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Amazon's Alexa Event Is All About Drumming Up Attention for Prime Day 2

You're going to see a lot of Amazon announcements starting this week. Here's why.

Amazon devices like the Echo Dot and Echo Show are displayed against a green background.
Older versions of Alexa devices and other products may be at steep discounts during the upcoming Prime fall sales event.
Woot/CNET

Brace yourself. This week kicks off a major play by Amazon for your attention and your shopping dollars.

It starts with Amazon's annual devices event on Wednesday. The company typically uses the event to roll out updates to the Fire TV, Echo and Ring lines and, in an attempt to catch your eye, to throw in something off the wall like a home drone or a cutie robot. You can get all the details about Wednesday in our Amazon live blog

The event comes two weeks before Amazon will roll out a second round of discounts with its Prime Early Access Sale event, aka Prime Day 2, on Oct. 11 and 12.

As a result, you're likely to find some great deals in October on Amazon devices, which are already pretty affordable compared with  competitors. But Amazon isn't just trying to sell you TVs and security cameras at a slashed price. Sales like this are designed to get you in the mood to spend.

Once you get to Amazon.com to snag a Fire TV, you might be enticed to buy more, especially during a Prime Day 2 or a Black Friday sale, said Andrew Lipsman, a retail analyst at Insider Intelligence.

"It's Amazon's version of the doorbuster," he said.

Amazon's amped-up efforts to get you shopping come after a year of slowing growth as consumers pare back spending following two years of furious buying. The company built up its warehousing and logistics capacity to keep up with demand during the pandemic, but momentum has slowed on e-commerce sales across the industry. The company has told investors it's seeing increased costs in running the business at a time when revenues have slowed.

Getting you hyped about Echo smart displays and robots is one way to get you filling up your Amazon cart, boosting sales and putting all that retail infrastructure to use.

An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement that the fall sale is "just the beginning" when it comes to discounted devices leading up to the holidays. "We're focused on making this year's new event special for our members, and are excited to hear what our members think," the spokesperson said. 

Amazon's timing seems obvious

The timing of the event can't be a coincidence. Placing the new product announcements right before the sales event could lead to savings on many devices, said Neil Saunders, a retail analyst at GlobalData.

"Amazon usually offers deep discounts on its devices during its events," he said, adding that Prime Day and other sales "can be useful for clearing down stock of older models to make space for the new devices coming through."

Amazon doesn't just attract bargain hunters with its practical, affordable devices like Echo smart speakers and displays, Fire TVs and streamers, and Ring home security systems. The company also regularly offers some pie-in-the-sky ideas. Wouldn't you like a drone in the home, investigating weird sounds and monitoring the pets before flying back to its docking station? Or perhaps a rolling Alexa-powered robot? 

Those ideas aren't everybody's cup of tea. Amazon Astro, the robot, is available by invitation only and will cost $1,450 when released. It also has privacy-minded people on edge: It's designed to map your home and follow you around with cameras and microphones. Still, the new, flashy inventions have attention-grabbing power, and Amazon is expected to pull another surprising idea out of its hat at this year's event.

Taken together, these offerings push forward Amazon's goal of being a household name that touches almost every part of your life.

Early holiday shopping might be here to stay

This isn't the first time retailers have pushed for what amounts to an early start to the holiday shopping season. Last year, supply chain blockages prompted the retail industry to warn that shoppers might not be able to get the gifts they want delivered before the holidays if they waited until Black Friday. 

This year, the problem for retailers is getting wary consumers to spend money after months of inflation, suddenly soaring interest rates and fears over a potential recession. Better to start the sales early, said Guru Hariharan, CEO of e-commerce services company CommerceIQ. Shoppers may not have as much spending power later in the year if inflation or other financial headwinds continue.

"It can potentially head off a deteriorating economy," Hariharan said of the sale's timing.

That's not to say all the supply chain problems are gone, but there's generally plenty of stock in warehouses at Amazon and beyond this year. That's in part because demand has cooled, especially in the consumer electronics sector, which was plagued by a chip shortage that couldn't keep up with demand over the last two years. 

Amazon declined to speculate about its plans, but retail analyst Lipsman said it won't be surprising if having multiple Prime Day sales a year becomes Amazon's annual strategy.

"I'd expect them to have that every year," he said, "or maybe even quarterly Prime Days, who knows?"