Amazon, the e-commerce company whose sales grew 27% to $136 billion last year, launched a new feature in its mobile application called Spark that lets users shop for products they see in a newsfeed. Amazon Spark urges people to post stories, ideas and images of products they love, and get reactions from friends and followers, TechCrunch reported.
The new feature was quietly tested before its launch and is only available to Amazon’s U.S. customers who use the mobile app. The feature isn’t designed for desktop use currently.
Spark can be found in the “Programs & Features” menu in the app. It asks users to choose at least five interests to follow in a customized feed of products, imagery and ideas related to shopping or learning more about a topic. A shopping bag icon appears below photos that contain a product that Amazon sells.
Amazon clearly wants to steer smartphone users who look at products on Pinterest and Instagram to a similar service that offers instant transactions through its e-commerce platform. This positions Spark as the e-commerce giant's attempt to take advantage of the convergence between content and commerce online, with purchases by younger consumers, in particular, strongly influenced by social media.
Amazon Spark has been compared to Instagram, which has a feed-style interface of updates, comments and a heart icon to show approval. For the most part, shopping on Instagram can be a clunky experience with users often having to search for a product on another website. However, Instagram is increasingly trying to streamline the shopping experience on its site as is Pinterest and other social media sites. Amazon likely views this develoment as a potential threat to its sales.
While the marketing industry has been focused on the competition between Snapchat and Instagram, which has been copying the former's features at a dizzying rate, Spark has the potential to insert Amazon into the equation as the platform increasingly expands beyond its origins as an e-commerce pure play to offer award-winning original programming and an in-home digital assistant strategy, Alexa, that is currently leading the space. Recent reports also suggest that Amazon is developing a messaging app, another development that pushes it one step closer to a social media play. Adding a newsfeed strategy to the mix is likely to boost Amazon's advertising play, if and when ads come to Spark.
Whereas the Amazon website encourages shoppers to submit product reviews and answer questions from other customers about a product, Amazon Spark is moving in a slightly different direction. Instead of rewarding “Top Reviewers” who write comments and rate products, Amazon Spark rewards “Enthusiasts” for providing feedback. Only people who subscribe to Amazon Prime can become an Enthusiast and post comments, while non-Prime members are only allowed to browse Spark’s feed.
Social media apps like Instagram and Musical.ly have spawned a cottage industry of influencers who can earn money for demonstrating or recommending products, but Amazon isn’t prepared to discuss how users would possibly profit from their Spark postings, TechCrunch reported. Amazon is most focused on getting more content onto Spark. Amazon users will be able to share their previously written product reviews on Spark starting on July 30.