Amazon, along with all other book retailers and a variety of device manufacturers, are faced with a most disruptive competitive threat to their eBook business to date, the April 3 US release of Apple’s iPad. Amazon is turning to app marketing to defend their competitive position.
Defending and Growing Their Core Business, Books–There’s an App for That
Amazon and other book retailers, like Barnes and Noble, are in the business of selling books, not selling devices. Apple is in the business of selling devices, not selling books.
Armed with this knowledge, Amazon has launched Kindle for the PC and Kindle for the iPhone. Think of the Kindle for iPhone as a consumer’s “eBook store for iPhone/iPad” more so than Apple’s owned and operated e-Book store. This is a smart move by Amazon’s marketing team.
Recent research conducted by W3i shows 50% of respondents indicate that they have an interest in using an application to aid in the discovery of books. Amazon introduced Kindle for iPad March 22, integrating with the Kindle bookstore and making more than 450,000 Kindle books available through its Kindle app. Able to sync with Amazon’s servers, Kindle for iPad makes it possible for you to continue reading on a PC, Mac, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Kindle e-reader. Amazon will continue to grow by knowing their strength, selling books, and making sure that their content is available in emerging platforms—like Apple’s iPad. Barnes & Noble has already jumped on this bandwagon with the anticipated early April release of their eReader app for the iPad. Other book retailers will be wise to follow suit and use app marketing to their advantage.
It is important that app marketers consider what utility is provided by the apps they are developing and marketing. Amazon did a fantastic job with their PC and mobile apps versus their Kindle eReader. (I own a Kindle 2, and I rarely use it. When I am traveling, I’m much more likely to carry a pocket device like an iPod Touch, and when I am at home, I am much more likely to use my laptop PC.) I’ve used both the Kindle for PC and the Kindle for iPhone apps for a couple of months now, and I’ve found both to be very fast, easy to use, and well thought out. After I installed the Kindle for PC on my laptop, I tried out its “free sample” feature and skimmed through a few pages of Chris Anderson’s “Free” book, which is one of my all-time favorites. Unlike the Windows iTunes app by Apple where most of the navigation of content itself is within the app causing it to be very slow at times, most of Amazon’s desktop app is built by calling back to Amazon’s web technology while still managing the eBook files locally on my machine. This makes for a much faster, enjoyable experience. Next, I installed the Kindle for iPhone app on my iPod Touch. I purchased the book “The Quants” by Scott Patterson, and read it while on vacation with my family in Orlando. Amazon’s website, iPhone app, and PC app are all synchronized through their “Whispersync” technology. Kudos to Amazon for having a truly synced up, multi-channel strategy that creates great utility for its users.
Finding Alternative Distribution Channels-Mobile
Now that Amazon and other brands have very user-friendly mobile and PC apps, they need to find solutions to market their apps to the masses. Last month, my Clickz column discussed a variety of ways marketers could find alternative distribution models for mobile, including rebates, free-for-a-day, free for virtual goods, and cross-promotion in app advertising. One example would be to use W3i’s Apperang service which provides users with small cash incentives to try quality apps.
How might Amazon push their Kindle for iPhone app more aggressively?
One of the most common distribution tactics used by top mobile app marketers is to get top ranking in the App Store. As I read recently, “You don’t call Apple, they call you.” I doubt Amazon will be getting a call from Apple to give them free publicity on the AppStore. Amazon needs to use a variety of other consumer application marketing tactics:
- Advertising – go old school with traditional advertising; an expensive tactic, but it can work.
- Download exchange – optimize ad campaign performance with mobile ad networks like Admob.
- Word of mouth – make it easy for friends to engage.
- Social buzz – expand your app’s horizons through viral market on existing social media such as blogs, Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook.
- Review sites – get app ratings and reviews on sites like AppShopper, iUse This, AppVee, and Apple iPhone School. Let positive reviews to do the work for you.
Finding Alternative Distribution Channels-PC
One very effective application marketing tactic currently employed by Amazon is sponsored search.
However, there are limitations to search marketing; a major limitation being the lack of volume available in many new product categories. Amazon is also using In-house promotion tactics by heavily advertising new Amazon apps on their already highly trafficked and successful website.
How might Amazon push their Kindle for PC app more aggressively?
- PC OEM Deals – expand relationships with channel partners. Ever heard the phrase, “enemies of your enemies are your friends” from Art of War? Most PC manufacturers are very concerned about the growth of Apple’s market share in the desktop and laptop market, the smartphone market, and now with iPad and Netbook sales. Even if the iPad is a smashing success, total unit sales are not going to come close to all other devices.
- Cross promotion- similar to Tapjoy in mobile, Amazon could contract with cross promotion companies like W3i.
- Affiliate marketing – Amazon is a pioneer in affiliate marketing. If they are not already doing so, adding apps to their affiliate program could boost distribution.