A Reversal in Shopping Habits?

Amazon's Firefly: Quick Product Recognition

Amazon’s Firefly: Quick Product Recognition

When Amazon launched its Fire Phone last week it touted the inclusion of Firefly, which is basically an easier way to access Amazon content. Amazon says: “Firefly combines Amazon’s deep catalog of physical and digital content with multiple image, text and audio recognition technologies to quickly identify web and email addresses, phone numbers, QR and bar codes, plus over 100 million items, including movies, TV episodes, songs, and products. ” A recent review defines Firefly as a function “that recognizes items via bar codes, covers, and Shazam-like music identification.”

But regardless of what you think of Firefly or Amazon’s new phone, the truth is is that we rely on online information, including but not limited to reviews and opinions, to make our own purchasing decisions and this isn’t limited to online shopping any more. Shoppers used to go to stores to see a product up close and talk to the salespeople about specs and features. Then they’d go to Amazon to purchase it because everything was cheaper there. It’s why book stores closed down and it’s why some electronic superstores went out of business.

Now, especially with the inclusion of local taxes, Amazon pricing is identical or even more expensive than stores. It seems like many stores have caught on to pricing norms and are staying on par with Amazon, even the more expensive brands. The new consumer behavior is to go to Amazon to read reviews and get recommendations for products, but then go to stores and purchase locally. Shoppers feeling lazy can even use local delivery services such as Google Express to fetch the products for them.

This reversal is interesting in what it shows us about shoppers. Do they value the convenience of online shopping? It is all about price? Is it about instant gratification? Is the variety of products so overwhelming that we need peers and experts to lead us? Do we need to physically handle some products before buying them?

I have no idea what the next generation of shopping apps will bring but I do think that Firefly is on to something. There’s a need for another layer of information when we shop and a quick product identification tool is a start. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Amazon had in mind, though.


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