Amazon ventures into social networking?

Amazon launches its new social networking interface Spark but it is still too soon to see the implications of this move by Amazon into a new sector.

Editorial

Selling e-books, opening supermarkets, making smart speakers…Jeff Bezos and Amazon have proven to the world yet again that the statement “as long as you can dream it, you can do it” is true. This time, Amazon has once again made a move into the social media sector.

According to Reuters, Amazon has recently rolled out Spark, a new social networking service. From its fundamental functions, Spark seems a lot like Pinterest or Instagram. On the platform, users can display or keep a record of products they are interested in and use direct links to later purchase the products on Amazon.

Currently, this function is available only to users of Amazon Prime who access Amazon from its iOS application. It has yet to be confirmed when this function will be made available to Android users.

Amazon’s spokesperson said recently that first-time users of Spark can indicate five areas of interest so that Spark’s system can churn out search results according to consumer preferences.

This system is similar to many other systems that also use Big Data in their digital marketing. However, in terms of its social functions, Spark’s interface is comparatively simpler than its counterparts. Users are not able to search for or add friends but instead can only rely on observing the activity of other users to get information around.

After using Spark, some users have also reflected that a large portion of photographs on the interface seems to be taken by professionals and there is not a strong presence of the lay consumer.

 

Just for the traffic

From such a perspective, it seems Amazon’s new venture into the social networking sector is not so much for the sake of breaking into the new sector itself but rather to create more traffic for its e-commerce platforms.

This, however, is not a novel idea. Whether it is Amazon, an e-commerce platform, taking a step into the world of social networking, or Instagram, a social media-networking platform, venturing into the sector of e-commerce, recent years point towards a trend of social networking and e-commerce converging as we move into the future.

In this age of mobile internet networks, user traffic has been diverted from the traditional search engines and portals of the PC era to that of social media, e-commerce, gaming networks and more. However, success merely in the area of diverting user traffic does not signify sustained success in time to come. The need to continually work on strengths and focus on expansion and integration is key. Increasing social network functions and raising content quality to attract users has become a large strategy of many e-commerce platforms today. For example, Alibaba and JD.com have both expanded to include live and short video functions to give their e-commerce strategies an extra push.

How far will Amazon take Spark?

Shifting our focus back onto Amazon’s Spark, the market has yet to test how much real transformation it can bring. Even if it can now help consumers to screen search results according to their preferences, applications like Instagram and Pinterest already serve such a function.

Still, with Amazon’s huge and established consumer base, Spark is set to get large amounts of consumer traffic thanks to its parent company. Taking into account Amazon’s various other business platforms, the potential for diverting traffic to this new platform is promising.

However, the key lies herein: how far will Amazon take this? Is Spark merely Amazon’s guinea pig product in its venture into a new sector? Or is it merely a way Amazon is making up for its shortcomings?

In the short run, Amazon’s Spark might just serve the function of being an additional billboard for Amazon’s e-commerce platforms. A more personalised display with more accurate recommendations by consumer preferences would perhaps make consumers keener to take a leap and try something new.

Currently, Spark is still just a service offered within the original Amazon application. Whether it will become an independent application in the future is yet to be ascertained. With Amazon reaching into various areas at once, it will still take a while before we can see whether Amazon will really carve its own niche and become a player in the sector of social networking.