Big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy have already become “showrooms” for Amazon customers. Now, Amazon’s recently debuted Fire Phone will make it even easier for consumers to find and order items from Amazon that they have gone to a brick and mortar store to physically inspect.
Among the many bells and whistles included with the new phone is a feature called Firefly. The app enables users to snap photos of physical objects, the software finds the item in Amazon’s inventory and it can then be added to the user’s wish list or ordered to their door. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrated the feature June 18 at the product’s unveiling in Seattle by photographing a jar of Nutella and other household items. The phone has a special Firefly button, allowing shoppers to buy items with the press of a button.
Bezos said that Firefly can identify more than a hundred million things, including movies and songs. How well this works remains to be seen, but the technology has the potential to help Amazon sap even more market share from traditional retailers.
Amazon has rapidly climbed up the National Retail Federation’s ranking of the country’s largest retail businesses, rising from 25th in 2008 to 11th in 2013. According to a 2012 story by Wall Street Journal reporter Ann Zimmerman, half of online shoppers check out a product at a physical store first. With Firefly making it as easy as humanely possible to find and order items from the real world on Amazon, Bezos has hammered another nail into the coffin of physical retailers.