Last week, Amazon launched Spark, a new product discovery feature, that aims to tap into consumer purchasing behaviors on social. Given recent improvements to conversion-focused features in the social space and Amazon’s role as an e-commerce giant, the announcement was met mostly with enthusiasm and some healthy skepticism by the industry media. But what does this emerging social platform really mean for marketers and their brands? Will it be the next big thing or fail to ignite?
For marketers, there is an immediate opportunity for sellers to test the waters by repurposing content from other social channels or tapping partners to seed their products in the feed, but as with any new offering long-term gains will be dependent on user adoption of Spark. It’s ultimately up to Amazon to draw users to Spark and create a viable environment for an exchange between consumers and brands.
Amazon is known for moving quickly and launching new features and products before their value has been proven. In taking a closer look, our Social Marketing and Product teams found both a series of challenges and untapped potential that will impact Spark’s long-term viability. If Amazon can address these challenges and leverage the platform’s inherent potential, there is a significant future for Spark and value for advertisers.
- Spark is difficult to find — Even though it makes sense for Amazon to test Spark first among its most loyal consumers — Prime members — it is buried in the settings of Amazon’s existing iOS app. To date, members have not reported receiving any information or prompts to join the platform, and currently there is no messaging directing them to Spark on any of Amazon’s owned channels. These limitations ultimately hamper user growth, which is essential to Spark’s future.
- Current content rarely sparks inspiration — While the intention behind Spark appears to be similar to that of Instagram or Pinterest and house beautiful content, much of what is currently being posted lacks an inspirational nature. Even if influencer and brand activity takes off, bringing more beautiful content in stream, it remains to be seen if consumers will find utility in a feed that’s almost entirely #sponsored.
- Interest categories are undefined — Despite user’s ability to select their interests on Spark, the current interest categories lack the ability to serve up relevant content. This is perhaps due to low post volume and unregulated tagging. Users are also unable to easily follow others or search within interest categories, unlike on Instagram and Pinterest respectively, so it’s even harder for them to discover beautiful content that may compel them to purchase.
- Spark mimics without innovation — In essence, Spark takes all stages of the consumer purchase funnel and houses them in an Amazon-owned territory, which is exciting for the brands who sell there. In contrast to Spark, competing social platforms offer additional user benefits. Instagram offers social connection and Pinterest offers planning tools, but beyond the facility of already being on Amazon, there’s no inherent reason for consumers to use Spark. Users are already already familiar with searching, browsing and shopping for products via the Amazon app’s existing features, and Spark fails to bring a new angle to discovery.
From a Spark to a Flame: Tapping Into Its Potential
There’s no doubt that Spark has potential, but for it to thrive Amazon will likely need to address the aforementioned challenges. We see three areas of opportunity for Amazon to play off the platform’s strengths and overcome these barriers:
- Creating a seamless transition — Tying Spark posts to Amazon’s popular reviews feature, surfacing it in communications to qualifying members, and otherwise making it more visible within the Amazon app would not only help drive adoption, but also improve the user experience.
- Increased personalization — Combining Amazon’s user purchase history and behavioral data with Spark’s format is a huge opportunity. Imagine being shown lifestyle imagery of products you’ve recently browsed within the context of Spark — it would aid consideration, serving up relevant and timely content that users have confirmed interest in.
- Sparking user interest — The above improvements won’t make much long-term difference if audiences aren’t given a compelling reason to return to the platform. Reducing friction from product discovery through to purchase may be enough, but to fully leverage this advantage, Amazon could amp up the features that help create social currency, emphasize trust and connection among users, or make it easier to search for and save the products users are interested in.
With these changes, Spark has an opportunity to capitalize on being a digital one-stop-shop for everything from product inspiration to planning and purchase.
The First-Mover Opportunity for Marketers on Spark
Though there is much room for Spark to grow, there is an immediate opportunity for marketers who sell their products on Amazon to reap the benefits of early adoption.
- Repurpose product-centric social content — There is a low barrier to entry for those who build a Spark brand profile and test how the platform could impact sales. This would be a low-investment test using repurposed lifestyle imagery of products normally posted to Instagram or Facebook.
- Tap into existing partners — In an effort to help seed their brand on the platform, marketers could leverage existing relationships, such as brand ambassadors or influencers, to post on their behalf.
The lack of high quality content on Spark means that any brand publishing engaging content is far more likely to stand out, so moving quickly and getting ahead of competitors could pay off if Spark succeeds, with little risk or loss if it does not.
If Amazon works to grow the Spark user base and feature set over the coming months, consumers may find compelling reason to integrate Spark into their shopping habits, and it could eventually lead to the introduction of valuable advertising opportunities on the platform. If not, it may face the same fate as the Fire Phone, Amazon Local, and Amazon Destinations — a quiet disappearance.
Valentina Bettiol, Social Marketing Supervisor at 360i, also contributed to this post.
Photo Credit: TechCrunch