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The value of attention: How retailers can respond to Amazon’s latest patent

With all the Christmas and holiday hubbub, an interesting bit of tech news may have slipped under your radar:

Amazon, the customer experience trendsetter

Amazon has been awarded a patent which could have significant implications for ecommerce retailers. Their new tech, patented at the end of October, will reward customers for watching product-related videos by reducing the price of the product by a set amount for every few seconds that the customer is engaged.

The patent primarily refers to advertising content; however, it also contains parameters for content in general, leading to speculation that Amazon’s soon-to-launch product videos might be included in this program.

The new feature can be embedded on various pages of Amazon’s website, and will allow customers to choose whether or not to watch the video, whilst informing them of the savings that will accrue the longer they do so. As they watch, the customer will be able to see the price change dynamically on the page. The videos can even be embedded offsite or within search engine results, with a link back to the product page.

It’s interesting to see Amazon recognising the importance of customers’ time and attention – and rewarding it – in such a tangible way. Of course, it’s not just any attention they’re interested in. Consuming instructional content and product reviews is a major indicator of purchase intent.

For a customer, it could feel as though Amazon is rewarding you for being a smart shopper – for checking out all the available product information before buying. We expect this new mechanism will drive a lot of conversions for the ecommerce giant. 

Of course, it’s not a silver bullet for sales – there are ways this approach could fall down. For one thing, it seems that the videos shoppers will be presented with, at least in the early stages, will be primarily advertising content. Being paid, in a sense, to watch ads could come off as a bit manipulative, or less authentic.

Even if the content is more educational than salesy, it’s hard to predict how customers will react, without seeing the whole process in action. How will they feel about their attention being commoditized in such an obvious way? And what happens if Amazon decides that some people’s attention is worth more than others’, depending on spending habits or behaviour?

To answer these questions, we’ll simply have to wait and see. Still, it’s an exciting development in the world of ecommerce – albeit one that will leave many retailers wondering: How will we compete?

It’s a good question. There’s no opportunity to copy Amazon’s approach exactly – the new tech is patented, after all.

But, there is a way retailers can adopt this concept of incentivising attention… at least for their loyalty program members. Earlier this year, we released a feature for Horizon allowing brands to award points to loyalty members based on a range of activities. Among these activities? Interacting with the brand’s content.

That means retailers (or other businesses) can award loyalty points to members who have watched a product video, read a blog post or engaged with any other piece of content. These points can then be used to unlock a discount, promotion or other reward (we generally recommend experiential rewards, to discourage price-conscious behaviour).

Of course it’s not quite the same as watching the price drop as the video play bar fills up – but then it might feel a little more authentic, particularly if your videos (or other content) have more of an entertaining or educational lean.

In a noisy, information-heavy world, customers’ attention is a valuable commodity, particularly when that attention is focused on activities that signal buying intent. We’re looking forward to seeing how this new tech plays out for Amazon in the new year.

And if you’d like to have a go at rolling out something similar for your loyalty members, drop us a line or give us a call – we’d be happy to discuss the possibilities.

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