Amazon last week announced the launch of what it is calling Inspire, which it describes as "an in-app shopping experience that gives customers a new way to discover ideas, explore products, and seamlessly shop from content created by other customers, influencers, and brands they love." Inspire is beginning its rollout this month to "select customers" in the US, "and will be available to all U.S. customers in the coming months."
Some details from the announcement:
"Customers no longer need to search elsewhere or comment on a post to get more details for products featured online; when they see an item in Inspire they can shop for it in real-time on Amazon. In just a few clicks, customers can tap on a video or photo to see product details including average star rating and reviews, color and style options, and price, and then add it to their cart."
"To get started, customers open the Amazon Shopping app and tap the 'light bulb' icon on the bottom navigation bar. Customers are then prompted to choose from over 20 interests like makeup, pets, gaming, to personalize their feed. Overtime, Inspire will learn more about a customer’s preferences through their interests and engagement to continue tailoring their feed of shoppable content … As the feature rolls out, Amazon plans to add more shoppable features, in-app functionality, and content, building an even more immersive shopping experience for customers."
TechCrunch calls it "something of a hybrid between TikTok and Instagram."
- KC's View:
The general consensus seems to be that this is Amazon's attempt to grab a little bit of that TikTok magic, using influencers as a way to direct and shape consumer behavior.
Entrepreneur writes: "Amazon has reportedly been testing this product since August … and it follows other major companies that have struggled to compete with TikTok — and went on to make a similar product — including Meta Platforms, which introduced its own short-form video platform on Instagram, called Reels.
"TikTok has maintained its strength even amid a difficult environment for its peers, with layoffs at companies from Meta Platforms to Twitter to Amazon. The company is reportedly still hiring, despite reports of an intense culture. It is also facing increased regulatory scrutiny."
Speaking of scrutiny…the Washington Post is reporting that "Indiana’s attorney general sued TikTok … claiming the Chinese-owned company exposes minors to inappropriate content and makes user data accessible to China, in one of the strongest moves against the social media giant taken by a state.
"Indiana’s lawsuit is the latest move to put TikTok and its parent company under scrutiny. As U.S. officials have sought to regulate TikTok, the platform in recent years has come under sharp questioning in Washington and been under investigation by a bipartisan group of attorneys general for its potential effects on youth mental health, its data security and its ties to China.
"Filing two lawsuits in a state superior court, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) argued that everything including people’s interests and their facial features are potentially accessible to the Chinese government. The suits claim that TikTok and its Beijing-based owner, tech giant ByteDance, have deceived consumers about their data security and suitability for young teens."
I know that Amazon didn't reference TikTok in its announcement … but this may not be the company it wants to be keeping.
The move probably makes sense in a number of ways, though, as Amazon looks to appeal to younger generations of consumers. I've never seen any data on this, but I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon's customer base is aging a little bit. It certainly happened to Facebook and Twitter, as kids moved away from those social media tools precisely because their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were using them. It isn't hard to imagine that this could happen to Amazon, too … probably more slowly, and probably not as precipitously (because there are, after all, some benefits in being "the everything store" - you have everything.)
I would point out that one of the key components of Inspire seems to be the enabling of Amazon to know even more about its customers than it already does. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, if Amazon does not abuse the privilege and people feel like they are getting value for their information. But I do think that if this gets out of balance, Amazon could lose at least some of the connection that it has to its shoppers, especially younger customers as other options emerge.
Remember - there's no such thing as an unassailable business model.