Alexa is the key to Amazon's future

Amazon.com, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) has one of the hottest gift ideas of the 2017 holiday season with its Echo devices powered by home assistant Alexa. But Amazon investors expect Alexa devices to be more than just a novelty, and RBC analyst Mark Mahaney says Alexa will drive major revenue growth for Amazon in coming years.

According to a new survey by RBC, selling Alexa-enabled devices is just the tip of the iceberg for Amazon. The true value for investors is having the Amazon ecosystem integrated into users' homes.

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"The win, by the way, for Amazon probably is not just selling devices … 40 percent of people who own these devices shop more with Amazon," Mahaney said on CNBC Thursday.

"With tens of millions of users and 20,000-plus skills, we see Alexa's value prop as becoming increasingly powerful as awareness and ownership ramp," Mahaney wrote in a note to clients.

Amazon's aggressive marketing of Alexa appears to have paid off. RBC found that awareness of Alexa has increased from 77 percent of consumers to 89 percent of consumers in the past nine months. Ownership of Alexa devices is also up 2 percent to 15 percent of households surveyed.

RELATED: Check out all of Oprah's favorite things from Amazon:

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Oprah's Favorite Things from Amazon
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Oprah's Favorite Things from Amazon

The Wisdom of Sundays, $16.79

"Super Soul Sunday is a weekly show I do sitting in my yard, talking with the world’s most extraordinary thought leaders. These are power: uplifting conversations now condensed to my favorite aha sound bites. All my net proceeds will go to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation; all the joy, nourishment, and original thinking will go to the reader." -Oprah

BUY IT

23andMe DNA Test, $69

"We all want to be able to picture where we came from, so why not give a friend a genetic test that provides some answers? The good news: You’re probably not related to Attila the Hun. The bad news: You’re probably not part of George Clooney’s family, either." - Oprah

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Tory Sport Women's Banner Tear Away Track Pants, $178

"Reese Witherspoon turned me on to Tory Burch’s new sport line, and I owe her one. These track pants go with everything: a sweater and boots or heels and a blazer. I’m hooked." - Oprah

BUY IT
Barefoot Dreams Pajamas, $130

"I am a student of pajamas. In fact, the reason I started Favorite Things 21 years ago was that I had a great pair to share. The only drawback with my latest loves is that they’re so soft and stretchy, you won’t want to wear anything else." - Oprah

BUY IT

Caroline’s Cakes 7-Layer Bliss, $60

"According to Gayle, Caroline’s Cakes is famous for its caramel cake, but one bite of the seven-layer coconut cake takes me right back to Sunday afternoons in Mississippi, with my grandmother in the kitchen cracking eggs and shaving fresh coconut." - Oprah

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TOCCA Cleopatra Crema da Mano Luxe, $27.98

"Not sure what to get a nice neighbor or your kid’s social studies teacher? These hand creams are rich, quick absorbing, and deeply soothing."- Oprah

BUY IT
Seville ten-piece cookware set, $399.95

" I used to have copper pots hanging in my kitchen, but the thought of the cleanup kept me from actually using them. These are lined in easy-to-wash stainless steel—dinner party, here we come!" - Oprah

BUY IT

NYDJ Gift of Fit, $124

"File this under brilliant ideas, from my favorite denim brand: Inside the box are a measuring tape and a card with a redemption code. The giftee takes her measurements, goes online, orders the best-fitting jeans of her life, and looks a size smaller." - Oprah

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 Eccolo World Traveler Thought A Day Notepad, $14.99

"A Great Thought a Day Notepads With 365 inspiring quotes—and space to write your own thoughts—these pads will make channeling your genius an everyday habit." - Oprah

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Breville Panini Press, $99.95

"Breville The Perfect Press Some hosts send you off with a goody bag. For years, I’ve loved to give a panini press. It’s ideal for toasting all kinds of sandwiches—and delighting guests." - Oprah

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Smart Nora Snoring Solution, $299

"Smart Nora Snoring Solution If you sleep with a snorer, you’re going to love the Smart Nora. It eliminates the need to elbow someone in the ribs to get him or her (him!) to stop. The battery-powered Nora senses snores and gently pumps air into a pillow insert, shifting the snorer’s head and neck to help him breathe easier (quieter!)." - Oprah

BUY IT

Lark & Ro 100% Cashmere Off The Shoulder Sweater, $128

"Butt? Sure. Stomach? Of course. Thighs? You bet. But I’ve yet to meet a woman who carries her weight in her shoulders. That’s why these off-the-shoulder sweaters flatter almost everyone." - Oprah

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Mahaney says Amazon could generate up to $11 billion in annual sales from Alexa by 2020. The forecast includes both device sales and incremental e-commerce sales.

Mahaney says Amazon's family of Echo devices and the Alphabet (GOOGGOOGL) family of Google Home devices represent the "voicification" of the internet, one of the hottest trends in the tech world in coming years. Mahaney expects a seismic shift in the way users interact with the internet, with voice commands replacing keyboards and touch screens.

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Earlier this year, Loup Ventures found that Amazon has a early market share lead in the virtual assistant space. Loup reported the Amazon Echo controls about 70 percent of the smart speaker market, while Google Home accounts for 24 percent. A potential wildcard in the space could be the Apple (AAPL) HomePod. The Siri-powered HomePod is expected to be available in early 2018.

By now, Amazon investors are used to the company beating competitors to new markets and opening up a commanding lead, and the home assistant market is no exception. Even after a 57 percent gain for Amazon stock in 2017, RBC maintains an "outperform" rating and $1,200 price target for AMZN stock.

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