The Calculus of Ordering Stuff Through Alexa.
Amazing! An image that exactly fits with my article. Thanks GeekWire!

It’s recently come out that the vast ownership of Alexas pretty much don’t use them for shopping, even though this was Amazon’s primary reason for launching the product. Having watched and read a number of people postulating that this voice-driven platform will be the next far reaching commerce platform, I have to say that I’ve never really seen how Alexa-like devices were going to command so much sales.

Thinking about it more indepth, I think the main reason for not seeing sales through the platform may be the calculus people do between the desire for specific products versus the speed of receiving said product.  The crux of the formula is if I can’t have something right now, then I want to have more command over what I’m getting, but if I can get it right now, I’m far less picky.


Imagine this setting: you want pizza. Right now. And perhaps some sort of pizza is available essentially immediately. Who knows, maybe you’re jonesing for a slice and you’re near the food court at the mall (if people still eat at the food court at the mall?) The desire to have exactly a specific brand and style of pizza may not be as strong as being able to just get some pizza right now.

The result would be completely different if you were at home and had to either travel to get some pizza or wait about the same amount of time to have pizza delivered. In this instance, I’d bet you’d consider much more closely your options. The nearly all-bread pizza at the mall would probably not make it to the recall set.


Applying this thinking to summoning Alexa to buy whatever pizza product Amazon desires to send you ends up within the aforementioned ‘formula’ – because any option Amazon has is well outside of instant gratification. Regardless of the ease of absentmindedly bellowing for pizza, you’re still waiting for delivery by conventional means – even though it may be through a relatively quick Ubereats or Dominos. If you have that time available, then you’ll want to be more specific than ‘Alexa, order me (any) pizza.’ That’s the rub of buying through the device. Factoring the probability of getting exactly what you want against how long you’d wait doesn’t seem like a good bet.

Sure, there are some purchases that could work well with the platform. Playing or buying digital media is a good bet. Even buying apps would be. On the other hand, tangible items (like the bulk of what’s available on Amazon)  we’ll have to wait for. Waiting builds expectations – as well as the magnitude of disappointment when Amazon guesses it wrong. Maybe this is the reason we’re seeing Alexas with screens coming out and delivery drones. Amazon has to either fix the specificity issue or it has to solve the instant gratification problem to really make buying on Alexa work for the masses.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: