Alexa, that pesky personal assistant from Amazon, has several new features, including the ability to read and reply to emails, according to reports. This is available on Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook and Live.com.
In theory, this is a convenience for consumers. Alexa, when properly instructed and linked to other devices, can delete unwanted emails, archive others and clean up your inbox. All you have to do to get rolling is say: “Alexa, check my email.”
You can also have Alexa remind you to send an email — or to do the laundry.
There is a certain creep factor here. If Alexa is reading your emails, that means Amazon is, too.
Amazon may deny such intentions, but it could possibly scan emails from competitive retailers and draw profiles based on health, age, gender and your feelings about Donald Trump.
Such profiles could also reflect personal behaviors, and take up functions that should be handled by a family member. “Bob, haven’t you had enough to drink tonight? Don’t you have to go to work tomorrow?” These personal behaviors could be added to the emerging profile.
Granted, all this is paranoid speculation. It will be up to future generations to assess the scope of this technology, and what it means to the human race.
Some of it is already happening, though. For instance, Amazon has teamed up with Omron Healthcare, a provider of blood pressure monitors, to enable Alexa to help people manage high blood pressure, CNBC reports today. And there are several other health-related functions. You can also buy the Omron monitor on Amazon. This could be seen as a great aid and comfort to the elderly and those who are ailing. And it probably helps to alleviate loneliness.
In the meantime, email marketers will have to work hard to avoid deletion by the talking box. It is both a challenge and an opportunity to move into a new channel.
“If this should gain widespread adoption it would put more pressure on marketer’s email subject lines and copy,” Greg Sterling writes in MarketingLand. “Most users won’t see any text or images (though Show users will see a sender name and subject line) and will have more limited information to determine whether to save or delete."
Sterling adds, “Marketers will have a more constrained audio canvas to grab attention and avoid deletion. The key will be to prevent deletion for later consumption on a desktop computer or smartphone.” He predicts that Google Home will also add such a feature.
Many people will eschew such benefits. Meanwhile, we wonder if anyone has yet thrown a shoe at Alexa.