Michael Wolf of consulting firm Activate suggested that Amazon Echo products could be offered for free in 2017. The prediction was presented at the Wall Street Journal’s annual Digital conference. The rationale was simple. Amazon has a different strategy than the other smart speaker players and each Echo owner spent more on Prime shipments after purchasing a device. The margin from increased sales would more than offset the cost of giving Echo Dots away to consumers.
The Free Echo Dot Existed for a Few Hours
For a few minutes last week, it seemed like Wolf’s prediction had come true. Engadget writer Jessica Conditt even showed the order in her shopping cart and is credited with breaking the story.
Conditt showed how an Audible promotion made Echo Dot free. A short time later, Amazon Echo Dot was showing as out-of-stock and then updated later at the full price of $49.99. Conditt went on to postulate that the promotion was a glitch and “we’re expecting these free orders to get canceled before long.”
That prediction was more prescient than Mr. Wolf’s. Engadget reporter Jon Fingas reported Saturday that Amazon reached out to “free Echo Dot buyers” and communicated that there was a “technical error” and the orders were canceled. Well, most of them were. Some Engadget readers received the devices and the “free” discount was honored. Others are receiving $5 promotional credits for a future purchase.
Will Echo Dot Ever Be Free
There are a number reasons why the Echo Dot is not likely to be free anytime soon. First, there are manufacturing and shipping costs associated with getting the devices out to consumers. Second, the 10% additional Amazon Prime spending from early Echo owners will not necessarily be true of late adopters and non-Prime members. That means the ROI and payback period calculations may not be as advantageous for this group. Third, people will take things for free, but that doesn’t mean they will use them. There is an almost insatiable desire for free goods among consumers, even for products that have marginal value or will not get used.
However, that doesn’t mean Echo Dots won’t be used as giveaways to promote sales of other services and goods. The Audible link caught our eye here at Voicebot. Our prediction is that Audible will run a fall or Holiday campaign that offers free Amazon Echo Dot’s to anyone signing up for the annual plan. The “glitch” was part of a set-up process that was staging the promotion and it went live prematurely. This isn’t really free since users will be paying for another service. It is more like a discount program. If you really want a free voice assistant, you will get it through things you already own such as embedded in your smartphone or other smart speaker devices.