May 28, 2003, 12:00 AM

Amazon’s newest technology twist to promote shopping

Amazon is making its new web services Software Development Kit 3.0 available to software developers, figuring they’ll think up ways to make money connecting consumers to Amazon.

Give Amazon.com credit for finding every way consumers can use technology to shop there. In its latest initiative, Amazon is making its new web services Software Development Kit 3.0 available to software developers, figuring they’ll think up ways to make money connecting consumers to Amazon.

One of the first such applications to market is a barcode scanner from Schaumburg, Ill.-based iPilot. The company sells the device for $39.99 to consumers who use it to scan barcodes on products, then use the scanned information to find out if the product is available at Amazon or an independent Amazon store. “We’ve made it so simple, the user doesn’t have to do anything other than scan and plug into their computer,” says Andrew Kaboff, director of sales and marketing for iPilot.

Consumers plug the iPilot scanner into a USB cable connected to their computers, which automatically launches a web browser while sending the scanned codes through iPilot’s servers to Amazon’s product database. Users receive a list of new and used units that Amazon is selling and their prices. Web services use XML and other data standards to let the iPilot system pull data from Amazon’s databases. Users can click on a product link for more information or to send the product into a shopping cart.

Kaboff says iPilot is talking with national retailers associated with Amazon who plan to add product codes to paper catalogs. Shoppers will scan the codes, call up products on their computers, then purchase them through an Amazon shopping cart.

The system is designed for sellers too, Kaboff says. People looking to sell products on Amazon can see what’s already on the site and prices. If the seller chooses to add the product to his site, the iPilot technology can transfer description and image from Amazon’s database of supplier product information to the site. IPilot expects to sell 50,000 scanners within 12 months.

Matthew Berk, analyst with Jupiter Research Inc., says it’s difficult to predict how valuable a product like the scanner will be to Amazon. For example, he says, using it to compare Amazon’s prices with discount stores’ could show the latter to have the better deal. But, he adds, someone could use the web services toolkit to arrange a new shopping site for Amazon’s consumer electronics, say, earning affiliate fees for sales forwarded to Amazon’s shopping cart. “This opens up Amazon’s product catalog to a huge number of merchandisers,” he says.

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