Amazon Spark: Makes the Jump Into Social Media

Amazon Spark: Makes the Jump Into Social Media

On July 18, Amazon launched Amazon Spark, a social network aimed at improving the way consumers find new products on the mega retailer’s site. Spark is built on what is clearly an Instagram-inspired template with a lot of Pinterest thrown in for good measure.

Spark’s social feed relies on users to post images of products they like, to which others can react with comments and smiles—as well as a conveniently placed shopping bag icon that takes them to the appropriate product page within the Amazon app.

Not only are these interactions presumed to aid product discovery, they add a tacit layer of endorsement that other social-media-embedded shopping experiences currently lack.

Sure, you can look through all the product reviews at the bottom of the page to see what generic users (and some bots, probably) think about the item, but nothing has quite the impact that word-of-mouth from a trusted friend or influencer might have. Given that research from Twitter shows that 49 percent of consumers seek guidance from social media influencers before making a purchasing decision, that endorsement can have a huge impact on the bottom-line.

For that reason, Spark looks to be a natural fit for influencer marketing as users follow their favorite brands and personalities.

How Does Amazon Spark Work?

First off, you’ll need a mobile device with the Amazon app installed and a Prime membership. Currently, Spark is only available to mobile users who have Prime.

It’s easy to find Spark in the app, simply navigate to the “Programs & Features” menu option and select Spark to get started. On launch, you’ll need to select at least five interests so that Spark can curate your feed. You can select more than five interests, of course, but five is the minimum. Once you’ve chosen your five interests, launch Spark.

Amazon Spark - Interests

As you scroll through your feed, you’ll see images tagged with product names. As “dogs” is one of my interests (thanks to my trusty sidekick, Walter the Boston Terrier) my customized feed of products contains a lot of canine-related goods and services.

Much like other social media apps, Spark has a “tag” feature. However, instead of tagging people in their photos, posters tag products.

Amazon Spark - Feed

Once you see a product you like, you click on the little shopping bag icon. From there, you get a popup of the product tagged in the photo.

Amazon Spark - Product 1

If there are multiple products in the photo, you can tag them all. If you do have more than one product, you’ll see an arrow in the product image that allows you to scroll through all tagged items.

Amazon Spark - Product 2

If you want to purchase that product, a click on the item takes you right to the product page on Amazon where you can either order it immediately with “1-Click” ordering or add it to your shopping cart.

Amazon Spark - Product Page

Having the ability to go from a post about a product to your shopping cart in one click is a big advantage. If you have 1-Click ordering turned on (and if you have Prime, who doesn’t?) you can have that product to your home in two days with a maximum of two clicks. For mobile, that’s a game-changer. You don’t even have the shopping cart review to reconsider your decision. Spark seems tailor-made for impulse buyers.

So, Who’s Making Money?

Users who publish content to Spark at this time do not receive an affiliate commission on any products that sell via their linked images, which seems like a no-brainer. But some publishers (how they were chosen is unclear) do receive a flat fee for a specific number of posts to the nascent platform and are given free reign to post whatever products or services they choose. Currently, these are marked with a #sponsored tag.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Industry observers suggest Amazon will likely move to a commission-based model to incentivize publishers to post to Spark in future, although the spokeswoman declined to comment on the company’s plans.

Amazon Spark - Shut Up and Take My MoneyMultiple publishers and influencers declined to comment on their financial relationships with Spark, citing nondisclosure agreements they have in place with Amazon.”

Amazon is courting video content as well, providing financial incentives for publishers to produce video for its Video Direct platform. I see no reason to doubt that Spark will ultimately have video content baked into the user experience.

Spark looks like it has a lot of potential for affiliate marketers or brands looking to push their products to a targeted audience who has already chosen their vertical as an interest, but it remains to be seen how many users think they need an additional platform for user-generated content to scroll through. Pinterest and Instagram probably scratch that itch for the majority of users, but the ability to go from “What is that?” to “Shut up and take my money!” in two clicks cannot be understated.

Will It Work?

Well, it’s Amazon. They have the money and time to play the long game. With Walmart purchasing and starting to gain ground on Amazon’s market share, Amazon had to make some bold moves to stay on top. They proved that they have the means to do so with the recent acquisition of Whole Foods and now with the launch of Spark, they’ve shown even more that they have no intention of letting Walmart catch up.

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