back with the customer in the form of cash back or gift cards.
Like rival apps, Amazon’s offers tend to be the same sort of grocery rewards you’d see elsewhere. This includes consumer packaged goods, health and beauty items, baby items, canned food and more — not fresh groceries or other retail categories, like electronics or apparel.
The feature is live in the Amazon Alexa mobile app today.