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Empty Hands and Open Wallets: Amazon’s Amazing Little App

Dec 10, 2011

Don’t pay us, we’ll pay you.

That’s pretty much the simple genius behind a new marketing gimmick in the form of an app being launched today by Amazon, the online shopping goliath, and growing threat to brick and mortar stores everywhere.

Starting today, smartphone users will be able to use the company’s free Price Check app (available on iOS and Android platforms) to scan the bar code of items in stores, take their mug shots, and report their price comparison findings back to Big Bro….I mean Amazon. But here’s the best part. Even if customers walk – or click – away with nothing, Amazon will still give its faithful participants $5 or 5 percent of the value off up to three Amazon purchases.

Now, I don’t want to oversell this, but I have to say, I think this is a really great idea. There’s been growing buzz this year in marketing and consumer circles alike that mobile technology is finally coming into its own, maturing from being a cool toy to an everyday necessity. Tech blogs and mainstream media outlets salivate over the inching upward smartphone penetration rates, which stands as high as 63 percent in some US demographics and is approaching 30 percent as a global average. But dry statistics only tell part of the story. Anecdotes like Amazon’s promotional plan really underscore the rapid changes reshaping the mobile landscape.

Think of it like digital democratization. Consumers are being empowered to essentially do the marketing hard work that’s at the core of any successful company: finding out what your competition is offering and what they’re selling it for. Amazon’s approach turns this effort into an almost scavenger hunt or game. The dollar award amount is trivial, yet I’d suspect that at the height of holiday season shopping, it’s high enough to get shoppers to notice, and seek to save a few bucks on items they were already likely to buy for themselves or others on their wish lists. It’s also a very good way to till the digital soil for future, more expansive campaigns, or ones that rely on detailed message marketing tailored to specific shoppers and their typical buying habits.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and Amazon’s Price Check App $5 promotion will be over almost as soon as it begins, ending shortly before midnight. I’m sure everyone from Mom and Pop stores to the Big Boxes and everything in between will cry foul over Amazon’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers-like consumer takeover. But as a communications professional, and one who tries to keep her fingers on the digital pulse of the people, I can’t help but sing Amazon’s praise for an amazingly simple idea, made possible through some amazingly cool technology.

Happy hunting! The clock is ticking.

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