Shopping by Photos: Amazon Launches Spark

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After a few months of quietly testing its latest plan to take over the world, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) ¬†rolled out its latest social media feature — Spark, a shopping network where Amazon customers can post photos and stories about products they use and like.

As with nearly everything Amazon does, Spark is intended to deepen the connection between a customer and Amazon, first by presenting products in a familiar format — Spark mimics Instagram in many ways and Pinterest in some — and then by encouraging customers to sign up for Amazon Prime, the $99-per-year service that gives Amazon customers free two-day shipping and a host of other perks, including video and music streaming.

For now the feature is available only to Apple iPhone users who have downloaded the Amazon app and only Prime members may post to Spark. Anyone with the app may view the posts. Amazon plans to roll out a version for Android devices, but there are no plans (apparently) to make the service available on desktop or laptop computers.

When customers first sign up to use Spark, they are asked to select a minimum of five interest areas for which Amazon then creates a custom feed of “personalized content from other Amazon customers with similar interests.”

As customers scroll through their feeds, customer reviews and photos are displayed. If a product in the photo is available for sale from Amazon, a shopping bag icon appears in the lower right corner of the photo along with the number of items in the photo that can be purchased from Amazon.

Source: Amazon.com Inc.

Customers can simply shop from the photos. Click the shopping bag or the marked item and off you go to the product page.

The cool thing for Amazon is that the customer who created this photo, in addition to having bought the product, did all the promotional heavy lifting to attract new customers.

Whether Spark catches on or not does not detract from the fact that it is a very slick idea. If anyone is still wondering why Amazon is eating every other retailer’s lunch, just take a look at Spark.