Amazon reports increased Alexa use for shopping, other tasks this holiday season

Amazon saw a spike in the number of customers who used its voice-activated devices to purchase products online this holiday season, the company says.

The online retail giant announced that three times as many customers used the company's at-home personal assistant, Alexa, to buy products online compared to last year.

"Customers use of Alexa for shopping more than tripled this year compared to last year," the company wrote in a Wednesday blog post.

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In addition to holiday shoppers turning to their at-home devices to check gifts off their list, the company also said it sold millions more of these smart-home devices.

"Customers purchased millions more Amazon Devices this holiday season compared to last year — the best-selling Amazon Devices this holiday included all-new Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick 4K with all-new Alexa Voice Remote, and Echo," the post reads.

"Customers made their homes even smarter this year with a record number of smart home devices sold on Amazon.com," it continues.

The company also said Alexa received millions more demands this holiday season than it has in the past.

Compared to last year, more customers asked Alexa to play "hundreds of millions more hours of music," asked Alexa to "turn on their holiday lights tens of millions of times," ordered Alexa to deliver eight times as many reminders and provided nearly three times as many recipes. 

These findings were part of Amazon's announcement that it had sold a record-breaking number of items worldwide that had been purchased on its website.  

“This season was our best yet, and we look forward to continuing to bring our customers what they want, in ways most convenient for them in 2019. We are thrilled that in the U.S. alone, more than one billion items shipped for free this holiday with Prime,” Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer, said in a statement. 

News of the growing use of at-home devices comes as the company, and other tech giants, face scrutiny about the security and privacy flaws of the internet-connected devices.

Reuters reported last week that an Alexa in a home in Germany allowed a user to access more than 1,500 recordings made by another Alexa user — a slip Amazon attributed to "human error."

Experts told The Hill earlier this year that the expanding ecosystem of internet-connected devices used at home — including items such as smart thermostats and home security systems — are increasingly susceptible to hackers, particularly if an individual keeps sensitive information like credit card information on these devices.