Amazon quietly introduced the Echo Look Alexa-enabled smart speaker for fashion advice in April 2017. Yesterday, the company quietly informed its few thousand users that Echo Look would be discontinued. In providing background on the latest shakeup of Amazon’s Alexa portfolio, an Amazon spokesperson shared the text of an email sent to Echo Look users yesterday saying:
“When we introduced Echo Look three years ago, our goal was to train Alexa to become a style assistant as a novel way to apply AI and machine learning to fashion. With the help of our customers we evolved the service, enabling Alexa to give outfit advice and offer style recommendations. We’ve since moved Style by Alexa features into the Amazon Shopping app and to Alexa-enabled devices making them even more convenient and available to more Amazon customers. For that reason, we have decided it’s time to wind down Echo Look. Beginning July 24, 2020, both Echo Look and its app will no longer function. Customers will still be able to enjoy style advice from Alexa through the Amazon Shopping app and other Alexa-enabled devices. We look forward to continuing to support our customers and their style needs with Alexa.”
A Fashion Fusion of Alexa with Amazon.com
Amazon Echo Look always seemed like an experiment. It was launched in a closed, invite-only beta three years ago. A year later it was made available to the public for purchase though there was never much attention paid to the device in Amazon’s product launch events.
Echo was the first Alexa-enabled product that included a camera. However, it notably had no screen. The first smart display, Echo Show, would launch two months later and get a product refresh within 15 months of launch. Echo Look never received a formal product update and wasn’t even billed as a smart speaker. The company made clear that Echo Look could not do many of the things that were popular features on Echo smart speakers.
Instead, Echo Look was billed as a virtual fashion assistant. With Alexa on board and far-field microphones, you could stand a few feet away and say, “Alexa, how do I look,” and it would snap a full-length photo capturing your entire attire. Then Amazon’s virtual fashion consultant “Style Check” would kick in and users could review their photos and feedback in the dedicated Echo Look app.
My colleague, Ava Mutchler, wrote at the time of launch in 2017, “users submit two photos for a second opinion, and Style Check uses machine learning and advice from ‘experienced fashion specialists’ to pick the look that works best for you. She went on to note:
“So essentially if you use Style Check, Amazon will have a record of your entire closet. No brand has access to an entire person’s wardrobe. But now, Amazon will. The possibilities are endless when it comes to using this data to increase Amazon’s fashion e-commerce sales. Once Style Check learns what you like, Amazon could provide recommendations for new items. It could also provide options for you when you’re looking for something in particular, like shoes to go with a new dress or a new top to complement a pair of pants you already own.”
It appears this synergy with Amazon.com never materialized at any reasonable scale. It is not clear whether the device was simply unpopular, the service wasn’t embraced by consumers due to its limited value, or some combination of these and other reasons. A quick scan of the reviews suggests that people generally liked the picture-taking feature, the ease of chronicling their fashion choices, and a few commented favorably on the value of the style recommendations. Given the longer-term goal of offering an AI-based fashion consultant and some favorable feedback, it’s not surprising that Amazon plans to continue the service within the Amazon shopping app.
It may be that a dedicated device was simply unnecessary and that a mobile app-based solution is good enough. And, the value of maintaining a separate app for a few thousand users was also likely hard to justify. The new approach will not offer the convenience of the well-placed camera that easily captures a full-length photo from a few feet away but that could potentially be done by a smart display at some point.
Echo Look Started Winding Down in 2019
Voicebot pointed out in December that Echo Look was listed as unavailable for purchase along with the Echo Spot smart speaker. Amazon confirmed for us at the time that the Spot was officially discontinued but that, “Echo Look has not been discontinued.” My prediction was that it would eventually be replaced by a smart display.
A spokesperson did confirm yesterday that Amazon stopped selling Echo Look in 2019 but the company did continue supporting the service, the device, and its dedicated mobile app. In fact, as of December 2, 2019, the Echo Look had 457 reviews. As of today, that figure is 604. That means reviews rose by 32% after they stopped selling the device. There were reviews for verified purchases posted as recently as this month.
There was even a post in February titled, “Not happy with the discontinuation.” Amazon hadn’t made any official customer communications at that point, but I presume that at least this customer figured out the device was no longer being supported fully.
Current Echo Look users will have access to the Echo Look app until July 24, 2020. Amazon is offering a free Amazon Photos account to store all of the users’ photos and videos through July 24, 2021. However, if they do not create an Amazon Photos account by July 24, 2021, the photos will no longer be accessible and deleted.
Also, the Style by Alexa feature will live on despite the demise of Echo Look. It will be relocated to the Amazon shopping app. To access “Style by Alexa” chose the menu in the Amazon shopping app in the upper left, then select in Programs and Features / See All Programs > Style by Alexa and choose from the options “What should I wear?”, “How do I look?”, or “Outfit Compare.”
You can also ask any Alexa-enabled device, “’Alexa, what should I wear,’ and receive style advice based on the weather, shopping preferences, etc.,” said an Amazon spokesperson. And, guess what Amazon suggested to existing Echo Look users as a replacement? They were offered steep discounts on purchases for an Echo Show or Echo Show 5. The smart display is an obvious replacement for the Echo Look and it has far greater utility. The Echo Look may be no more, but Amazon’s ambition to provide fashion advice lives on to help consumers and maybe lead to a few incremental clothing sales.
How to Look at the Echo Look Experience
Amazon has always treated Alexa as an experiment. Dave Limp, SVP of Devices at Amazon, said when speaking with Lance Ulanoff of LifeWire in September 2019, “We’re striving to break even. We want to make money when you use the device.” I was standing just behind Lance during that exchange and wrote about it in Voice Insider that week.
Amazon thinks about devices as a means of providing services. If the device isn’t leading to more use of services or if the service can be delivered as effectively through another device that provides other benefits, then it follows that the original device can be eliminated or replaced. Amazon did the former with the portable smart speaker the Echo Tap when it eliminated the product outright from its Echo lineup, while the Echo Spot was simply replaced by the Echo Show 5.
Few people were aware of the Echo Look at all given Amazon’s lackluster promotion of the product and fewer still will remember it. However, the device does provide insight into how Amazon plans to manage its Alexa-enabled product portfolio, adding new experiments each year (the Echo Loop anyone?) and discarding those that are not on a path to success.