Could Amazon’s Echo Look change the apparel market?

It is no secret Amazon is looking to dominate every industry in every way. They are dominating the home AI market with a plethora of Alexa devices. Amazon is taking a shot at grocery with their purchase of Whole Foods. Now Amazon is delving further into fashion apparel with their Echo Look. Amazon quietly released their Echo Look in April 2017 as part of their Echo / Alexa lineup. This device is an "invitation only" device, meaning that each user must be approved by Amazon.

What is Echo Look?

Echo Look is an Alexa device with front facing camera, and takes a full-length photo when you say, "Alexa, take my picture." The general idea is for the user to take a daily full-length picture of themselves, catalog those images by date, and compare outfits with the Alexa algorithm.

Echo Look Key Features

  • Take full-length pictures with 4 flash LEDs
  • Blurs the background in each picture, each outfit is clearly seen
  • Records a date of each picture, allowing the user to scroll through their outfits in reverse chronological order
  • Takes 6-second videos. "Alexa, take a video." Users can record 360 views of their outfit
  • All photos and videos can be 'shared' on social media or uploaded to Dropbox.
  • Includes 3 years of unlimited cloud storage for both photos and videos.
  • Style Check - Users can compare 2 outfits with a response from Amazon in one minute.

Echo Look Specifications

  • 5MP camera and Intel RealSense SR300 for depth-sensing technology
  • Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor
  • Echo Look comes with a base, mounting kit, power adapter. Device can also be mounted on a standard tripod.
  • 1.6 watt speaker
  • Microphone
  • Mic and Camera off button
  • Size - Height 6.3” x Width 2.4” x Depth 2.4”

The Echo Look has been met with mixed reviews. THE VERGE commented that the Echo Look would benefit Amazon more than their users, surmising that the data would be used to sell more products.  THE VERGE review was based on an Echo Look purchased on eBay, not Amazon.

Why would I spend $200 to join the Echo Look Beta program?

Answer: Curiosity.

  • How exclusive is this exclusive invitation? What is the criteria for Amazon approval?
  • I've made very few apparel purchases on Amazon; Would I be approved?
  • I saw a plethora of bloggers "judging" / "reviewing" this product, but without the actual Echo Look in-hand. All of my bad reviews are from first hand experiences.

I submitted my request with Amazon on July 13th and was “approved” 3 months later, on October 24th.

I made 4 apparel purchases during the 3 months my Echo Look request sat in "pending" status. I bought 1 men's ski jacket, 1 women's ski jacket, 1 pair of compression socks for running, and one black women's t-shirt. Hardly a fashionista I am. Did I hit a minimum apparel spend amount? Looking back, I still don't know the Echo Look approval requirements.

My Paranoia

Honestly, my first fear when I received my approval was that the Echo Look was no longer in Beta and all requests had been approved, or even worse yet, Amazon was ending their Echo Look program, and selling off the remainder of their inventory. I don't think either of my paranoid thoughts are true. I searched "Echo Look" in the "News" and found that the same day my Echo Look request was approved, Amazon filed their patent for Echo Look in Canada.

Amazon gave me a 7-day window to purchase the Echo Look. Applying for the Echo Look invitation is only an "invitation," there is no obligation to buy. During in Checkout, (as a test), I change the quantity of my Echo Look from 1 to 10, indicating I would buy 10 devices. My order immediately went into error status, and I was unable to purchase 10 (not that I would have) devices. My Echo Look arrived the next day with Prime shipping.

Is the Echo Look an Alexa device? Does it have the same features as an Alexa?

For the most part, the Echo Look is an Amazon Alexa device with music streaming, access to Alexa Skills, calendar, reminders, alarms and more. The speaker on the Echo Look is small and not of the same quality as an Echo or Echo Show.  As of the writing of this post, the Look does not have Bluetooth capabilities, Alexa-to-Alexa calling, or Voice profile. View the current list from Amazon here.

Setup

Echo Look is a completely separate app from the Amazon Alexa app available on iOS and Android.

The setup was very similar to the Amazon Echo devices, except for the question requesting my clothing preference. I selected WOMEN'S clothing.

Echo Look First Impressions

I tried on a few outfits, and had the app compare a few outfits.

At first glance, Echo Look wasn't very useful.

  1. These were outfits I already owned. I already knew what I looked like in each outfit.
  2. There was no context. It would have been more useful if I had said, "Alexa, I'm attending business networking function tonight, what shall I wear?

On the other hand…

  1. If I could remember to take a daily picture, Echo Look would keep a log of my outfits each day. That way if I wanted to know the last time I wore a particular outfit to work, I could scroll and find the date I wore that outfit.
  2. Once I took enough pictures of outfits in my closet, I could more easily "scroll though" my "looks" and have a mobile closet.

How can Echo Look add value?

If I had Echo Look before the point of purchase, perhaps Alexa could help me select the best looking outfits? Context would be less important, and purchasing the most aesthetic looking outfit would be more important.

I needed to conduct my own market research. I called on Liz Simpson, former Senior Director at SPANX for her retail expertise. I had her test the comparison functionality and the 6-second video capability. Liz agreed that Echo Look would be more useful in the dressing room. For example, if she were shopping for an important business function, she would send pictures of each outfit from the dressing room to her friends for their opinions.  Then she would have to wait for responses before she made a purchasing decision. If Echo Look could make a decision in one-minute, she could save time and receive an objective opinion.

What if we had Echo Look in every fitting room?

  • Would the Echo Look change the way we buy clothes?
  • Would a smart retailer put an Echo Look in every dressing room, or shun the day the Look was born?
  • Is this the 'real' reason why Amazon is limiting each Echo Look purchase (to keep this technology out of the hands of the competition)?

Not Today

Simpler said than done. I would need a Wi-Fi connection and a power plug.

Not to mention the store associate might have a problem with me bringing a camera into the dressing room.

How can I utilize Echo Look to make better purchasing decisions TODAY?

Should I buy heaps of clothes on Amazon.com and return those that Alexa 'disapproved'?

Or should I buy clothes brick and mortar, try them on at home, get Alexa's opinion, and return clothes to the store?

What would I say to the sales associate when she asks for my return reason? Me: "Ummm, Alexa didn't approve."

Retailers hate returns.

More Echo Look Testing

Next, Melissa Sorrentino came over to help me test out the Echo Look. Here are a few things we found out about Echo Look.

You can't compare the same outfit, but you CAN compare the same outfit with different accessories

You can't compare different people. Echo Look will notice if you try to compare 2 different people.

Echo Look prefers tighter fitting clothes claiming "better silhouette"

Sometimes Alexa doesn't provide a reason for selecting one outfit over another and only provides a generic statement, "We've considered fit, color, styling, and current trends."

Overall, Melissa thought that Echo Look should simply work as an app utilizing the smartphone's existing camera instead of a $200 device. Sadly (for me), she is probably right. Amazon launched the Kindle as a device, and later made Kindle available as an app and removed the requirement to purchase the physical e-book reader.

Check out my full Echo Look video review here with Melissa Sorrentino.

Is Amazon taking my data to sell more clothes?

I've had the Echo Look for more than 2 weeks and I haven't received the first apparel recommendation. I purchased a pair of shoes for my husband just after my Echo Look, and now I'm getting recommendations for more men's shoes. My Amazon recommendations are based on past purchases, and so far, not on my Echo Look pictures. I wouldn't mind Amazon suggesting apparel or accessories based on my style and if it knew exactly what size I should order, now that's value add!