Will Amazon Fire impact media on the high street?

Can Amazon's first smartphone and its intriguing shopping function disrupt the marketplace, David Benady asks.

Jeff Bezos’ plans to turn the world into a giant Amazon supermarket continues apace with the launch of the Fire – the company’s first smartphone.

At the unveiling, the Amazon boss showed off the device’s Firefly visual search function. This enables users to press a button, point the phone at a product, programme or song and then buy it from Amazon with one click.

If take-up is significant, it could become the media interface on the high street, with implications for those in the mobile space as well as traditional media such as outdoor and press.

The hope is to boost Amazon sales and transform the way we shop. Launching in the US this month, the Fire could take some time to reach the UK owing to li­censing and technological complexities.

The challenge is for Amazon to get people to ditch their iPhones or Galaxy handsets. But the retailer has had past success launching hardware, most notably the Kindle e-reader and the Kindle Fire tablet.

Scale will undoubtedly be the biggest challenge – whereas the Kindle was priced as close to cost as possible, making it accessible to more people, it appears that the Fire will be priced similarly to an iPhone, leaving questions over how willing people will be to switch from Apple to Amazon’s version of Android.

Omaid Hiwaizi, the UK chief strategy officer at the retail marketing specialist Geometry Global, is among those who believe the Fire could cause mass disruption. He points to four types of convergence coming together at once: real time, a shopper capability, cloud connection and a payment device. Hiwaizi also notes: "Amazon has a track record of getting products to scale."

If the Fire becomes hot property, it could change the way marketers try to reach people on the high street. Whichever retailer makes a success of visual search first could reap massive rewards.

It would change the process of showrooming, where shoppers view items in a store then buy them via their phones. Firefly could make Amazon shoppers’ first port of call. But, in reality, will the device prove as disruptive as Bezos hopes?


MAYBE James Chandler, global mobile director, Mindshare

"If you’re a big Amazon shopper, this could be hugely disruptive to mechanics such as near field communication and augmented reality – but these in themselves are still being established as new, scalable consumer behaviours."


MAYBE Lee Anderson, head of marketing, Primesight

"Perhaps this will be the revolutionary answer to shopping on your mobile phone and transactional behaviour via barcode, text, logo, image etc, but I’m not convinced. I wonder how competitive this will be up against entrenched competitors. "


YES Stefan Bardega, chief digital officer, ZenithOptimedia

"Amazon has been disrupting traditional retail for years by making the purchase process as frictionless as possible. This will mean higher response rates for advertisers, increased conversion rates for Amazon and a better user experience."


NO Julian Smith, head of strategy and innovation, Fetch

"Samsung and Apple dominate this market and I don’t think Amazon Fire will have a significant impact on market share. Marketers and advertisers are not going to need to change the way they plan or buy their media on the high street."