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What Amazon Spark Means for the Future of Distributed Commerce

Amazon has played a critical role in the rapid transformation of the buying journey. Modern consumers, driven by a desire for convenience and personalization, have become Amazon loyalists, leaving many retailers faced with the challenge of maintaining their brand equity and retaining high-value customers. This year, Amazon has been particularly active, from its record-breaking Prime Day, to the announcement that the company will let customers try on clothes prior to purchasing them, to the bombshell acquisition of Whole Foods.

Last week, the brand continued to innovate, with the launch of Amazon Spark in its mobile app. While the feed is only available to Prime members, and in the United States (for now), it offers users a stream of shoppable photos taken by other users, which lead to featured items that are in-stock and on sale at Amazon. The play is consistent with the rise of distributed and social commerce, as consumers are now finding inspiration across all relevant channels and expecting the ability to make purchases. Social networks like Instagram (shopping) and Pinterest (Shop the Look) have launched their own shoppable functionality to help drive frictionless buying experiences for their users.

At Olapic, we believe that there exists a tremendous opportunity for brands and retailers, including Amazon, to tap into customers’ own content to help facilitate more authentic and less cumbersome buying experiences. Of course, Amazon presents a rather unique circumstance, as the platform is more of a retailer than a social network, at least to this point. So, what can we expect from Spark? How can Amazon drive relevant content to help support its growth and usage?

Advantage: Exceptional Purchase Logistics

The reality is that shopping on social media is still somewhat clunky, and no platform has yet been able to create a truly seamless experience. In this regard, Amazon has an enormous advantage compared to each of the social networks, as the company is a market leader and disruptor in e-commerce logistics and management. In order to enable effective shopping capability in Pinterest or Instagram, brands must integrate inventory information and a checkout process among other considerations. Amazon already has this functionality in place and can use it to differentiate from other providers.

Challenge: Building an Engaged Social Community

Certainly, where Amazon excels in its infrastructure, it will be challenged to activate an engaged social network that users will turn to in order to find product inspiration. Aforementioned providers like Instagram and Pinterest have the market cornered in this regard, and Amazon will need to find a way to play in the same space. Having such an enormous customer-base should help give them an opportunity. In fact, an estimated 64% of American households are Amazon Prime members. Without having to build the audience, Amazon must find ways to inspire them and shift their perception of the platform in its current state. With the proliferation of visual user-generated content happening across many channels, if Amazon can create interest of key segments, it can have a cascading impact on the rest of the community.

This won’t likely be an easy task, but there is reason to suspect that Amazon has a plan in place. Amazon is an exceptionally data-driven organization, and if they are rolling out this network in the United States, it’s because they probably have data that suggests it may work.

And if it does work, it could be a gold mine for influencers that could directly monetize their reach via Amazon’s affiliate program, something that has been more difficult for influencers on Pinterest and Instagram simply because brands aren’t as easily able to convert interactions to purchases. Over the next several months, it will be interesting to see how Spark resonates with users and online shoppers. It could turn out to be another Amazon experiment, but history would say that betting against Bezos is usually a poor strategy!


Image screenshot from Amazon Spark app, Stark in the Wild profile.