retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• From CNN: "Drivers can already ask Amazon's Alexa to turn off the lights at home, buy movie tickets and dish out restaurant recommendations. Soon, drivers will be using Alexa to pay for a tank of gas from the comfort of their vehicle.

"ExxonMobil and Amazon announced Monday at the CES consumer electronics show a partnership that will allow voice-activated fuel purchases in vehicles with Alexa built-in as well as from Alexa-enabled smartphones and other devices … Customers using Alexa to pay for gas will be asked to confirm the station location and the pump number. Transactions will then be processed using Amazon Pay with payment information stored in their Amazon account."


Reuters reports that Amazon says that its Fire TV streaming device now has passed 40 million active users worldwide. Its closest competitor, Roku, has about 75 percent of that number.

The Fire TV number is up 8 percent since September.


• From TechCrunch: "Amazon is deepening its relationship with India’s second largest retail chain, Future Retail, as the e-commerce giant widens its footprint in one of its key overseas markets.

"The two said on Monday that they have entered into a long-term business agreement to expand the reach of Future Retail’s stores through Amazon India marketplace. Future Retail operates more than 1,500 stores across India, but until now, it has not aggressively explored sales online."

The deal means that "Amazon India will become the authorized online sales channel for Future Retail stores, including department and grocery store chain Big Bazaar and lifestyle food superstore Foodhall," while Future Retail will list its items "on Amazon’s two-hour delivery platform Prime Now, which is currently operational in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad."


Medium has a story about Plant Prefab, a construction company that builds prefabricated homes in which Amazon has invested millions through its Alexa Fund, "which backs companies that are developing uses for voice technologies and A.I."

According to the story, "Plant Prefab integrates smart home features into all the models in its Living Homes range, including a Ring video doorbell, Nest smart thermostat and smart lighting system like Lutron. Homeowners can use either Amazon Echo or Google Home to control the devices.

"Homes range from a 406-square-foot accessory dwelling unit for $112,000, to a 2,090-square-foot three bedroom, two bathroom home for $501,600. Plant Prefab also works with star architects like Yves Behar, Ray Kappe and the collective Brooks + Scarpa to create high-end custom models. While most of Plant Prefab’s designs are angular and modern, prefabricated homes can be designed in any architectural style."

An Amazon spokesperson tells Medium, "Our vision for the smart home is the ability for Alexa to understand the state of the whole home and its devices, adjust the living environment accordingly, be helpful without customers having to ask, and provide the peace of mind when people are home or away."
KC's View: