Amazon is setting record levels with the Alexa product line coming out of their Prime day sale (Geekwire, July 2017).  The leading online retailer spent the second quarter announcing the Echo Look (April), the Echo Show (May), and the Dash Wand (June), and now claims over 15,000 voice Apps for the voice-activated device suite of products that is the foundation for Amazon Alexa.

Developing devices is a big pivot for the online retail company.  Today, Amazon is the 7th largest advertiser of jobs looking for interaction design skills (Labor Insight, June 20, 2017, YTD report), making the traditional online retailer a powerhouse in the visual design job market.

Did the traditional software device mainstays Microsoft (Cortina), Google (Google Assistant), and Apple (Siri) see this coming?

Based on data from our Labor Insight software, Amazon’s hiring practices for web design skills foreshadowed Amazon’s play into the device market and appropriate workforce planning.  The chart below shows a comparison of the percentage of web design skills Amazon hired for that included the keyword “interaction design” in 2013 (at left) and over the past six months (at right).  During this time, Amazon increased its demand for visual design by 57% and Prototyping by 420% while significantly de-emphasizing more traditional software website skills like JavaScript (-57%) and HTML5 (-67%).

Amazon Skills Comparison for Amazon Alexa Development

Compares Amazon Skills requests from public job descriptions over time.

The Echo Show is an example of the fruits of this talent acquisition.  The WIFI-enabled device enables you to watch media and provide voice commands to do things like make phone calls, visit websites, and monitor smart home cameras all from a 7-inch touchscreen. “Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch YouTube, see music lyrics, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask,” Amazon notes in its blurb on its product page.

So what’s next for Amazon?

As Amazon continues to look for ways to expand its business, the company’s workforce needs to have the right skills to be able to create the upward growth it’s started.  Recent acquisition announcements (e.g., Whole Foods), patent publications (e.g., sensor-equipped mannequins), and service additions (e.g., 2-hour delivery, smart home installs) underscore Amazon’s expansion beyond the traditional online middleman between the buyer and seller that was the basis for their early success.

Looking at workforce skill demands based on the company’s device strategy will be critical to this growth.

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Amazon Alexa Success Involves Workforce Planning with Speech Recognition Skills

Amazon Alexa product line expands with specific FTE developer skills

Amazon Alexa product line expands with specific FTE developer skills

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