Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Amazon: Sneaky Fast

Sportscasters have a phrase they use to describe a major league pitcher whose lazy windup and delivery gives hitters no clue that a 94MPH fastball is humming their way: sneaky fast.

Lately that phrase has sprung to mind about Amazon, the ruthlessly efficient web retailer that effortlessly fires emails across my Gmail inbox and leaves me no time to wonder, “How did they know this would interest me?”

So it was yesterday morning when I found an email whose subject line, Free Today: Plants vs. Zombies Android Exclusive, notified me about an Amazon store I’m not sure I knew existed—or why.

Amazon selling Android apps?  Isn’t that what Google’s Android Marketplace is for?  And if you wanted to compete with Android Marketplace, how would you sell Android apps from the Amazon web site?  Everyone with an android phone knows you download them from your phone to your phone—no annoying web intervention required.

Was Amazon sneaky fast or was it hanging its pitches out over the plate?

(This intriguing question prevented me from asking myself an even sneakier one: how did Amazon know I had an android phone?  I’d bought mine at a brick-and-mortar Radio Shack.  More about that later.)

Get a Great Paid App for Free Every Day

I headed over to Amazon’s Appstore for Android (which promises “Get a great paid app for free every day”) and, as I eyed the zero dollar offer for the popular Plants Vs. Zombies adventure game, still couldn’t see how I was going to download it (or any other app in the store) to my phone.

Then I noticed the header Get Started in the right nav above an icon for the Amazon appstore app.

OK, I’m thinking, there’s an appstore app—but how do I get that on my phone?  Google isn’t going to permit Amazon to post an app on Android Marketplace that lets Marketplace customers shop the Amazon appstore instead.  (That competitive reality hasn’t stopped android phone users from visiting Android Marketplace to look for the Amazon appstore app.  Fire up Marketplace, enter the word “amazon” in the search tool, and the phrase “amazon app store”, presumably crowdsourced, appears in the drop down list of suggested search terms.  Pick it and you won’t be surprised when your results fail to bring up Amazon’s app.)

Only 8 Simple Steps

So while pondering the mystery of the appstore app icon I clicked on Amazon’s inevitable Learn more link.  Then watched the inevitable Get Started with the Amazon appstore for Android video starring a bespectacled metrosexual marketing genie named Paul Hochman.  And inevitably discovered that getting started involved “only 8 simple steps.”

Since Amazon’s marketers must have realized 8 simple steps might not sound simple enough, Paul quickly adds that “In fact, fewer than 30 seconds stand between you and thousands of apps for Android.”

If you’re now wondering whether Paul and his fellow marketeers work in an irony-free zone—most android phone users already know they can find thousands of android apps without having to bother following anyone’s 8 simple steps, or installing the Amazon appstore app—you’re not alone.

In fact, just about all the advantages Paul extols for the Amazon Appstore for Android apply to Google’s Android Marketplace: the ability to test drive select apps (which is what the free “lite” version of a paid app usually offers), get recommendations (Marketplace supplies plenty of starred user comments for any popular app), and buy using Amazon’s secure 1-Click payment technology (except in this case it’s Google’s 1-click payment technology).

But then Paul hit me again with the one sneaky fast advantage Amazon had thought of and Google apparently hadn’t: a great paid app free every day.

That’s something I’d never noticed browsing Android Marketplace.

Plants Vs. Zombies Vs. Android Marketplace

Sneakier still, its free Plants Vs. Zombies game app claimed to be an Amazon exclusive.  And sure enough, when I grabbed my LG Optimus V and dashed over to Android Marketplace I couldn’t find a free or paid version of Plants Vs. Zombies.

Amazon had done it again.  They’d found a brilliant marketing edge to jump start an Android app store that most executives would have said had no chance against Google’s firmly entrenched original. Indeed, by opening its own store Amazon can play off of Android Marketplace by promoting discounts and exclusives—such as its Plants Vs. Zombies offer.

And, of course, they’re free to formulate more agreeable terms for app developers.  At the moment it appears that Amazon’s Android Appstore requires a $99 program developer fee to sign up (which it waives for the first year) and offers members “70% of the sale price of the app or 20% of the list price, whichever is greater.”  Google charges a $25 registration fee and “the transaction fee is equivalent to 30% of the application price.”

Offhand I can’t figure out Amazon’s advantage in pegging its payments to either the sale price or the list price, since a list price would have to be arbitrarily high (and subsequently discounted to the sale price?) to make 20% more lucrative than 70%.  I also can’t find details about whatever incentives Amazon may offer to developers for securing exclusivity.

But none of that matters unless Amazon can convince the rest of us to follow their 8 simple steps.  For a free copy of a popular paid game app they’re clearly betting the effort is worth it.

And how did Amazon know I had an android phone?  A few weeks ago I’d bought some LG Optimus V accessories from Amazon Marketplace.  And as those Marketplace vendors know, Amazon’s sign-up terms entitle the retailing giant to all Marketplace customer data.

Amazon knows all, sees all, and wastes no time marketing accordingly.  Sneaky fast, man.

No comments:

Post a Comment