Amazon Alexa for Business Dummies: Get the Scoop on Voice-Enabled Technology

Amazon Alexa for Business Dummies

What is Amazon Alexa?

By now, you're probably familiar with the Amazon Echo, Dot and Tap devices, Amazon's popular voice-controlled speakers that enable users to listen to music, check the weather, create shopping lists, or control smart-home devices simply by directing the right command at the device.  The brains behind these voice-controlled devices is Alexa. Alexa was chosen as a device name by Amazon for a few reasons, but the selection of a somewhat unusual “wake word” means that you're unlikely to use it in everyday conversation so you won't trigger Alexa-enabled devices into listening mode.  Echo owners can also change the “wake word” from “Alexa” to “Amazon”, “Echo”  and “Computer” (for all those Trekkies out there).

How does Amazon Alexa Work?

Alexa is the voice service that powers the Echo devices and enables the apps or skills that allow consumers to interact with devices with nothing more than a voice command. Most Alexa enabled devices are activated with a wake word  but some devices, such as the Amazon Tap, Amazon DashWand, Android and iOS apps or third-party devices enhanced with voice service, require users to push a button to activate listening mode.

Where is Amazon Alexa?

Alexa works on the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Amazon Tap, Fire TV, Fire Tablet, and in a more limited capacity on the Amazon Dash Wand as well as through the Amazon shopping app on your Android and iOS mobile devices and in third-party devices enhanced with voice service. To find out which of your existing non-mobile devices offer the Amazon Alexa feature, pull up "Settings" in your Alexa Android or iOS app, or utilize the web interface at by signing in with your Amazon account.  Click on "Settings" and you'll find a list of your devices that currently offer Alexa.  If you have multiple Alexa-enabled devices, such as two Amazon Echos and a Fire TV, you may want to take this opportunity to rename your devices in a way that will help you remember where and what they are --for example, "Kitchen Echo."

Amazon Alexa App for Apple Phones and Android Phones

Currently, Android and iOS users can access Alexa via the Amazon shopping app on their mobile devices.  You can activate Alexa in your Amazon shopping app by tapping on the microphone at the top of the app.  Previously, the microphone simply enabled voice shopping via, but consumers now have access to many of Alexa’s features without the need for a “wake word” and without the need to purchase an Alexa-enabled device.  This means that you can ask Alexa what the weather will be like on Saturday, or simply to play relaxing music while you shop at for that umbrella you'll need this weekend. If you want to take Alexa for a spin without buying a device or using the Amazon mobile shopping app, check out, and link it with your Amazon account to get started.

What Can I Do with Amazon Alexa?

Alexa apps or "skills" are enabled when you provide Alexa with the right voice commands.  As it stands, Alexa-enabled devices won’t have answers for many of the more specific or unique requests you make so you’ll need to enable certain skills to access more information.  For example, if you say "Alexa, open Skill Finder" you can ask Alexa for the skill of the day.  If you're interested in a choose-your-own-adventure story for the kids, ask Alexa to "Open the Magic Door."  If you'd like to know the price of a stock, but aren't sure of the ticker symbol, you can say, "Alexa, ask Opening Bell for the price of Microsoft stock."   For a list of Amazon skills, check out this page and use the "Alexa Skills" menu on the left side of the page to sort by the type of skill you’re interested in.  

Amazon Alexa in Business

Voice-enabled search is changing the way consumers get things done.  As voice marketing  quickly grows in popularity, companies and skill developers like Cream City Digital are stepping up and offering consumers new and simplified ways to interact with their products and enhance their lifestyles.  Not sure how to integrate your product with a voice-enabled skill? Here's a list of a few inspirational Amazon Alexa top skills:

Amazon Alexa Apps for Kids

The classic Highlights Magazine for children uses a voice-enabled skill to allow consumers to interact with old favorites.  Ask Alexa to enable “Highlights” and you’ll have access to brainteasers, stories, poems and more.

Amazon Alexa Apps for Finance

If you're a member of U.S. Bank, you can complete simple banking tasks with help from Alexa.  Enable the skill by saying "Alexa, open U.S. Bank" and follow instructions to link your account. Upon initial setup, you'll have the ability to check balances and recent transactions through the use of a unique four-digit security code.

Amazon Alexa Apps for Insurance

Consumers insured with Farmers have a smart new way to access their information.  Ask Alexa to enable “Farmers” and follow the prompts in your Alexa mobile app.  Once enabled you’ll be able to get answers to FAQs, ask about policy coverage or learn about the status of a claim.

Amazon Alexa Apps for Travel

Commuters in the Houston area can ask Alexa when the next bus arrives utilizing a skill that reports back real time bus information, making dreaded bus stop wait times that much more predictable. Enable “Houston Transit” to get started.

Amazon Alexa Apps and Voice-Enabled Devices: Get Started

According to this highly anticipated report, searches by voice accounted for 20% of all mobile searching performed in 2016 and voice recognition accuracy is now at 95%.  

Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa are all vying to be the ubiquitous must-have voice-controlled home assistant for everyday consumers. Although found on desktop computers, phones, and other devices, Google and Amazon are currently the dominant in-home players for voice enabled devices.

As voice technology advances, savvy brands will forge new paths by going beyond the creation of a voice-enabled skill and finding opportunities to inject their personas into the conversations and experiences they create for their consumers.  

Interested in the latest tips, news, and how-to's for Amazon's Alexa? Join our Facebook group.
If you're looking for voice technology enablement or would like to create a skill for your brand, contact us.

About the author

Jill Schmidt is a lover of data-driven communications and a keen follower of digital marketing best practices and trends. Throughout her 18 year tenure in marketing and advertising, she has worked on digital account strategy and campaigns for companies such as Colgate, Kellogg, Kimberly-Clark, Briggs & Stratton, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and many others.   She is the creator and writer of a triple award-winning email newsletter. Founding member of the Milwaukee Interactive Marketing Association, former Vice President, and seven-term board member.  

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