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Because Amazon is basically in charge of everything, we would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge its effects on the marketing industry as a whole. Across nearly every product and service category, marketers and advertisers are experiencing a revolution in the way they conduct business, revising their strategies to ensure that they fit with Amazon’s platforms, capabilities, and restrictions.

For example, product manufacturers increasingly devise sophisticated campaigns for the product pages on Amazon’s main site. The expanded, detailed information and editorial content seek to provide browsers with more insights into the offering, and attractive photographs give the pages the feel of glossy magazine spreads. To encourage more consumer reviews, marketers also have come up with innovative incentives. Company representatives encouraging new product tests carry portable devices these days, so if a willing customer enjoys the new trial, whether in the grocery store or at a farmer’s market, he or she can not only purchase the item but also review it, on the spot, on its Amazon page.

The influence spreads far beyond this increasingly common channel though. New marketing innovations are emerging for the Echo service, such that Alexa can prompt consumers to purchase various items. The device might suggest replenishment of a previously ordered item, facilitate the purchase of a tool that the shopper is missing for a DIY project that she or he has asked Alexa to provide instructions for completing, or even recommend alternatives to consistently purchased products and brands. Through its expanding applications, Alexa also can suggest service recommendations and place to-go orders at nearby restaurants.

On Amazon’s new commercially oriented social network Spark (which seeks to combine the recommendations of Pinterest with the ease of Instagram), it remunerates influential social media actors for posting their submissions, suggestions, and reviews. On their feeds, users can tag the products that appear in their posts, linking to the sale page on Amazon. Followers then can click through to make their purchases.

In response to these growing opportunities, various consulting firms are developing departments dedicated expressly to optimizing brands’ presence across Amazon. Such firms can work with Amazon’s Media Group, which itself is a dedicated advertising arm that promises to help partners improve their standing in the “Amazon ecosystem,” such as by revealing when consumers view their product pages, what location on the page prompts a click, and which customers buy. However, these sophisticated algorithms also can threaten to undermine any firms that are unprepared. For example, if a manufacturer asks Amazon to promote one of its products but then cannot keep up with demand, it will be penalized and is unlikely ever to receive such preferential treatment by the retailer again.

Another concern arises with regard to consumer privacy. If Amazon is granting advertisers in-depth information gleaned from its channels, will Alexa inappropriately guide buyers to purchase Brand X over Brand Y, regardless of whether it is a better option for the consumer?

But despite these issues, the trends by which Amazon is reinventing marketing appear inevitable. More than half of all consumers now start their product searches on Amazon, meaning that it is the first (and often only) stop they make. If marketers fail to access shoppers there, they are unlikely to succeed anywhere.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How is Amazon changing the face of marketing?
  2. What long-term effects can you predict, associated with these changes and innovations

Sources: Sapna Maheshwari, “As Amazon’s Influence Grows, Marketers Scramble to Tailor Strategies” The New York Times, July 31, 2017; Jack Marshall, “Amazon Lures Publishers to New Social Network by Paying Them to Post,” The Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2017