Clicks and mortar
Amazon are launching a programme to put small businesses on the high street with a series of pop-up shops. Run in partnership with Enterprise Nation, Amazon's Clicks and Mortar initiative, will open ten stores across the UK in which 100 small online businesses will trade on the high street for the first time.
The year-long pilot begins with the first shop on St Mary’s Gate, Manchester. More will follow in Wales, Scotland, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the South East.
Each Clicks and Mortar concept store will provide customers with the opportunity to discover and buy a unique range of products from over 100 small businesses – everything from homeware and health and beauty products to food, drink and electronics. The up-and-coming UK brands have all built successful online businesses with the support of Amazon, and now have an opportunity to explore high street retail for the first time.
The pilot programme will explore a new model to help online businesses experience the high street while highlighting the benefits of combining in-store and online retail.
An independent research firm has also been commissioned to produce a detailed analysis of the pilot programme’s impact and will submit its findings to the Government, following the call for new ideas to inform the Future High Streets strategy.
Amazon's aim is to provide small businesses with the space, technology and support to experience physical retail for the first time while enabling customers to discover new brands.
`In another attempt to improve discoverability on the platform, Amazon have launched Stylesnap, an AI-powered app that helps you shop around. StyleSnap is similar to Pinterest Lens and Snapchat's Visual Search, but more powerful.
To use, shoppers open the Amazon App and click the camera icon in the upper right corner and select ‘StyleSnap’. After that, you can take a photo or a screenshot of the outfit you like and the feature will send you recommendations for the similar items you can find on Amazon. This will make it easier to recreate the look you saw in a magazine or on social media.
StyleSnap also features high-profile bloggers and influencers who curate collections and make recommendations on items to buy on the platform. These influencers are rumoured to be paid up to 10% commission on the items they recommend from Amazon's private label line.
So how does it work?
Identifying what is going on in a photo is not easy for a machine, so Amazon employs the use of computer vision and deep learning to identify the items in a photo regardless if the photo showed a person just posing in front of a white background or reading a book in a cafe. Amazon feeds the neural network many images so it can learn to differentiate between a skirt and a kilt and shirts and T-shirts.
With this innovation, Amazon is tapping into shoppers' interest in the visual aspect of shopping and the need to get inspiration and affirmation from influencers. And with more than 560 million products listed on its platform, Amazon has a huge range of visual product examples to match with, which makes it a valuable addition to their ecosystem.
AR Lipstick coming to Amazon
For the first time, Amazon are enabling shoppers to virtually try on make-up before purchasing. Amazon are integrating L'Oreal's artificial intelligence technology into the platform in the US and Japan.
The AI technology works by using the shoppers front-facing camera to digitally sample thousands of lipstick shades in a live video or on a selfie. The simulation of make-up shades is done automatically, based on an AI-powered analysis of information provided by beauty brands and images of the product on social media.
The shopper can save their photos on their mobile devices to share with friends before making a direct purchase.
Whilst augmented reality (AR) try-on's are nothing new in the category, it's arrival on Amazon has the potential to bring AR trials to a significantly wider audience. If successful, this technology could be rolled out to other beauty products e.g. nail polish.
Delivery drones coming in months(US)
Amazon will launch self-piloted drones capable of delivering packages to US customers in 30 minutes or less in the coming months. Amazon did not give an exact date for when services would begin or say where the drones will be making deliveries.
Amazon said its new drones use computer vision and machine learning to safely navigate static and moving objects like power lines, clothes lines and paragliders. The drones are fully electric, can fly up to 15 miles (24km), deliver in 30 minutes and carry goods that weigh up to 5lb (2.3kg), like a paperback book or toothpaste.
The final hurdle is to get regulatory approval, which they expect will be given in the coming months. Amazon are working with several regulatory agencies, including the Federation Aviation Authority. In April, Google won approval from the FAA to make drone deliveries in Virginia, so this is not expected to be a problem.
Drone delivery is yet another move by Amazon to reduce the time and cost of delivery of small items, from click to brick.