How to Shop Using Amazon Alexa

Order groceries or other items just by telling Alexa what you need, Inc

The age of being able to shop simply by saying what you want to buy is here and the good news is, it's actually quite easy. Now, it's not without its bumps, but you'll find it's quite easy to get started shopping with Alexa. In fact, many of us will be able to do it right out of the box without any extra tinkering.

Now, while it's easy to start shopping, it's not quite so easy to actually shop using Alexa.

She has her limitations, but the good news is that Alexa's able to learn what you like to buy, which makes her a better shopping assistant the more you shop with her.

How to Get Started Shopping With Alexa

You will need four things to get started shopping with Alexa: an address and payment method within the United States, a compatible device such as the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, an Amazon account and an Amazon Prime membership. If you want Amazon to actually place the orders for you instead of simply adding them to your cart, you will also need to enable 1-click ordering in your Amazon account.

The ability to order from Amazon from your Alexa device is turned on by default, but you may want to tweak the settings to add a code to prevent just anyone–including small kids–from adding to the cart and placing orders.

  1. First, open the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet. This is the app you used to set up your Amazon Echo or other Alexa-enabled device.
  1. Tap the Menu button in the upper-left corner. It is the button that looks like three horizontal lines. 
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Scroll down and tap Voice Purchasing.
  4. You can flip the switch to allow purchasing by voice on or off. 
  5. You can also add a voice code. However, note that by default Alexa by default will only require the code the first time you order so long as it can recognize your voice, and will require it just one time for each distinct voice in your family. If you want it to ask for the code each and every time you place an order, you can flip the "Allow recognized speakers.." switch to off.

    How to Add to Your Cart and Place Orders with Alexa

    There are two distinct ways to shop with Alexa. You can add items to your cart, which lets you slowly build up a list of items until you are ready to place the order, or you can simply order items, which will pay for it and ready the item for shipping. You can also cancel your most recent order, have Alexa read out your orders and reorder items you have purchased in the past.

    • "Alexa, order light bulbs." This is the quickest way to shop using Alexa. The "Alexa, order" command will result in Alexa searching through your past orders to find the right item, and if it cannot find one, it will use an Amazon Prime recommended item. This is where Alexa gets better over time. As you order products using Alexa, she'll do a better job of ordering the right product the next time you need it.
    • "Alexa, add trash bags to my cart." When you add items to your cart, Alexa adds them to Amazon's cart. You can add items either from Amazon's website or through Alexa. If Alexa isn't sure which item to choose, she'll add the search term to the cart, allowing you to choose a specific item when you view the cart on Amazon's website.
    • "Alexa, order pickles from Prime Now." You can specify an order from Amazon's ultra-fast Prime Now delivery service, which features same-day delivery. Amazon is also adding Whole Foods delivery to this service.
    • "Alexa, reorder coffee." This voice command specifically searches your purchase history, and if it doesn't find the right item with its first try, it will proceed to other items you have bought in the past. 
    • "Alexa, what's in my cart?" If you've added a few things to the cart and want to double-check the article, just ask Alexa to read you the items in the cart.
    • "Alexa, when will my order arrive?" Alexa will let you know when your next order will arrive.
    • "Alexa, stop." This is a global command, and a useful one while shopping. If Alexa starts reading off a list of products and you change your mind, just tell her to stop and she'll cancel what she is doing.
    • "Alexa, cancel my last order." If you find you made a mistake, Alexa can cancel your last order so long as it hasn't shipped yet.  

    What Alexa Can't Do and What to Look Out For When Shopping With Alexa

    Shopping with Alexa can be very cool, but she isn't perfect. There are a few gaps in Alexa's abilities when it comes to shopping. Here are a few things to look out for when shopping with voice commands:

    • Alexa cannot remove items from the cart. Alexa is quite capable of adding items to the cart, and can read items from your cart, so this seems designed to force you onto Amazon's website. The intent may be similar to a cable company wanting you to call to cancel a subscription: it's one more opportunity to sell you.
    • Alexa cannot turn your cart into an order. You can easily add items to your cart, but you'll need to visit the website to place the order. However, this may be a good thing. It gives you an opportunity to double-check the items on the list to ensure Alexa ordered the right brand and the right amount.
    • There's a difference between the shopping list and the cart. Alexa can keep track of a shopping list for you, but this is a list intended to be referred to while you are at the store. It's a great feature and quite easy to use. Simply say, "Alexa, add eggs to my shopping list," and she'll keep track of the list in the Alexa app on your smartphone. You can even check items off when you buy them. 
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