Brands should be worried about Amazon’s quiet seduction

Following the launch of Echo Look - Amazon's new, voice-activated personal assistant which rates your outfit and helps take your daily selfie - The Works' Tomas Haffenden explores why brands need to sit up and take some very detailed notes.

Amazon’s Echo Look (basically an Alexa with a camera) has been described as ‘a pretty good Instagram husband’, referring to its ability to take your daily selfie and post it online.

But Amazon’s aims for this little device stretch far further than just taking a photo. The Echo Look will also rate your outfit and learn your style. As we increasingly seek approval online, should brands be worried that Amazon, yet again, is positioning themselves in the middle?

Is this too tight? Which shoes work best? Is this work appropriate? For most of us, these are the questions that govern, the sometimes frantic, getting ready part of every morning.

For brands wanting to tap into crowdsourced opinions, they need look no further than #OOTD (outfit of the day).

Using this hashtag will flood your feed (regardless of channel) with a constant stream of images, from across the globe, which can then be sorted by likes and comments to see current, and predict future, trends. So what benefit is there in Amazon providing hardware to help you in both taking the perfect selfie and ensuring you are looking on point?

Amazon is positioning the Echo Look as a friendly style assistant that will learn your outfit choices and even allow you to compare two options with a percentage suggestion of which is best.

For the increasing number of us living alone, this will no doubt appeal, particularly to those who join the millions posting their #OOTD is part of a daily ritual.

In facilitating this essential need to post, all Amazon will gain in return is access, and in turn insight, into the most elusive and valuable part of the buying cycle, consideration.

Brands tracking #OOTD, and the numerous other forms of digital approval hashtags, must remember that they only get to see the angle-shot. That moment when the lighting and angle are just right, hiding the double chin but ensuring your cheekbones pop.

Access to the images that don’t make the grade throws far greater light on the consideration phase than using carefully curated insta-walls, Pinterest boards and Facebook posts. If a picture speaks a thousand words, imagine how much your un-posted, or deleted, photos have to say about you.

If Amazon is indeed going to capitalise on the access this little gadget could give them to the consideration phase, they will need to employ the same approach they have taken with Alexa. Step one is providing utility without a distinct and visible cost to the consumer.

Alexa is an excellent example of this. Patiently sitting until summoned and then responding diligently to your every command. It is easy to forget that in-between your request, and it’s (mostly) relevant response, is a package of data sent to the cloud for later analysis. Most people don’t seem to mind this cost, concluding that if it will improve Alexa’s ability to understand and respond then everybody wins.

With a steady increase in the use of #OOTD, and the like, it would seem the Echo Look is the perfect fit for the millions already exhibiting this behaviour. Amazon has managed to find yet another reason for us to, unquestioningly, allow it access to our lives.

In providing increasing utility through its diversified portfolio of hardware, Amazon is doing an excellent job of convincing us that they are just a manufacturer of useful voice-enabled tech gadgets. They are not. Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world.

As the largest online retailer in the world, it is important to remember that their primary driver is to sell you stuff and make money. The genius in Amazon’s current marketing strategy is that regardless of the device, they do not (currently) serve you ads nor pipe up with suggestions for things you can, coincidentally, buy on Amazon.

The Echo Look takes a slightly different stance and in doing so, perhaps hints at where Amazon is heading.

The companion app that comes with the Echo Look positions itself as a style assistant, rating your outfits side by side, storing and categorising your images for later and, if you opt-in, suggesting items it thinks match your style.

Purchasable on Amazon, of course. It is in these suggestions that the real power of being the middleman becomes most evident.

Just like Google’s dominance of the text search and the resulting billions it has made controlling what appears where and in what order, Amazon is fast becoming the controllers of voice search.

The primary difference between Amazon and Google is that Amazon owns an endless list of items that it directly benefits from you buying.

Any brand thinking about not joining the Amazon juggernaut need to remember what happened to those who didn’t recognise the importance of SEO, or worse, those that felt an online presence was not essential.

Despite not turning on the hard sell yet it is no doubt on Amazon’s roadmap, whether they like to broadcast it or not. It is essential then that both consumers and brands take note of these incremental invasions and start to consider what is possible with this level of access.

If the Echo Look is successful, it will assume the role of, not just picture-taker but far more importantly, opinion-giver. To marketers and the brands they represent, the role of trusted advisor is the highest ideal.

As the relationship we have with Amazon makes the transition from the lounge to the bedroom, from a passive responder to trusted advisor, we must consider if there is any way to escape Amazon’s quiet and persuasive seduction.

Tomas Haffenden is a digital producer at The Works.


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