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Amazon Echo may soon respond to your questions with advertisements

At the Amazon Accelerate conference, the company announced a new Alexa feature called "Customers Ask Alexa," which will allow brands to submit their own answers to questions you may ask the device.

For questions like "How do I remove pet hair from the carpet?" standard answers would consist of web-wide recommendations. TechCrunch reports that companies can now submit their own answers (likely in the form of product recommendations) and direct users to their Amazon storefront.

It's not new practice to insert advertisements into search results. Advertising is a major revenue stream for both Google and Apple, but some users and developers have complained that the App Store's monetized recommendations distort users' search results by favoring the highest bidder over the most relevant app. Consumers are already being targeted with ads based on their voice interactions with Echo devices, with information about their requests being shared with as many as 41 advertising partners (without the actual voice recordings).

According to Rajiv Mehta, general manager of Alexa Shopping at Amazon, "Amazon recognizes brands as experts on their products." As a result of this new feature, "we have made it easier for brands to connect with customers to help answer common questions and better inform them on purchase decisions."

Even though Alexa's content moderation and quality checks will be applied to every answer before the best one is chosen, my worries remain that the system could be abused in the wrong hands. Beginning in October 2022, by invitation only, the feature will be made available in Seller Central for a select group of brands, with full rollout to all eligible brands in the US scheduled for 2023.

Another announcement made at the same event reveals that Amazon may soon permit brands and merchants you've purchased from to email you directly, as if the thought of your speaker spitting out adverts wasn't annoying enough.

Amazon's new Tailored Audiences feature will allow third-party sellers and brands to run personalized email marketing campaigns across three new groups: repeat customers, high-spend customers, and recent customers, in addition to those who have opted in to receive communications from sellers via following brands or stores. Currently in beta, Amazon's Tailored Audiences will be made available to all US sellers in early 2023.