Creative & Tech Mobile Marketing

Amazon Fire Phone Brings Commerce to the Forefront

June 19, 2014

There’s a new smartphone on the block. It’s called the Amazon Fire Phone – and it’s the first smartphone on the market to place as much emphasis on commerce as it does on connectivity and communications.

Historically, hardware announcements have been of somewhat tepid interest to marketers, since their implications are one step removed and are generally dependent on consumer adoption. But the Fire Phone is more than just technology at work, as it’s designed to tie into a robust e-commerce ecosystem, making it easy and preferable to buy from Amazon and its partners and affiliates.

Key features of the Fire Phone include:

  • Availability for purchase July 25 through just one carrier: AT&T. Depending on the data package purchased, they will be sold for $199 or $299 with a two-year commitment. You can purchase the Fire Phone without a contract for $649 or $749.
  • A sizeable screen that combines greater screen real estate with one-handed use. The Fire Phone sits in the middle of large-screen “Phablet” style Android devices and the scale of the current iPhone. Moreover, gesture control makes this a more usable device for people who are doing something else and – of important note – acknowledges that interacting with the device might not be the main thing the person is doing.
  • A baked-in, cloud-based storage system that’s free to owners. Jeff Bezos remarked that the Fire Phone’s cloud services are a lead reason why this phone makes sense for consumers’ increasing media consumption habits. Google’s cloud services and iCloud could perceptively be Amazon’s biggest competitor in this space, as it offers its own cloud service for photos.
  • High-quality stereo speakers, and per Bezos, headphone cords that allegedly will not tangle. Additional features include a 13-megapixel camera that Amazon claims is better than the iPhone 5S and Samsung 5S cameras.
  • A 24-hour live support system, Mayday, which allows users to consult an Amazon rep instantly. There’s also X-Ray, a Shazam-like feature that will allow users to see information about media content as they consume it.
  • Multiple front-facing cameras to offer dynamic 3D perspective with tilt-to-scroll. Four dynamic cameras scan at 60 times per second to track a user’s head position and create 3D visual effects on screen, while a tilt-to-scroll feature allows users to navigate content without touching their screen.
  • Finally – and most important to Amazon’s business – Firefly, an A/V recognition tool able to identify more than 100 million items by sight or sound. Within seconds, Firefly can identify an object in the real world and prompt the user to buy that item on Amazon. Consider this as the evolution of show-rooming. Not only can users compare prices using their smartphone, but now, they can buy that product instantly – potentially while still standing in that retailer’s store.

Marketer Implications

Smartphone evolutions over the past years have been marked by smaller tweaks to design and multimedia capabilities, but this latest announcement could stand to alter the way smartphones are used by consumers. Beyond positioning Fire Phone as a means for connecting and communicating with the world, Amazon is emerging as the first smartphone manufacturer to make shopping a primary function – a natural fit for a company with roots and strengths in ecommerce.

Impact on media & ecommerce:

  • Amazon’s built-in shopping features could impact both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores. With features that connect to Amazon’s own web-based shopping experience, consumers will be able to find the products they’re looking for quickly (and in new ways, e.g. via image scanning).  This, combined with free shipping (for Prime users), is a compelling offer.
  • Amazon should get a wider and more immersive purview into consumer shopping behaviors and patterns. A deeper understanding of consumer behavior will likely lead to improved targeting, making Amazon an attractive place for advertisers to test audience segmentation and messaging strategies. Amazon will also be able to better track and optimize against mobile.
  • Advertisers could improve their mobile analytics via rich first-party data. Third-party vendors are still an option, but if marketers could get more data from a direct relationship with a partner like Amazon – which has a huge logged-in user base – and transaction data, then they could better understand mobile influence in driving consumers down the funnel.

Impact on shopper marketing:

  • As noted earlier, Firefly could send the growing show-rooming trend into warp-speed. Amazon surely put significant resources into scanning the 100 million items baked into Firefly, and in doing so, they’ve lowered the barrier to entry for users to scan and discover items on their site. Factor in Amazon’s expanding Same-Day Delivery and Firefly starts to look like it could create a lot of disruption in retail.
  • If Amazon’s bet on 3D displays catches on, marketers will quite literally have a new layer on mobile devices with which to work. Imagine opt-in programs that overlay data onto existing applications, instead of requiring users to download an app per brand. An example could be a beauty brand overlaying a Google Maps App search for a shopping mall to show where you could find their products in the mall itself.
  • Amazon’s user reviews and recommendations now pack an even-more-powerful punch. One of Amazon’s chief differentiators is the user reviews that are layered onto each product page. These will continue to be relevant to word-of-mouth and influencer marketing programs.

Impact on the mobile technology landscape:

  • The integration of Firefly is the Fire Phone’s most impressive innovation from a technology standpoint, as it connects the digital world with the physical, making static media both interactive and actionable. Amazon’s implementation of Firefly is the first example of a fully integrated object search feature seen on any comparable smart phone on the market.
  • Amazon is doing its part to help object scanning and recognition become more mainstream. Though features like QR codes have been around for some time, object scanning is not currently a common behavior for most smartphone users – at least in the US. By bringing this feature to the forefront, Amazon hopes to create a new trend. Brands should be the most excited about this development, as it will encourage object scanning and product engagement in general, not just on the Fire. Behavior such as scanning in-store while making purchase decisions will be more commonplace, providing brands more opportunities to message their consumers.

Next steps for brands

Marketers will be eager to see how much the Fire Phone is able to disrupt the smartphone market and how willing consumers are to buy into the new “communications + commerce” model. Still, as the “Everything Store,” Amazon is better positioned than any other company to deliver products and services to shoppers – and do so in fast fashion. As such, brands will want to prepare for the Fire Phone’s debut and the general impact it will have on the consumer tech landscape.

  • Advertisers should optimize positioning on Amazon and pursue data-driven partnerships. Where applicable, this means positioning products in a highly visible, organized and stringently categorized way within the Amazon ecosystem (feeds, descriptions, video content, etc.) and seeking access to Amazon’s powerful first-party data – which could potentially be mapped back to a brand’s CRM database.
  • In the coming months, brands should monitor device and traffic trends and embrace a cross-device strategy. Analytics teams should be on the lookout for the Fire Phone’s impact – push or pull – on ecommerce efforts. If adoption surges and Amazon collects data via user logins, then marketers could get access to powerful insights into things such as mobile-to-desktop influence.
  • As a more long-term next step, marketers will want to keep an eye on the emerging space of 3D visuals in mobile. As noted above, the popularity of Fire Phone could lead to greater adoption of image recognition technology beyond Amazon. This stands to have massive ramifications in areas like shopper marketing and entertainment.


Cover photo via CNET