1-800-Flowers chats up Amazon’s Alexa

April 26, 2016 04:14 PM

Flower and gift e-retailer Inc. has added yet another way for consumers to order a bouquet, this time writing a new skill for devices running Inc.’s voice-based search program Alexa.

Amazon lets developers teach the Alexa software new skills to expand its capabilities. Consumers who enable the 1-800-Flowers skill within the Alexa app—consumers use the app to manage devices such as the Amazon Echo that run Alexa—can order flowers by verbally asking the program to do so.

For example, a consumer can say “Alexa, tell 1-800-Flowers I want to send flowers to Lindsey on May 28th,” or “Alexa, ask 1-800-Flowers to order Becky flowers.”

To order, the consumer must have an account with 1-800-Flowers, have payment information on file with the retailer and have Lindsey’s and Becky’s addresses stored with the merchant. A consumer who enables the skill within the Alexa app must sign into a 1-800-Flowers account. This links the account with Alexa so Alexa can relay the order information to 1-800-Flowers in the future.

This is the second ordering option 1-800-Flowers has rolled out in the last month that doesn’t require consumers to visit or call its phone number. Consumers can place an order through the Facebook Messenger mobile messaging app, which applies interactive software that uses artificial intelligence to simulate human conversation. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated the technology using 1-800-Flowers as an example during the F8 developer conference two weeks ago.

“We have always embraced new and emerging technologies to enhance our customer experience,” says Chris McCann, president of 1-800-Flowers. “We are excited to team with Amazon in offering a leading-edge technology that will help our customers act on their thoughtfulness and deliver smiles."

1-800-Flowers is the first Top 500-ranked e-retailer outside of Amazon to have ordering capabilities through Alexa, but other developers are rolling out skills at a fast clip. The Domino’s Pizza Inc. restaurant chain enabled a pizza-ordering skill for Alexa just ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, for example. Capital One bank in March added a skill that lets customers check their credit card balance, make payments and review recent transactions by asking Alexa for that information. And in January, Ford Motor Co. announced it will integrate Alexa with its Sync Connect in-car technology to provide voice-control access with the car and between the car and other web-connected devices in the home.

In addition to running on Echo, Alexa software also runs on Echo Dot, Echo Tap and Fire TV devices.  Securities research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners LLC estimates that Amazon sold 3 million Echo units to U.S. consumers from the device’s April 2014 introduction though March 31, including 1 million during the 2015 holiday season.

1-800-Flowers is No. 57 in the newly released Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide. Amazon is No. 1.





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