Amazon has unleashed a new feature designed to match shoppers with products and pair businesses with customers. It’s called Amazon Spark. A cross between Instagram, Pinterest, and Houzz, it’s goal is to facilitate product discovery. But how? And what should e-marketers know about the new Instagram-style feed?
Amazon Steps into the World of Social Media
When you think of social media, Amazon hardly comes to mind. Aside from its product reviews, the online behemoth isn’t known for facilitating user-to-user interaction. That’s about to change with the arrival of Spark, Amazon’s first foray into a social media-like environment.
Spark lets people follow topics that interest them, comment on posts, offer tips, and discover interesting new things related to their hobbies or lifestyles. Users can share photos, texts, and even polls. More importantly, contributors can link images with Amazon product pages.
Indeed, Spark isn’t a typical social media site. Its primary goal isn’t to help people connect with each other (although it does that too). The overarching purpose is to make buying and selling easier. To that end, it tries to improve upon existing platforms.
A Photo Feed with a Twist
Spark looks a bit like Instagram. It feels a bit like Instagram. Only it’s not Instagram. That can be both a blessing and a curse for businesses who want to promote their products.
Like Instagram, Spark displays image-based posts in a vertical format. Like the popular photo-sharing app, it lets users contribute to the conversation by liking (Amazon opts for “smiles” rather than hearts or thumbs-up) or commenting on posts. Both programs also display a little icon over products that you can buy.
The main difference is that the Spark feed connects directly to the Amazon store, rather than outside vendors. That helps streamline the discovery-to-purchase process and keeps users within the Amazon eco-system. With Instagram, you have to leave the app to buy something. Even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll arrive at a viable product page and not someone’s blog.
A More Immersive Amazon Advertising Experience
Overall, it’s more useful to see Spark as an addendum to Amazon rather than an Instagram wannabe. The online mega-store isn’t trying to compete with other social media apps. It’s trying to enhance its own customer experience by turning static product pages into interactive lifestyle posts and transforming reviewers into “enthusiasts” (contributors who know a lot about a particular topic and gather hordes of followers).
All of which makes Spark a more welcoming and interactive environment than Amazon proper. Members can have fun scrolling through images that match their interests, rather than consciously searching for specific items using keywords. They can follow powerful influencers for tips and advice on what to buy.
In other words, Spark is perfect for customers who like to buy, but who don’t always know what they want to buy. It allows people to gather inspiration, shop, and connect at the same time. That gives businesses a chance to promote products they feel passionate about, and to do it in a way that feels more natural, more contemporary, more millennial.
How to Get Started with Spark
Setting up a Spark account is fairly easy, at least if you’re already accustomed to the Amazon app. Start with these steps:
- Download/open the Amazon app. Spark isn’t an app. Rather, it’s one feature within the larger Amazon app.
- Change your country settings. Right now, you can only use Spark if you’re in the United States. Until that changes, those who live outside the U.S. will have to change their Amazon country settings to take advantage of the new feed.
- Find Spark. From the home screen, head to the menu, click on “Programs and Features,” and scroll down until you find Amazon Spark.
- Choose your interests. Select up to five interests that you want to follow. Categories look a lot like Amazon’s general product groupings (Books, Home Décor, Music, etc.).
- Scroll through your feed. Spark instantly works up an Instagram-style feed, featuring lifestyle images, texts, reviews, etc.
- Click on a product. See a picture of someone strutting down the street in an awesome pair of shoes? Stumble on your favorite author signing a new book? Click on the shopping bag icon and head over to the product page for further details and ordering information.
Theoretically, Spark is supposed to make the product discovery process more seamless. According to some initial users, developers still have a few kinks to work out before that dream becomes reality.
Now for the Drawbacks and Limitations
Every online platform suffers from limitations. Spark is no different. For starters, it narrows down the active user base to Amazon’s most loyal customers. Anyone with the Amazon app can see posts on Spark, but if you want to interact, you must have a paid Prime membership and make a minimum number of purchases.
That’s not all. You can only access the feature if you have the mobile iOS app. That means Android users are out of luck. So are people who live outside the United States. All told, only a certain percentage of die-hard Amazon buyers can actively participate in Spark.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you post your product-laden images on the feed, you’re reaching a customer base that’s ready to buy, a base that already knows how and where it likes to order.
Still, businesses that want to reach a wider audience (say those who buy through Amazon only when they see a product they really need or want) will have to look elsewhere. Put simply, Spark (as it is now) will never be an all-encompassing marketing tool, even for companies that sell exclusively through Amazon.
Spark is new. It’s barely out of the beta stage. No one knows how many people will jump on board or how effective it will be as a marketing tool. That being said, it may soon become a critical part of any company’s Amazon marketing strategy.
Let’s put it this way: Businesses can no longer throw up a product page, add a description, and hope to sell. Even on Amazon, they’ll do well by incorporating their product line into a lifestyle feed and reaching out to influencers who have leverage over other buyers.
Want more tips on how to use Amazon to increase brand awareness and maximize profits? Need advanced Amazon marketing strategy analysis to track progress and measure success? It may be time to reach out to a digital marketing firm to spark your strategy…
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