swiss echo v4-01

Amazon is Beta Testing Alexa in Switzerland

Amazon has started soliciting people in Switzerland to join an Alexa beta program in the country. The program suggests Amazon is planning to bring the full range of Alexa’s features to Switzerland, although there aren’t any details yet as to how the final Swiss version of Alexa will behave.

Swiss Alexa

The email sent out to potential participants was written in English, and doesn’t convey much information. The wording of phrases like “local beta participants,” hints at localizing existing Alexa features and possibly translating them to Swiss languages. That the company reached out to Alexa users is interesting too as there’s no official Alexa presence in Switzerland, and Echo smart speakers and displays typically run as though they are in Germany.

“There’s maybe 10,000 Alexa users in Switzerland, and they’re nerds,”  VUI Agency country manager for Switzerland Markus Maurer told Voicebot in an interview after learning of Amazon’s plans from a friend who was invited to join the pilot. “It’s proof that it’s time for voice to start growing in Switzerland.”

Maurer has built up VUI’s presence in Switzerland, especially with Swisscom and the voice assistant integrated into its television set-top box. The voice assistant acts as a hub for other smart home devices, turning the television into an ersatz smart display. Amazon recently started doing something similar with Fire TVs, but Swisscom has been ahead in that innovation. In terms of competition, Google Assistant is used in Switzerland, mainly on Android smartphones, Maurer said, but there hasn’t been any kind of marketing campaign or effort to get Swiss people to use Google Assistant. Swisscom is also unique in speaking the Swiss dialect of German as well as English, French, Italian, and standard German.

“Swiss German quite special, only south Germans can understand us, 80% of Germany doesn’t understand it,” Maurer said. “You can’t develop a single model for Swiss German, you need eight or nine with a similar base but taking different directions. Even Goolge only knows a little bit.”

Commerce Expansion

Amazon may also be considering the commerce side of its business. The company is ranked at number three for consumer e-commerce but doesn’t have any central depots in Switzerland or a Swiss website. Swiss customers use the German Amazon shop instead. Maurer pointed out that it used to be possible to order from the American and British Amazon websites, but a change in the value-added tax (VAT) rules mean citizens can only order from the German Amazon because of a special deal between the two countries. Maurer is confident that whatever Amazon’s strategy is for Alexa in Switzerland, it won’t be long before people who want to use Alexa are comfortable with the voice assistant

“Switzerland is a bit behind in voice, but is extremely fast to adapt,” Maurer said. “It’s a small country so it’s used to adapting fast. Switzerland is probably two or three years behind Germany in voice assistants, but will catch up fast.”


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