Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa has a retention issue, according to a new report from Bloomberg.
The site claims to have seen internal data and reports expressing concern about user retention beyond core functionality, with a 2019 paper noting that new users discover half of the features they will use within three hours of activation. More damningly, in some years, between 15% and 25% of new Alexa members weren’t using the virtual assistant in the second week, the site adds.
It is important to note that Amazon responded to the report stating that the documents in question were out of date or inaccurate. “The claim that Alexa’s growth is slowing is not accurate,” Amazon’s Kinley Pearsall told Bloomberg. “The fact is that Alexa continues to grow; We are seeing increases in customer usage and Alexa is being used in more homes around the world than ever. “
Nonetheless, as a long-time Amazon Echo user who also knows others in the Alexa ecosystem, I think the criticisms are true. I’m not sure how much it matters.
To spice up the scene a bit, I have Echo devices in most rooms in my house, and some are unplugged and put away. That’s not (just) due to poor planning on my part, but a consequence of the fact that I keep reviewing new models when they emerge.
Anyway, the point is that I am very connected to the ecosystem and I love the core functionality that Alexa brings into my life. Setting timers, putting on soothing sounds to sleep when insomnia occurs, playing music, reading audiobooks, and turning off the lights – these are all areas where Alexa excels, and the last of them can’t be overstated given the distance from my bed to the closest one. Light switch. Not hitting my knee on the bed frame is worth only the price of admission. (Our analysis of the best Alexa skills shows exactly what the digital assistant can do for you.)
But it is undeniable that Alexa can be disappointing. This was obvious to me from the first time I showed my original Echo to the guests: after having demonstrated the concept with a few test questions, they were enthusiastically wondering their own questions. They just wouldn’t know the exact way to put things to get a helpful answer. You can only hear the words “Hmmm, I don’t know that one” so many times before losing interest.
But even if you master the specific syntax that Alexa understands, the results can be a disappointment. Alexa often mishears or misinterprets. For example, my Alexa shopping list, a feature I never use, has two things: “Tidy up” and “Dog bosch,” which is not something I suspect Amazon can help with. Meanwhile, my to-do list has two instructions: “five huxley creams” and “turn on the laundry light in America.” Useful.
Amazon keeps trying to get me to try something new, with its weekly “new to Alexa” email, but I can’t say I’ve ever been tempted. It has even started recklessly advertising its other features to users. “Almost every day, after asking quick questions, I get, ‘By the way, I can recommend birthday gift ideas so you can buy more things on Amazon. Wouldn’t you love to hear that ?? ‘”Complains a Redditor, quoted by Bloomberg.
Alexa’s core strengths
But ultimately, to me, none of this matters that much. The fact is, the Echo is one of the best smart speakers – a good quality speaker at a reasonable price that can reproduce anything from the world of music just by saying the words. I, at ten years old, would be impressed by that, without needing to demonstrate any other functionality in this unlikely time-travel scenario.
The point is, the core functionality is fine, and it doesn’t matter if Alexa never gets smarter or learns new party tricks. For me, it is an integral part of my smart home and I am extremely happy with it, virtual warts and all.
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