Amazon.co.jp is now showing that Prime members can pre-order Amazon Echo devices in Japan and get 33% discounts on some models if ordered by November 17th. The program is said to be “invitation-only” but the terms suggest that all Prime members are invited, including free trial members. Availability is limited to the 2nd generation Echo and Echo Plus announced in September and the Echo Dot. The Echo Plus carries no discount and all of the devices that support Japanese language are only available in Japan.
It was important for Amazon to begin the shipping process since Google Home and Google Home Mini have been available for purchase in Japan since October 6th and the Clove Wave began shipping one day earlier. It appears that Amazon is running a repeatable merchandising strategy that starts with availability for Prime members and devices sold at a discount to list price. It then becomes more widely available and the discounts are offered intermittently. This rollout looks very similar to the strategy recently employed for the product launch in India.
Similar Pricing to the U.S., Lower Than Google and Line
The list pricing for the Echo in Japanese Yen is very close to the $99 price common in the U.S. A pre-order discount of 4000¥ brings the price to about US$70 and is more than 40% less than Google Home and the Clova Wave offered in Japan by Line Corporation. Amazon Echo Dot is priced similarly to the Google Home Mini in Japan, but is discounted by 33% for the next week.
Developers Can Now Build Custom Alexa Skills in Japanese
Amazon also announced today in a blog post that Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is now available in Japan. The availability of ASK will enable local developers to build custom Alexa skills for Japanese users. There are currently over 25,000 unique Alexa skills worldwide and about 23,500 in the U.S. The proliferation of English-language Alexa skills made it possible for Amazon to make over 10,000 available in India the first week that Amazon Echo devices began shipping. Japan will not have such an easy time. It appears there are zero custom Alexa skills in Japanese today, but ASK should pave the way for developers to quickly build skill that will appeal to local users.
While Strategy Analytics research suggests about 70% of smart speakers will be purchased in the U.S. in 2017, voice assistants are rapidly becoming a global phenomenon. Japanese users can now choose from Google Home, Amazon Echo, Clova Wave and even the mini robot, Xperia, from Sony.