Oprah Winfrey

One of Amazon’s favorite things appears to be Oprah’s voice, and it’s gracing homes across the country again, courtesy of a new Alexa skill available on Amazon Echo speakers.

Bringing a celebrity voice to the platform for the first time, the holiday promo features the talk show host, Academy Award winner and magazine publisher talking up her “Favorite Things” this season.

The action starts with a simple voice trigger: “Alexa, let’s shop Oprah’s favorite things.” The star’s voice responds with a suggestion from her list — a mix of gadgets, food and products from the home, fashion and beauty sectors — and an explanation of why she picked it. Then Alexa asks if the user wants to buy that particular Favorite Thing.

“It all started out because I wanted to share some things that were my favorite with the Oprah show audience,” said Winfrey. “And now, 20 years later it has become the gift guide for so many people for the holidays.” Her legendary product recommendations, once daytime TV’s focal point of the year, continues to be a major retail force during the gift-giving season. This year’s roundup of 102 products is the longest in the 21-year history of the list.

Due out December 14, the magazine’s “Favorite Things” issue is its biggest of the year, boasting the largest number of special units, at 24 pages. The boost amounts to a nearly 20 percent increase in advertising versus 2015, the year it started collaborating with Amazon. The e-commerce giant is featuring Oprah’s holiday picks in a dedicated storefront for the third year in a row.

Amazon and its popular line of Echo devices have accelerated interest in conversational commerce, a transactional space that spans chat apps and chat bots to literal conversations between people and their machines. So far, vocal interfaces work well for news and advice, but when it comes to shopping — especially for anything outside of staple goods like paper towels or socks — the premise comes with a few challenges. Consumers want to see products before buying, and they may not have patience to listen about each item one by one.

However, if anything can put people at ease with talk-to-shop features, it may be Oprah’s warm and familiar voice. Echo users may also appreciate having the option to purchase gifts without having to bury their faces in a screen.

In that way, Alexa and other voice platforms may not replace online or mobile commerce, but they can work as a piece of a multichannel consumer experience. Giving consumers more ways to buy appears to be Amazon’s modus operandi.

“We’re using the latest shopping technology to make it more convenient than ever before to shop the Oprah’s Favorite Things list,” said Doug Herrington, Amazon’s senior vice president of North American retail. “Customers can shop anytime, anywhere — whether it’s on Amazon.com, in the Amazon App or through voice shopping on a device with Alexa.”

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