Shopping with your Amazon Echo

Shopping with your Amazon Echo

One of Amazon’s key strategies is to become what I call the “infrastructure of the internet”. They want to be the way you interact with the web: not just one on ramp to the information superhighway, but the GPS as well.

The Echo is a big part of that.

I find it much easier to ask my

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

a question when I’m at home than to ask my SmartPhone.

I think that’s something that some Echo-skeptical tech writers miss.

Not everybody walks around their homes with their SmartPhones in their pockets. They come home from work and start them charging.

Sure, many people love their SmartPhones, but others associate them with obligation, with responsibilities.

With the Echo, you are in the comfort of your home, and you are just asking a question…not finding your phone, unlocking it, having to take a physical action.

It’s like talking to a friend…a friend who is always listening and willing to help.

A primary purpose for using the internet is shopping.

Certainly, people thought the Echo would be all about shopping…it’s not. For me, it’s a minor use of the device, although I expect it to become more important over time.

Currently, the Echo can reorder something for you that you have previously bought using Prime.

That seems pretty restrictive, but it makes some sense. You don’t want a long conversation while you confirm your address, you payment method, and so on. It’s reasonable that it wants to repeat a successful action from the past.

Note, though, that you won’t necessarily get the same price you got last time. If the price has changed (which happens), you would get the new price.

The Echo will confirm the price for you before you place the order, though.

Incidentally, I haven’t found a way to order more than one of something…I’ve tried saying, “Order two…”, but that doesn’t work. Since it is Prime, though, I suppose I could order the same item…then order it again.

What happens if what you want isn’t something you have ordered before?

Well, that’s actually pretty easy.

The Echo will inform you that it has added the item to your shopping list because it couldn’t find it.

In the app, go to Home -Menu (three horizontal lines) – Shopping List.

Once you get there, you’ll see a list of your items with a checkbox.

The trick here is to tap the item.

When you do that, you’ll get five choices:

  • Search Amazon for [item]
  • Search Bing for  [item]
  • Move item to To-do List
  • Delete item
  • >Alexa heard [item]

That’s right: you can even use Bing to find some other place to buy it!

If you do check the box, it will strikethrough the item, and give you a choice to delete it.

You can also manage the list here. You can add an item (it doesn’t search Amazon, it just puts it on the list as if you had spoken it, giving you the same items as above).

Additionally, you can view completed items. Those are ones you have checked, but not ones you have deleted (even if you had checked it first). If you tap that “View completed” link (it also shows you the number you have), it gives you a choice to “Delete all”, or you can delete individual ones. You can then “View active”. Doing that means that you don’t see the completed ones with the active ones any more.

Currently, there is only one shopping list, even though multiple people may be using the same device.

I do think it’s convenient to have the shopping list on my phone when I go out.

The shopping list also has triggers for IFTTT (If This Then That). That’s a website where you specify that when something happens with one of your apps, something else happens.

One other tip: you can have it search for an item by saying, “Alexa, do you have any [item]?” It will search your past purchases, and if that doesn’t find anything, add it to your shopping list, giving you the above options.

That did lead to an amusing thing.

I keep asking our Echo different thing, testing its knowledge. So I said, “Alexa, do you have any tattoos?”

That’s why I now have “Tattoos” on my shopping list… 😉

Update: I wanted to add something holding back from shopping with my Echo: it doesn’t find things on

That’s Amazon’s special storefront which is just like the main site…except that you can designate a non-profit and Amazon donates money to it when you buy (many) things. It would be nice if Amazon would allow us to just default all purchases to go through Smile.Amazon: I can’t think of a reason why I would prefer to not have the donation go to the non-profit when possible.

I’ve got two suggestions for Amazon to improve the shopping experience.

One is to let us create “friendly names” for items. I’ve sent this to Amazon already, and I think it would be a great feature! This is what I sent through the Echo app:

This is something that would be especially useful for the Echo, but would also be helpful for other Amazon ordering as well.

When I’ve gone to reorder items with the Echo, I’m not always sure what to call it, especially when there were similar items (a hardback and a board book, for example).

If customers could define “friendly names” (“Tim’s vitamins”, “Fluffy’s favorite cat toy”), it would make ordering via the Echo so much easier. The Echo could then confirm with the actual product name.

Ideally, we could go back and do this in our order history.

This would also be a great “sticky” factor for retaining Amazon customers. :-)”

Amazon responded with this:

“This is B—– from Echo support, this is a great idea being able to add a nickname to an order would certainly help. Being able to simplify the name of an order to something more common would be a nice addition.

I will gladly submit this request to our developers.

Customer feedback like yours is very important in helping us continue to improve Amazon Echo.

Thanks for taking the time to provide your feedback. We look forward to seeing you again soon.”

I did clean up the typos a bit…while my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is pretty good at speech recognition, it doesn’t always capitalize things correctly, for example.

The other suggestion I haven’t sent yet, but I will. You can send suggestions through the Echo app:

Home – Menu (three horizontal lines) – General Feedback

What I’d like to be able to do is add “Gold Box News” to my Flash Briefing (Home – Menu – Setting – Flash Briefing).

It would let me know what the deals are for the day, including the Kindle Daily Deal. Maybe I could even configure it for categories.

Then, it would let me order the items through Prime (assuming they were Prime eligible). Eventually, items won’t need to be Prime eligible. Hm…maybe it would be simplest initially to have it put it in my Amazon cart…then give me a link through the Echo app to get to my cart. Yeah, that might work well.

Update: of course, it would be much simpler for them to implement if it put it on my shopping list as above…

Those are just two ideas I have…do you have ideas to improve the Echo shopping experience? Do you have other questions or comments about the Echo or the Alexa Voice Service? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


3 Responses to “Shopping with your Amazon Echo”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    “I’ve tried saying, “Order two…”, but that doesn’t work. Since it is Prime, though, I suppose I could order the same item…then order it again.”
    Takes me back to 6th grade. My teacher told a story that stuck in my mind (I”m in my 70s so it is pretty darned stuck.) … A zookeeper told his secretary to order two of those … pointing to a picture of a mongoose. When she wrote to the mongoose supplier she did not know the plural for mongoose so she wrote: “Dear Sirs, Please send us a mongoose. Oh, by the way, please also send us another one as well. Thank you.” He was a great teacher and knew how to get us to understand concepts and “other stuff worth knowing.” That phrase will not work with Alexa; I tried, she did not grasp my meaning. But I really have no use for a mongoose anyway.

  2. Round up #306: Overdrive “page turners”, KU gets a Big 5 publisher (slightly) | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Shopping with your Amazon Echo Have a comment on any of these stories? Feel free to share it with me and my readers! […]

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