Amazon Fire

The Tipping Point

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Amazon recently unveiled its smartphone Fire in the US. While little is being talked about its smart phone feature, what has caught everyone’s attention is the FIREFLY feature that comes with the phone.

At heart of the Firefly feature is product recognition. Click a picture of the product and the phone will give you all the product information as well as tell you where to buy it from. Listen to a song on your phone and Firefly will give you details of the song as well direct you to Amazon where you can buy it. The company claims that it has embedded over 1 million products into this feature. Small in comparison to the number of products available, but it’s a start and no doubt Amazon and 3rd party developers will be quickly moving in to surge this number upwards.

At heart, Firefly is an attempt by Amazon to bring mobile shopping closer to its estimated 250 Million consumers. At heart Firefly is an attempt to move into the growing mobile shopping market which industry estimates to be $18 Billion in the US alone.

However, at heart, Firefly is and will remain a significant tipping point in the way consumers shop and might forever change the retailing landscape globally.

Imagine this scenario in a not too distant future…

A user walks into a high street retail store, finds a product that he likes. Using Firefly’s instant recognition feature he pulls up details of the product. Using 3rd party developer apps the user finds where he can get the same product at a lower price and orders for it. Goodbye Amazon, Goodbye High Street retailing.

Will Amazon allow third party developers to develop apps that allow users to see product reviews and pricing information outside that of Amazon.com? If it doesn’t, it would be matter of time before an alternative technology driven app is created using similar technology. What will happen then is anyone’s guess. As the Walkman & the I pod revolutionized the way we carried our music around, the core feature of Firefly has the tipping advantage of potentially revolutionizing our shopping and the retail environment.

In a flat world scenario of the not to distant future you can bet there would be others offering shoppers the functionality of product recognition with shopping facility. How could standard brick and mortar retailers compete effectively against this?

As a marketer and advocate of technology I see immense possibilities in the future. Most CPG companies have large distribution teams whose sole purpose in life is to ensure a high level of stocking of the product on retail shelves. Would retailers be as comfortable in taking on stock pressure, when they find Firefly users using their store merely as a ‘touch-feel’ experience point? Or would retailers like Walmart and others get together and force companies to create retail variants of existing products that are only available at retail stores.

Or would some third party tech wiz kid create the equivalent of a mobile jammer or the M Spyapp that lets you control the Firefly app the minute you walk into a store?

Or would Amazon find itself on the receiving end of technology when developers create apps that allow users of Firefly to go visit cheaper online stores for the same product rather than buy it from Amazon?

The possibilities are endless. We have reached a tipping point.

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