Ocado’s New Alexa Skill Makes Reordering Faster

September 1, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

With Amazon recently taking over Whole Foods, and potentially shaking up the world of both online and brick-and-mortar retail in the process, a new, smaller development has emerged that could mean even bigger changes to come. A new Alexa skill from Ocado Technology makes it a little simpler to add items to one’s grocery list just by saying a few words.

With the new Ocado skill in place, users will be able to say things like “Alexa, ask Ocado to add milk to my order,” and milk will appear on the relevant shopping list. Ocado’s system can readily link to online shopping options, which allows users to place orders ahead and potentially even pay for these in advance as well. That reduces grocery shopping to picking up the items in question.

It’s not just about order placement, either; Ocado’s system also allows users to chat about grocery orders, asking general questions like if a certain item is on the list, or how much the projected total will be. Ocado drew from its own experience to develop this skill, training Alexa to understand the 15,000 most popular search items on its own website. It’s actually to the point where Ocado’s system understands what users mean in some cases; if a shopper buys a certain kind of cheese every week,  and voices an order for “cheese,” it buys the same kind and size bought normally.

Such an addition is useful for Ocado by itself, but think about what happens if Amazon incorporates this system into its own operations. Especially now that it’s picked up Whole Foods. A setup like that could be a great move, saving some users time; now incorporate that into a mobile payments platform to pay the tab and a drone delivery system to get it to the user and what was once a chore that took hours is reduced to the work of a few minutes of talking.

It’s the kind of time—and effort—savings that could get some people to switch brands. It should also make Walmart fairly nervous, and looking for its own such options to help better hold its turf against Amazon’s encroachments.