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How to shop with Alexa on Prime Day

This Prime Day, consider using your Alexa speaker to get some of the best deals.

Josh Miller / CNET

There's a reason Amazon wants Alexa in every home, and it's not just to push its services like Audible or Prime Music. It's not to spy on you either (allegedly). It's because Amazon wants you to buy more stuff, even if your hands are full or dirty, or if you're just too lazy to pick up your phone to use the app.

Alexa is surprisingly proficient at helping you shop, too. Originally, you could only order Amazon's own devices or reorder things you had previously purchased from Amazon. But Amazon later updated Alexa so users could order almost anything from the site using their voice. Here's how it works.

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Voice Purchasing with Alexa

While most people still likely prefer to shop with friends or order from an app, Amazon has made shopping with Alexa feel very natural. You basically just tell Alexa what you want to buy and it shows up at your front door (with a few small steps in between).

Voice Purchasing can be used from almost anywhere you can access Alexa -- speakers, phones, Dash Wand, etc. That said, there are some prerequisites for ordering items using Alexa. You must be an Amazon Prime member with a valid payment method set up prior to ordering something with your voice. On top of that, you'll also have to have 1-Click purchasing enabled on Amazon.

Reordering

For starters, if you want to reorder something you've already purchased from Amazon before, just say, "Alexa, reorder a Swiss Army knife." Alexa will pull up your order history and let you select from the items. You confirm with Alexa which item you want from your history and you're done.

Ordering new items

To order something you've not ordered through Amazon before, say something like "Alexa, order deodorant," or "Alexa, buy a microSD card." Alexa will then perform a search for that item and offer a few recommendations based on Amazon preferred products or products you've purchased from similar categories in the past. It will talk you through the handful of recommendations. Like with reordering, just tell Alexa the number of the suggestion you want to add it to your cart.

Prime Now subscribers can also order some items using Alexa. All you have to do is clarify that you want an item through Prime Now, assuming it's eligible. Say, "Alexa, order [item] with Prime Now."

Adding to cart

If you want to further research an item before you buy based on Alexa's sometimes lengthy and monotone description readings, you can simply add an item to your cart and view it later from your phone or computer. To do this, at any point while Alexa is giving your product recommendations, say, "Alexa, add three to my cart."

It sounds weird, but Alexa won't add three of the item she's talking about to your cart. Instead, she'll add the third suggestion to your cart immediately so you can view it later.

To skip this entire process and add Amazon's pick for a specific item directly to your cart without any more interaction with Alexa, just say, "Alexa, add paper towels to my cart." In many cases, when available, this will add Amazon's own branded items to your card. For paper towels, it adds a 12-pack of Presto! brand paper towels. If you say, "Alexa, add a Micro-USB cable to my cart," it adds an AmazonBasics cable to your cart.

Purchase music

While you're listening to music using Amazon Music Unlimited or Prime Music, you can instantly buy the song or album by saying, "Alexa, buy this song/album." You can also tell Alexa to find music to purchase. Say, "Alexa, shop for new music by [artist name]," or "Alexa, buy [song or album] by [artist]."

Shopping deals

Similar to shopping deals on Amazon's website, you can ask Alexa to tell you about some of the day's best deals. Just say, "Alexa, tell me about your deals," or "Alexa, what are your deals?"

Preventing accidental orders

If you live in a house with multiple people, you'll want to secure Voice Purchasing. Having multiple accounts and voice profiles setup on your Alexa speakers helps, but you should also create a four-digit pin to secure purchases.

To do this, go to alexa.amazon.com or open the Alexa app on your Android or iOS device. Then go to Settings > Voice Purchasing. Click the toggle next to Voice code, then click the box, enter your four-digit code and click Save.

Now, before Amazon can place an order, you'll have to speak the code to confirm.

Alexa-specific deals

In years past, Amazon has rewarded Alexa users with Alexa-specific deals. For instance, on Prime Day 2016, there were deals that were limited to users with official Alexa devices. Amazon has also often run promotions where Alexa users have early preorder access to new Amazon products, like new Alexa devices.

Deals like these typically happen at random, so you'll have to keep your ear to the ground to not miss them.

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