Amazon has been working to expand advertising for established and new brands sold on its website to include free samples provided to users chosen by AI algorithm based on their preferences and history, Axios reports. A pilot for the program has reportedly already been running for some time and, based on a recent job listing with the company, could be used to augment the company's current advertising strategies. Through the program, Amazon would be offering a way for brands to put their products in consumers hands with the goal of increasing conversion rates through raised brand and product awareness. That's based on the idea that seeing advertised products in use in the real world tends to lead to sales of the item. Terms of the program are reported to indicate that Amazon would foot the bill for delivery of products once they arrive at 'designated' Amazon locations.
Advertisers would be responsible for getting those there and wouldn't be in control of who the products are sent to. An AI algorithm that is most likely very similar to the one already used in Amazon's advertising would be responsible for making that decision. In fact, the entire process, aside from portions of jobs related packaging and shipping that are still handled by humans would be taken care of by the AI. That would be intended to take some strain off of advertisers and others who want to take part in the program but who don't have the logistics to work out those details. Those companies could focus instead on exactly which products they need to sell more of and the agreement would enable Amazon's AI to put more of a given item in the public sphere once the items are available to ship from an Amazon warehouse. It would also likely save Amazon money, making the program more feasible. Customers would be unaware too up until the point at which the package containing the free sample arrives.
Competing through a more traditional but less common approach
The process is not entirely different from methods that have been widely used in the past, most commonly with food and similar consumables. It also seems to closely resemble at least some practices that aren't allowed by Amazon's own review policies. The current rules for reviews are encompassed in an extensive list that's too long to include in any one article but specifically, they don't allow sellers to offer compensation, including free items, in exchange for a review. It's unclear whether Amazon customers receiving free samples would be allowed to leave reviews on those products. There are a few differences between a review that might be left from a pilot program and a manufacturer asking a consumer directly to post a rating and review in exchange for free stuff. But it does seem that allowing reviews from free samples might be a very similar circumstance to one that might be considered in violation of the policy.
The pilot program and presumably the eventual ad program itself is also a completely different approach than those typically taken by large companies in modern advertising for driving online business. That might be extremely beneficial in helping Amazon to better compete with rivals such as Google and Facebook. Both of those other companies currently use models that aren't entirely dissimilar to the shipping giant's own practices. Namely, those are based on a user's browser cookies for gauging online activity and other more service-specific activity and use. With Amazon, that means displaying ads online for users on social media or in search results with product recommendations based on that activity. The ads might showcase a couple of high-powered speakers that are on sale, for example, if a user has been searching for and exploring similar speakers online and on Amazon's own site. The free sample program would use AI in a similar fashion but with enhancements to guide the process almost from start to finish, occupying an ad space neither other competitor is currently present in.
But will it ever launch
As alluded to above, the pilot program for the new ad approach seems to have been ongoing for quite some time. That doesn't necessarily mean Amazon will ever launch its product more broadly or that it will maintain the same format if it does. The company has declined to comment on the pilot or to provide any information about its plans for a free sample program. There's also no clear indication regarding what types of products might be provided through the program. That aspect will almost certainly depend on advertisers, sellers, and manufacturers when and if it is pushed out more widely.