Tech Transformers

Amazon offers exclusive shopping deals to people who order through its AI voice assistant Alexa

Amazon is trying to get you used to the idea of speaking to Alexa – its artificial intelligence (AI) digital assistant.

On Friday, the U.S. e-commerce giant announced it was offering exclusive deals to its Prime members that can only be ordered through an Alexa-enabled device like an Amazon Echo – its smart speaker.

Users need to say, "Alexa, what are your deals?" The voice assistant will respond and allow people to order the deal via Amazon.

This is the first time Amazon has done Alexa-exclusive deals, and highlights the way the Seattle-based technology giant wants to expand the capabilities of its AI assistant as it faces competition from the likes of Apple's Siri and Google Assistant.

Amazon Echo
Source: Amazon

Amazon recently expanded Echo into the U.K. and Germany after launching it in the U.S. in 2014. AI assistants are seen as the next battleground for technology companies as they can be integrated across different devices and keep users locked into an ecosystem. For example, Alexa is installed across Amazon's tablets, Fire TV and Echo. Amazon has also integrated it into hardware that it doesn't make – such as a connected thermostat called Ecobee. All the information Alexa Is gathering from users' requests can be used by Amazon to target customers with product recommendations.

Other technology firms are also boosting the capabilities of their own AI digital assistants. Apple's Siri is now integrated into its wireless AirPods for example. Google Assistant is across Android devices, as well as in Google Home – the company's own smart speaker. Amazon's advantage currently is its ability to link Alexa to its e-commerce business.

Revenue from smart audio hardware will more than triple over the next four years, rising from an estimated $1.4 billion this year to over $5.5 billion by 2020, according to Juniper Research, so it's seen as big business for technology players.

And gathering data through voice can also help companies like Google, Amazon and Apple, personalize their services even further.

Amazon's exclusive Alexa deals start on Friday and go through November and December, which includes the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events.

Deals this weekend include a 32-inch Samsung 1080p LED TV for $119 or $30 on a Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App controlled robot.

Prime members who have "1-click" check-out enabled on their Amazon account will be able to shop via Alexa.