Amazon Spark: What Marketers Need to Know

It’s no surprise that the vast majority of people put a significant amount of weight on brand information received from friends when making purchasing decisions. And at least 70% of people believe what consumer reviews have to say over the information given to them by the brands themselves.  

So when Amazon comes up with an app that creates a space in social media for peer recommendations, marketers may want to pay a bit of attention.

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What Is Spark?

Spark is a new feature for Amazon users to discover, promote, and learn about products based on peer recommendations. This social networking app has an image-based style similar to Instagram, with the purpose of sharing feedback and opinions in a sort of selling/buying/reviewing/advertising mashup. Owned by Amazon, of course.

When users sign up for Spark (currently only Prime users can get all of the benefits), they provide details so that the app’s communication can be tailored to their specific preferences. Then, just like other social media apps, the user sees a stream of photos related to their chosen preferences. Users can “Smile” at a post to indicate their approval (apparently the “Like”/Thumbs Up and “Love”/Heart buttons had already been spoken for).  The action of giving a post a “Smile” then saves it into the user’s account activity for review at a later time, similar to the way that an Amazon wish list works.

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How Does Spark Work?

Amazon’s hope is probably that beautiful photos of lovely homes, dazzling technology, or people doing amazing things will inspire users to want to buy the products offered. (A solid, age-old concept.) An even greater hope seems to be that people will be more likely to want to purchase these products because other users give them a “smile”. That’s where the peer recommendations come in.

Users see photos that get more "smiles," theoretically making these products more attractive and inspiring confidence in the product. The question may be whether users will actually find these “smiles” to be useful. If all goes as planned, sellers will promote more a of lifestyle look in their photos, rather than a specific product.

If a user gives a photo a "smile," and the photo contains a picture of a girl wearing a bracelet, backpack, and sneakers while sitting on a roller coaster, it may be difficult to decide if the smiles are for the products—or for the roller coaster. And unless the promotion is for someone selling a roller coaster on Amazon, then it may not be working quite the way it was intended.

How Could Spark Work for Marketing?

From a Business-to-Customer perspective, Spark offers the advantage of actionable sales promotions by using “shoppable” photos. While Instagram marketing still requires an outside connection to get the user to your page, Spark takes the user directly to the Amazon product itself. (It remains to be seen if this will make be more likely or less likely to want to use this app.)  Either way, the added insight into competitor products and studying buyer interactions may help your marketing efforts.

One feature of Spark that may prove useful to some marketers is the voting option. Sellers can list two different product photos and ask users to “vote” on which product they prefer. For certain marketers, this could function as a form A/B testing at its most basic level.  

While the Business-to-Business marketing possibilities at this point are certainly less obvious, Spark may evoke opportunities for discovering influencers within a targeted niche. As well as squeezing out a bit more information on exactly what it is that people in your target market like and want.

“Discover things you’ll love from people who share your interests,” is the claim of Spark’s opening tagline. So far, a lot of the image offerings seem to be sponsored by brands, which might make them inherently less valuable, and usually less inspiring. Plus, the testing/promotion is still in early stages, only available to paid Prime members--and even then it’s not exactly easy to find.

But if Amazon can get people to use this app in the way they have intended, it may be worth keeping Spark on your marketing radar for future use.

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