Amazon is turning to Alexa and asking it to build a big digital advertising business.
The e-tailer has been in talks with several companies about letting them promote products on the best-selling Echo devices, which are powered by the Alexa voice assistant, according to several people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Consumer companies, including Procter & Gamble and Clorox, have been involved in these talks, according to the people.
Some of the early discussions have centered on whether companies would pay for higher placement if a user searches for a product such as shampoo on the device, similar to how paid searches work in Google.
The move by Amazon, which right now does very little advertising on the Echo, could mean big things for consumer companies that are fretting their influence on a voice-powered shopping experience.
With Alexa's clout anticipated to rise, brands are worried about being left out of the voice-shopping platform entirely. Advertisers and brands are particularly focused on search placement on Alexa because shoppers are more likely to select a top result on a voice assistant than they are on the web, where it's easy to scroll down or ignore written suggestions.
Amazon has hinted in the past that it will launch a paid search ad product for Alexa, but sources said that the latest talks show the e-commerce giant is preparing to make a serious run at the ad market as early as this year.