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November 14, 2011

Amazon news roundup - SMS, Browser Bar, Fire, Prime, Augmented Reality - phew!

There's been a ton of interesting news out on Amazon this week and some of it has been under the radar because of the Fire excitement, so while we all wait patiently for our Fire's to arrive, here are the highlights.

  • New Prime analysis from JPM
  • Kindle Fire orders up to over 5m?
  • Amazon SMS messages
  • Amazon's new toolbar
  • Amazon Flow - bringing augmented reality to e-commerce

New Amazon Prime analysis from JPM

ChannelAdvisor came out with our Amazon Prime analysis a while back and we believe there are 10-12m Prime members as of Q311. Doug Anmuth over at JP Morgan has an interesting Amazon Prime analysis out this am.  He took Amazon's Q3 disclosed shipping revenue and costs.  Using this approach (which is much different than our approach) he comes up with 13.2m Prime users.  He also believes there's a 3X bump in Prime subscriber purchases (we see it as more of a 4x).

This table does a great job of summarizing his analysis->

Amzn_prime

Doug also puts a 5% Prime attach rate to Fire (I think that's low), and that could add 1.2-2.6m new Prime subscribers in Q4 alone.

Kindle Fire orders up over 5m?

When Amazon announced the Fire, we came out with our 5m units in Q4 prediction based on the dual win of price and Kindle branding/family recognition.  Many analysts thought that number was pretty crazy and we took some heat for it.

Flash forward 60 days and now we have most stock analysts at 5m units, with several in the 6-7m unit range. Also this news item came out of Digitimes which is a publication that follows the electronics supply chain:

Amazon has recently increased its Kindle Fire orders to more than five million units before the end of 2011 as pre-orders for the machine remain strong, according to sources from upstream component suppliers.

Amazon SMS messages

This one isn't going to materially move the needle, but I wanted to point it out because it illustrates how Amazon is always polishing the consumer experience.  A while back I was tracking an Amazon package and noticed the option to enter the "Amazon Text Trace SMS Test".  I entered that program and it simply gave me the option to be notified of shipping updates via SMS:

Sms_shot1

What's awesome about this is that instead of an email (I get too many already), I get a message right on my phone whenever something ships, arrives, and essentially changes status.  Along the way they always give you the opportunity to get more information on your package through hot links.

Here's what the phone experience is like:

Sms_phone

Note that the tracking number is a live link for more information.  This is my Kindle Fire which is happily on its way!

Amazon's new BrowserBar

Browserbar_1

I have to admit that I was at first scratching my head when I heard that Amazon had a new toolbar for browsers, called Amazon Browser Bar (you can learn more here), then I installed it and after playing around with it, think this is a pretty clever next gen toolbar.  It is very useful on the PC web if you are in the Amazon ecosystem/prime user, but it could also be something they push down to the Kindle Fire (heck maybe it's already there and this is a PC version - won't know until tomorrow).

Here's what it looks like when you install it (Firefox only for now):

Browserbar_2

Here are the various items in the Browser Bar from Left to Right:

  • Amazon Button - quick access to your Amazon stuff - account, orders, kindle books, music, etc.
  • Today's deals - Quick access to deals going on Amazon.
  • Best sellers - Puts Amazons Window Shopping experience right in your browser toolbar (more below)
  • Wish List - Universal Wish List (more below)
  • Related items - more below
  • Search amazon/web - e-commerce search
  • A button- let's you configure the search functionality

The cool part of this BrowserBar is how it essentially makes sure you don't shop anywhere but Amazon, if it makes sense.

The 10 Best Sellers feature allows you watch the top sellers on Amazon - all-in or by category.  Here's the electronics category for example:

Browserbar_3

I like to keep an eye on top selling items as it can be a great way to track new books, music or gift ideas.

Next, the Wishlist allows you to wishlist any item on the internet and of course Amazon uses that as an opportunity to have you buy that at Amazon.  In this example, I was looking at a toy on Walmart.com and the browserbar made it easy to add it to my wishlist.

Browserbar_4

All of that is standard kinds of stuff you've seen in Browser toolbars before.  Here's where it gets cool. The BrowserBar is context-aware.  I was looking for a sports toy on Walmart.com and the BrowserBar noticed (click to enlarge and look at the area just below the toolbar) that Amazon has the product for $150 vs. Walmart at $168.  It does this for any website I tested.

Browserbar_5

Finally, not only does this work for standard e-commerce type stuff, but I was on google, searching for the latest Red Hot Chili Peppers album and 'pop', the Amazon Browser Bar detected what I was doing, set off the red 'related items' section and thus notified me they had something for me.  I clicked and sure enough, the bar saved me time to find this item.

Browserbar_6

Toolbars like this are only as good as their distribution so it will be interesting to see if Amazon scores a Firefox partnership or OEM deals with PC companies (hey maybe all PCs sold on Amazon should have this?) going forward.

Amazon Flow - Augmented Reality meets E-commerce

Amazon, via their A9 R+D arm, quietly launched a new mobile app that adds a really interesting new capability to their family of mobile apps.  The app is caled 'flow' and it is an interesting mariage of two types of mobile apps:

  1. e-commerce /bar code scanners - these are pretty well known and commoditized these days.
  2. augmented reality - you may not have played with any of these - Layar and Yelp are my two favorite.  Essentially how these apps work is you look through your phone's camera and then they add content to what you are seeing.

Here's how flow works.  In this example, I had a toy and flipped it over to see the barcode. Before I could do anything, Flow scanned the barcode and then hovered a product information pane right over the product.  From there I could click on the arrow for more info, or click on the buy now button.  Admittedly that's not too different from a RedLaser type experience, but what's nice is having it persist right over your camera and the scanner is amazing.

All of these little blue dots zoom over your image and find products to search - very cool and Terminator-esque.

Amzn_flow_toy

Next, I tried a book.  I placed the book on my desk and looked through the Flow and bam - it found the book instantaneously (Note: I didn't scan a bar code here, it found the product from pure image recognition!).  In this example, it even allows me to watch a little video in real time which is cool.

Amzn_flow_book1

Finally here's what it looks like for a book where you don't have the video.  It's pretty neat to be able to look at the product reviews and everything in real-time.

Amzn_flow_book2

 

Tomorrow is Fire Day!

That's all the news to report this week, tomorrow I'll be sharing some early observations from the Fire.

 

SeekingAlpha Disclosure - I am long Google and Amazon. eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor where I am CEO.

 

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