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Opinion

Amazon Spark: Should retailers invest their time?

This is the second of two articles on Amazon Spark. See part one here

While Facebook has shown us how seamlessly brands and their audiences can interact on a social scale with Instagram, it has also shown us that just because you have the users, there’s no guarantee they’ll come to play. Example: Facebook’s Marketplace.

With Spark, I struggle to see where impulse will play its part within the buyer’s journey on Amazon’s app and website. But the jury is still out.

What about your average Joe, who only purchases once a month? Will Spark encourage them to buy more than normal, or will the recommendation engine continue to do the grunt work in activating new purchases? I doubt it.

So why is Amazon doing this?

Amazon has no issues with engagement with over 30 million monthly active customers, at least 80 per cent of whom purchase once a month.

If someone’s intention is to shop, wouldn’t they go directly to the Amazon store, rather than look for a meaningless way to inspire their next purchase?

Instagram still remains more social than it is a retail service, with only 30 per cent of users saying they’ve purchased a product they first saw on instagram.

Will Spark flip this ratio and strike the right balance needed for you to shop inspo life?

It feels a little disparate

I have to say, I don’t know why Amazon hasn’t integrated Spark into its existing review process, because it already has a great review engine!

As for consumer engagement, I can only see people engaging during the research phase, but post-purchase? I’m a skeptic.

Here’s an example of how it can work at the top of the funnel (research).

My favourite blogger talked about a lobster she ordered on Amazon on her blog (because you can order almost anything on Amazon) and I stumbled across her latest food creation on one of her other social channels. I’m inspired, so I buy the lobster.

But after I make a purchase, I fail to see the incentive to use the Spark. Maybe that’s all Amazon is after?

I don’t really see this as a social environment yet, more like an affiliate program.

I can see how Spark could work. But I can also can see many boundaries for engagement to be truly social.

Key questions about Spark’s future success

  • What will encourage me as a shopper to use Spark?
  • How will they encourage users to communicate to each other, after all that’s what social is
  • Will users be rewarded for their interactions by gamifying incentives?
  • What’s the value on our side of pre-purchase research?

The finer details aside, this is a real gutsy move from Amazon and a girl’s gotta appreciate some brave innovation. I’d hardly call this disruptive though.

Amazon know word-of-mouth is already incredibly powerful, so the blogger strategy makes sense. With the right word-of-mouth strategy, it could easily drive greater conversions than a $50,000 marketing campaign, or even a far smaller budget.

A recent study discovered that 88 per cent of those surveyed trust online reviews as much as a recommendation by a friend and 39 per cent will read reviews on a regular basis.

Amazon already has a great review engine… so we aren’t they integrating the experience? It just doesn’t scream social to me!

Conclusion

I guess we’re yet to see the future of Spark and its impact on the buyer’s journey.

Like I said in an earlier piece, I think retailers will need to build this into their influencer strategies to work.

There is no reason for your shoppers to make Spark an intrinsic part of their buying journey, other than at the top of the funnel whilst reading their favourite blogger’s latest “must-have” article.

I see where Amazon is going with Spark and brave innovation has paid off for the company in the past. It is what made Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world, even if it was only for a couple hours, and also what makes Amazon the single greatest competitor in e-commerce.

Alita Harvey-Rodriguez is a leading Australian Digital Marketing Futurist and the brains behind Milk it Academy.

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