Just as rumors started flying this past weekend about Facebook considering a purchase of Opera Software and launching its own phone, Amazon got its share of the rumor mill love. According to an AdAge report, the goliath of e-commerce and early leader in m-commerce is sniffing around for a mobile ad network. Jumptap is named as a possible target, but the report suggests others are being considered. With the recent hiring of Microsoft’s longtime mobile ad exec Jamie Wells, Amazon clearly is building some kind of mobile team.
Amazon buying a mobile ad network seems pretty much a no-brainer at this point. The company already has a growing ad business on its Web site, and last year started selling inventory from other people’s sites as well. It partnered with ad tech company Triggit to acquire inventory elsewhere and leverage its own massive data layer of e-commerce activity for targeting and re-targeting for its ad clients.
The promise of doing the same thing in mobile is too obvious and enticing to resist. Amazon already garners traffic to its suite of apps and mobile Web sites. The targeting points this company has are potentially staggering. In addition to purchase history on millions of customers, it is also one of the preferred in-store look-up apps for retail shoppers, so it can intercept consumers on the purchase path. Its growing and pretty good Prime membership has entertainment data on the millions already using its Instant Video offerings.
And of course, Amazon would have what no other mobile ad network has -- a tried-and-true fulfillment mechanism. It can bring users from inspiration to research to purchase within one of the most trusted cross-platform payment systems around. I daresay that for most of us, Amazon may have been the place where we made our first m-purchase.
But much like Facebook, Amazon’s mobile positioning is stronger than its current executions. The company says it redesigned its Web site to be tablet-friendly, but not so you can tell. It still suffers from a cluttered interface with too many tiny text links for a touchscreen. Its tablet apps also suffer from being too clever by half, with a tiled browsing approach that succeeds in pushing recommendations but is a bit too divorced from the familiar Web experience. The Kindle Fire, which I use mainly as an e-book reader, is actually less engaging an interface than the newer Google Play store. Most of the time it feels like an oversized smartphone with walls of icons and little design sense.
The Amazon smartphone app is to my mind its strongest mobile deployment. It makes searching easy, and the format of results is perfectly contoured to the small touchscreen. You are never more than a tap away from a level of satisfying product or review detail.
But what Amazon seems to have (at least for me) that Facebook does not is trust. Even as it moves into ad targeting and leveraging my data in a range of ways, the company given me a fair exchange of value. At most turns it personalizes the experience on a level that is more accurate and appealing than just about anyone else. It is an aid for discovery, and I rely on it as much as a source of product information and content as I do as a sales mechanism. In moving into mobile advertising, its strong suit won’t just be the data, but what the company demonstrably does with the data to my benefit.