Have you heard of Amazon Spark?
In mid-2017, Amazon quietly released the platform with little fanfare, introducing a sort of Instagram-type social channel for Prime members.
For most sellers, promotion through various channels, including social media, is an important part of generating business. So we were curious to see how Amazon Spark would work out, and what implications it might have for sellers.
Here’s what we found out:
What is Amazon Spark?
Amazon Spark is a social platform designed to help people connect with those who have similar interests and facilitate product discovery. For now, it is open for Amazon Prime members to post and comment, although anyone can view the content.
Amazon’s aim is to have active shoppers engaged with the platform. Users can make posts such as photos that are tagged with interests and products (similar to Instagram), products and links. Users can also run comparison polls between two different Amazon products. They can tag up to five interests or categories per post.
Spark is different from other social platforms in that its aim isn’t to connect you with people whom you already know, but to expose you to new products which Amazon thinks you might be interested in purchasing. Remember, Amazon is basically a giant search engine, and with its capabilities, is capturing all sorts of data about you as a customer and your preferences. They’re in a unique position to ensure you see relevant posts on your feed.
To get to Amazon Spark, on your mobile app, go to the main menu, then select “see all programs.” From there, you will find the Amazon Spark platform listed.
How Spark is used
An examination of Amazon’s Community Rules, which apply to Amazon Spark, reveal that “solicitation” of business in various forms is definitely not permitted, with the following explicitly banned:
- Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your (or your relative’s, close friend’s, business associate’s, or employer’s) products or services.
- Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your competitors’ products or services.
- Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products, refunds, or reimbursements) or on behalf of anyone else.
- Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.
- Posting advertisements or solicitations, including URLs with referrer tags or affiliate codes.
In addition to these, “no brand or business may participate in the Community in a way (including by advertising, special offers, or any other “call to action”) that diverts Amazon customers to another non-Amazon website, service, application, or channel for the purpose of conducting marketing or sales transactions.”
Here’s what you can do though:
- You may post content requested by Amazon (such as Customer Reviews of products you purchased on Amazon or received through the Vine program, and answers requested through Questions and Answers). In those cases, your content must comply with any additional guidelines specified by Amazon.
- You may post an answer to a question asked through the Questions and Answers feature (but not a question itself) regarding products or services for which you have a financial or close personal connection to the brand, seller, author, or artist, but only if you clearly and conspicuously disclose the connection (for example, “I represent the brand for this product.”). We automatically label some answers from sellers or manufacturers, in which case additional disclosure is not necessary.
- You may post content other than Customer Reviews and Questions and Answers regarding products or services for which you have a financial or close personal connection to the brand, seller, author, or artist, but only if you clearly and conspicuously disclose the connection (e.g., “I was paid for this post.”).
So you can’t have a “business account” like how you might have a business page on Facebook or Instagram, however, as a Prime member personally, you could have an account and use it within the rules as a way of showcasing products.
Part of the potential attraction of Spark is that it presents a fully shoppable feed. If I’m scrolling through and think that a product I come across looks like something I’d like to buy, I can click on one of the product tags on the photo to be directed straight to the product page. This means that users can shop Spark without leaving the Amazon application.
How is Amazon Spark working out?
At the point of writing this, it’s been a few months since launch, and so far, agencies, influencers and brands have been reporting that it doesn’t seem to be catching on quickly. To be fair, the sample surveyed for the Digiday story was only eight agency buyers and two influencers, so you be the judge as to whether that’s an adequate survey to determine the popularity of the platform.
Currently, Spark is only open to Prime members, of which there are an estimated 90 million in the USA. Amazon hasn’t exactly made a big push to get those members joining Spark at this stage, in fact, many probably aren’t even aware that the platform exists.
It’s still in the early days, but it remains to be seen whether the platform grows in popularity. (Other social platforms have taken a while to catch on – Twitter took about two years to reach one million users, Facebook took 10 months, and Snapchat around nine months). What we do know is that Prime members tend to be voracious consumers, so, if more broadly publicized, the idea of a social channel for shopping just might catch on.
Can your business leverage Spark?
As a business, you have to work within those rules outlined earlier. It is unclear at this point whether there are any plans to allow businesses to directly operate on Amazon Spark, but you can certainly leverage the platform in other ways.
As an FBA seller, you’re probably also a Prime member, right? Going by Amazon’s community rules, it appears that you could create posts related to your products, as long as you disclose your connection to the company in the post. (For example, the tag #sponsored has been popping up on posts).
Otherwise, you could leverage Spark through:
If you have the capital available, you could pay an influencer to showcase your products, much like people do for influencers on Instagram. They would have to make it clear that they have a sponsorship relationship with your company in order to meet Amazon’s requirements.
Amazon reportedly has an “on-site associates” program in place, which is currently open only by invitation. The program entails Amazon paying people to publish “quality content”, including on the Spark platform. If your brand can hook up with an on-site associate, this would be another way to go about leveraging the platform.
Use it to monitor products
As a business, you can certainly use Spark as another tool in your arsenal to monitor product popularity, or potential up-and-coming products or categories. Look out for posts that are getting a lot of engagement and follow key topics and influencers related to your brand.
As mentioned, it’s still early for Amazon Spark, so keep it on your radar to determine whether it’s worth taking further action with the platform. One thing to note is that attribution will be difficult, because while you can monitor things like “smiles” (their version of “likes”) or comments, you can’t at this stage monitor further data such as clicks or purchases.
Will Amazon Spark be worth a second look for brands? At this stage, we honestly don’t know, but would suggest that it’s something you should at the very least be monitoring.
It may be worth using your personal Prime account to experiment with Spark, just remember to stay within Amazon’s community guidelines when posting. Anything related to your brand should be clearly attributed so that people know you have the relationship.
Our overall evaluation for now would be “watch this space.”