Amazon launches new way to shop, with Instagram-like photo feed

Amazon must have wondered, “What’s the use of all this sharing on social media if there’s no shopping?”

Or maybe the thinking went like this: people like to socialize online, how can we use that to get their cash?

Amazon’s new move into social media is as much about selling products as it is about sharing.

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant on July 19 launched “Spark,” a social media feed devoted to sharing, shopping — and slightly stealthy advertising.

Starting on Spark requires users to select at least five interests from a list of about 100 that includes photography, cooking, makeup, music and, of course, cats. Amazon will then create a personalized feed.

Into that feed go photos and text that other users with the same interests have posted.

“This is an opportunity for people to discover new products that they might not have known about otherwise, and get product recommendations around interests that they have,” said Amazon spokeswoman Angie Newman.

Anyone with the Amazon app on an iPhone running iOS versions 9 or 10 can view and shop on Spark, but only Amazon Prime members can post.

Spark users who post photos can tag them to show goods that are in the photo or related to its contents and are sold on Amazon. A shopping bag icon appears on photos when items are available to buy.

For example, a July 19 post by “Wandering Backpack” depicted a woman wearing leggings, white crew socks and a sleeveless top, sitting beside a lake with hair cascading loosely down. Clicking on the shopping bag brought up links to buy leggings, white crew socks, a sleeveless top — and a hair iron.

This link, like many others, comes hashtagged with “sponsored.” Sponsored posts are from bloggers and “influencers” and Amazon pays them for the posts, Newman said, declining to disclose the rate of pay.

The items listed for sale represent what the user has tagged, and users may tag items that aren’t the same as the actual product but are similar, Newman said. So a photo showing someone in a rain jacket could be tagged with a specific brand and model of rain jacket, even if that wasn’t the exact garment shown in the image, Newman said.

Although the Spark photo stream resembles Instagram, Newman insisted that Amazon didn’t develop it to compete with any social media firms.

Photo: Screenshot of an iPhone with the Amazon Spark app (Bay Area News Group)


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