For a company that's made as many big impacts on the world of retailing as Amazon, the phrase “quiet opening” doesn't exactly sound like standard operating procedure. This is the company, after all, that hit “60 Minutes” with Amazon Prime Air, a concept that can't even technically exist for some time yet due to FAA regulations. But with an oddly subdued note, Amazon rolled out Amazon Wallet, a customer-facing mobile wallet app that can currently be found on the Amazon App Store as well as on Google (News - Alert) Play.
The Amazon Wallet app, at last report, allows the ability to store gift cards, sort same accordingly, and apply store and similar loyalty cards. Users can either scan or manually type in the relevant information, and the resultant cards are converted to barcode, QR code, text or image that the merchant can interact with accordingly, essentially getting the cards out of a user's purse, wallet or pocket—depending on the user's preference—and onto a mobile device.
That's a pretty good start, but reports suggest that the wallet is missing some features that most would regard as rather fundamental; specifically, the Amazon Wallet neither has the capacity to make or receive online payments nor does it have the ability to store and later use as needed credit or debit cards. It's not so much a wallet app as it is a folder app, storing only certain information and allowing access to same. But considering that Amazon Wallet is currently being shown as a beta app, at last report, it's safe to say that these missing features are likely to be forthcoming, and fairly soon.
Some have noted that Amazon offering a tool specifically designed to make purchases in the offline world would be almost counterproductive, but then, others suggest that Amazon wouldn't mind getting a cut of purchases made off of Amazon anyway. Consider the recent reports about Firefly, a tool on the Amazon Fire phone that essentially facilitates show rooming, a practice in which users look at products in brick-and-mortar locations and get information that's needed to make purchases, which are often concluded online. Firefly allows users to simply photograph a product and then get the available prices online. The release of a complete online wallet system, meanwhile, would cover the bases beautifully for Amazon.
Consider also the following: someone goes to the Big Box (News - Alert) Store to find a new widget. Upon reaching the store, the user in question finds the widget of his or her dreams, and then pulls Amazon Fire to check prices online. The user then discovers the widget can't be had online, so he or she picks up the widget at the store, takes it to the counter, and then pays for it with Amazon Wallet. Now, Amazon loses a sale, but gets a cut of a transaction. Further, Amazon gets information; are there many users buying said widget? If so, Amazon knows to stock it. If not, Amazon can sleep safely knowing that it's not wasting a lot of warehouse space on a widget only a handful of people wanted in the first place.
While Amazon Wallet may not be a powerhouse right now, it may ultimately prove to be a powerhouse in the making, a valuable part of Amazon's overall operations that gives it a critical edge; dominance online, and a piece of the action in the real world as well.
Edited by Adam Brandt
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