Humans are curious beings. They want to explore and discover new information, which makes search an inherent behavior. "I view search as a mindset rather than a form factor," said Sargi Mann, EVP of digital at Havas Media. "Since we want to learn and explore, search seems like a natural part of our DNA. As humans evolve, so must search."
In the past year we have seen search evolve from an engine that humans learn from to an engine that teaches humans how to teach the machines. One such platform is Spark, Amazon's recently launched social network that looks a lot like Instagram and acts a lot like Pinterest. The biggest difference between searching for something in Spark and searching for something in Bing and Google, or Instagram and Pinterest, is that the consumer remains within Amazon's network.
Machine learning supports the Spark platform and will eventually serve up suggestions based on use. Mann calls Spark an "exploration engine" that will not only change the way people discover products, but will change the way marketers market their products.
In fact, Mann says the platform fosters a new behavior similar to the way Pinterest users look for information on the site.
It's not clear whether Amazon plans to offer paid advertising in Spark, but Mann sees the evolution of search feeding off three strong aspects in Spark: visual, influence, and immediacy.
The ability to shop from the platform gives brands an edge, Mann said. "In Instagram or Pinterest the person clicks on the image and gets sent to the brand's or retailer's website," she said. "In Spark the consumer goes to Amazon's marketplace."
This type of thinking has shortened the buying cycle. A click-through from Spark to Amazon's marketplace allows the consumer to purchase the product without going to the brand's website and have the product delivered within days.
Earlier this year, Amazon quietly launched an influencer program. Similar to the Amazon Affiliate program, Influencer offers commissions on products sold. The invite-only program remains in closed beta and is not open to the public.
Amazon's base continues to grow. Last week the company announced it had 50,000 open job requests. And in second-quarter 2017, during the earnings call, the company announced that its advertising salesforce has swelled 42%, compared with the year-ago quarter, which clearly identifies a new focus for the company.
Amazon will find some of that focus in Spark through influences. Within the Amazon mobile app, users will find a section called Programs and Features. Tap on Amazon Spark. To get started, the user selects five or more interests from a long list of possibilities such as Weddings, Technology, and Books. A list of photo posted by other users provides a starting point to browse, similar to what Instagram looks like. Tapping the picture enables he consumer buy the product.