The merchandising business acumen of online retailer, Amazon, is something that has made it an industry stalwart, as far as shopping for products on the internet is concerned. On Wednesday, it released a new feature for the Amazon for iOS app, called Flow, which uses the camera to automatically identify real-world items.
Even though the visual search option has been there on the app since 2009, the new Flow feature is a huge improvement over the existing ‘Scan It’ and ‘Snap It’ feature. When a user switches on the Flow, it turns the camera on the iPhone into a scanner to scan real world products, instead of barcodes. It then cross-references the same with the Amazon database and provides a user with various purchasing options. It can do the same for multiple products simultaneously.
Amazon describes Flow as: “Flow is a new way to search for multiple products at the same time using your iPhone camera. Flow works best with packaged groceries, books, DVDs, and video games. Available for iOS7 only.”
What’s more, is that it can even do the same with household items and consumer durables that would normally have a user running to a store to purchase them. There are limitations, where it recognises logos of companies but is sometimes unable to differentiate between the products needed. A smarter option might also include having a user history of such products that are required regularly, to minimise errors. The concept as of now is not completely error-free but isn’t unimpressive either.
On the flipside, the real issue could be the local grocery and related consumer durable product selling stores who might be at the receiving end of the feature. As of now the feature is pretty accurate in guessing what the user wants. So, is it going to be the case of a new technology or feature further alienating people from the concept of interacting with one another? It is, to be honest, too early to comment on that. In fact, since Amazon offers the users the best buying options from a variety, it might even convert hardcore in-store shoppers who are used to bargaining to start using it.
Amazon on its part says that it does not wish to alter the concept of retail shopping but wishes to offer people an easier option to replenish items that are constantly bought.