Amazon app update heralds opportunity for print

Darryl Danielli
Monday, February 10, 2014

Online retailer Amazon has launched an app update in the US that enables consumers to simply photograph a piece of packaging in a retail store or at home that will then link to the product on Amazon in move described as a major threat to traditional retailers.

Amazon flow
Amazon flow

Amazon Flow has been available as a standalone app for several years, and the ability to scan barcodes and compare instore prices against online rivals is nothing new. However, to support the addition of the image and text recognition feature to Amazon’s main app, the company has created an image database of “tens of millions” of US products enabling consumers to compare products instore or, in terms of groceries, at home and effectively make an Amazon purchase simply by taking a photograph on their smartphones.

“Now it’s been embraced by Amazon, anybody who doubted image recognition and interactive print was going to happen might want to think about washing their mouth out with soap and water,” said Peter Lancaster, founder of Documobi, an app-based image recognition platform that is similar in some ways to Flow.

The latest addition to Amazon’s digital arsenal is designed predominately for iPhones running iOS7 and has been described by several US reviewers as “superfast”. It’s currently only available in the US, but it could be launched in the UK in a matter of months, according to Lancaster.

“Amazon has proved that the image recognition technology works. Suddenly this is a massive threat to anyone who sells anything. It’s not about QR codes, it’s not about NFC, it’s not about augmented reality – this is what we’ve been saying for two years, now the brand owners and print industry will hopefully understand the threat and, more importantly, the opportunity,” said Lancaster.

According to Lancaster, while the technology will initially appeal to major retailers and brands, now it's been proven by Amazon it will inevitably trickle down to smaller organisations in a relatively short space of time, which could represent a significant opportunity for printers.

Lancaster admits that in some ways the Amazon launch couldn’t have come at a better time for his company, whose latest version of its eponymous interactive image recognition app works with v6 of DirectSmile's cross-media suite.

“What we can do is offer retailers an alternative to Amazon, so if they have their own retail app using and incorporate our technology they can make all of their stock interactive, drive people to special offers or drive relationships with individual consumers based on their information so their customers stay loyal to them,” he said.

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