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Recently, Amazon held its annual Devices and Services event where the e-commerce giant unveiled several new devices, features, and smart home products designed to help improve customers’ lives. The event was packed full of announcements, but without a doubt, the launch of Amazon Astro, a personal in-home robot, stole the show.
But beyond the product announcements, Amazon’s commitment to build customer affinity and long-term loyalty was on full display. When Amazon released Echo in 2014, it was a bit of a head scratcher, but now these ubiquitous devices are in homes, offices, and vehicles. They’ve also opened the door for an entire industry of smart home devices and automations all with the aim of simplifying our lives. The announcements today looked to continue that journey from the modest upgrades to the more off-the-wall developments.
While the products themselves are always exciting and interesting, what continues to become more clear is that Amazon’s goal with its Devices arm is not merely to drive revenue for the company but to create experiences and develop partnerships that open pipelines to lifelong customers, and drive strong adoption of the company’s rapidly growing portfolio of services.
Recapping the Announcements
The overarching theme of this year’s announcements could be put simply as improving quality of life from youth to old age. Amazon put the user first during the development process, and while some of these might seem a little bit wacky at first, I’m sure others will become just as ubiquitous as the Echo. Here is a recap of a few of the devices and features that caught my attention:
- Echo Show 15. A digital hub for the home with a 15.6” screen that makes it easy to see information important to individuals and families. With sticky notes, a shared calendar, the ability to control smart home devices, other Alexa features, and streaming options, this device could easily be the foundation for every smart home.
- Amazon Glow and Kids Content. One thing Amazon does well is develop the pipeline of customers from a young age. The latest youth-targeted product is Amazon Glow which enables families and children to stay connected with loved ones. This is more than just a video call device. It features an 8” display and a 19” touch-sensitive projected space that will enable children to make art, read, and play games among other things. Amazon also announced collaborations with Disney, Mattel, Nickelodeon, and Sesame Street to develop content specifically for Amazon Glow.
- Halo Family Upgrades. Amazon expanded their health and fitness offerings with Halo View, a fitness wearable with health metrics, workout tracking, and an impressive battery life. With a bright AMOLED display, users can easily monitor their health. Taking the Halo family one step further, they also announced Halo Fitness, an on-demand fitness content service with hundreds of studio-quality workouts. Classes are integrated with Halo hardware so users can view their metrics in real-time during the workout. But health and wellness isn’t just about exercise, Halo Nutrition is a personalized tool that will help users create and sustain healthy eating habits. With over 500 recipes from various partners and a connection to the Alexa Shopping list, being healthy has never been easier.
- Next Level Smart Home Solutions. This year Amazon rolled out a number of smart home products, solidifying its partnership with Ring. From Ring Always Home Cam, Ring Alarm Pro, and Virtual Security Guard, users can ensure their home is always protected from the inside out. These systems also protect homes from floods, fires, and online threats — all concerns in our current world.
- Amazon Together. Caregiving for an older family member is not an easy task. Which is what Amazon is looking to improve with Amazon Together. This new service is designed to help seniors live independently while offering peace of mind for family members. Features include access to a 24/7 emergency helpline and is compatible with devices that can detect falls.
- Robots have arrived. The big announcement from the event was definitely Astro, which Amazon is touting as a “first-of-its-kind robot.” This device on wheels, which vaguely reminds me of the Jetson’s housekeeper, is said to monitor your house while you’re away to give you peace of mind. With Intelligent Motion technology Amazon Astro can navigate your house and check on specific rooms, people, or pets. This roving security system has a lot of room for growth, but it’s an interesting place to start for in-home robots.
Subscriptions with Everything
While many of these new devices could potentially just be a one-off purchase, Amazon is opening the door for continuous revenue streams for subscription services for nearly every device. And this is where I think the bulk of Amazon’s device business headed. From Care Hub that works with Amazon Together to Ring Protect Pro that works with Ring devices and Astro, Amazon is generating revenue through simple subscription services that unlock more features and promise to make life easier. Coupled with the compelling nature of Prime for music, movies, and other content, the attach rate should only continue to grow as more devices and form-factors are introduced and find their way into homes and businesses. With access to content, the promise of security, and the ease of use it’s easy to see how these new devices will become must-haves for the home.
Final Thoughts: Amazon is Playing the Long Game
As I mentioned previously, the announcements displayed more than just new products. Amazon is playing the long game when it comes to building customer loyalty. During the event, Debra Chrapaty, Vice President of Alexa shared stories of the positive impact that Alexa has had in the lives of customers in the last 7 years. As one customer said, “these devices are so much more than shopping and music.” And this is what Amazon’s seems to be aiming for.
It’s more than a product that controls the lights and thermostat, it’s an experience. Amazon is embedding ambient technology into more and more devices, creating more human-like relationships through the utilization of artificial intelligence. This is evident in the improved multi-turn inference interactions with echo devices. Ambient technology will also play a big part in making Astro a big success. The little sounds, the intuitive nature and responsiveness, and the ability to build a sense of empathy with its users.
Furthermore, these devices are creating a sense of brand loyalty with Amazon and loyalty with trusted partners like Ring and Honeywell. Amazon does this better than anyone. The only other in-home assistant that comes close to Amazon’s suite of devices is Google Home, but Google doesn’t offer the same level of experience that Amazon does — which in this climate is a huge differentiator.
Of course, Amazon will have to continue to contend with privacy concerns and I don’t expect this to change anytime soon. As Amazon devices become more deeply embedded in our lives, we can expect the company to be asked to answer for its data collection, use, and management. Ring, for instance, has been offering expanded options for its users to implement end-to-end encryption of its Ring products, which offers greater data privacy, but limits some of the monitoring and community benefits. The trade off of data and privacy for convenience and experience will be a topic on the minds of many consumers for years to come. I believe Amazon is managing this as well as any big tech company, but that won’t stop the topic from regularly surfacing within the media and for policymakers.
Overall, the launch provided a lot of innovation and new products and services for consumers to be excited about. While the price tags for some of the new products might prove to be cost prohibitive at first for a segment of the population — I’m looking at you Astro — I believe in the long run that these devices will only continue to grow Amazon’s customer base and customer loyalty, which will in turn build more revenue, and a deeper connection between Amazon, customer data, and share of wallet in every household. And isn’t that the ultimate goal?
Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.