Sep 11 AT 3:32 PM Dustin Earley 12 Comments

Uniquely Amazon: In-app purchases of physical goods become a reality


As Amazon’s plans to take over the smartphone and tablet industry continue to unfold, more and more unique advantages Amazon has over its competitors present themselves. Amazon was one of the first companies to release a compelling budget friendly tablet, making up for any hardware profit loss with a robust portfolio of services placed front and center. With their latest crop of devices, Amazon has not only managed to upgrade hardware and still keep prices down, but they’re also introducing something else only Amazon can really pull off: enhanced in-app purchases of real physical goods.

Amazon has partnered with Activision to test pilot in-app purchases of physical items in an interesting way. Skylanders is a video game where players can use physical representations of in-game characters, in the form of acton figures, to activate and play as those characters in the game. Traditionally, you either have to have a scanning device attached to the console you’re playing Skylanders on, where you place the action figures, or use a special code attached to the action figures for use with the mobile app. Skylanders Cloud Patrol for the Amazon Kindle Fire HD will allow users to purchase action figure characters directly from the app, and provide instant access to the character, while Amazon ships the action figure to the address attached to their Amazon account.

In other words, Amazon will turn an in-app purchase of a video game character into the delivery of a physical product. The developer pull this could provide Amazon with is nothing short of amazing. Being able to buy video game characters in a game and have them show up on your doorstep a couple days later is impressive, but don’t think for a second Amazon will stop there.

In-app purchases of physical goods could, and I’d bet will, be implemented in any number of apps. Amazon is in the exclusive position to really make this work. It only makes sense to pair an already successful app store, which according to some generates as much as four times the revenue Google Play does, with what is undeniably the largest online marketplace in the world. Once this kind of functionality is common knowledge (and if Amazon’s marketing does their job, it will be), developers won’t be the only ones flocking to Amazon; consumers will be right behind.

If it wasn’t clear that Amazon is poised to take the mobile industry by storm before, after the announcement of their second generation hardware and features like in-app purchases of physical goods, it should be.

What do you think? Could you see yourself using in-app purchases to acquire physical goods?

Source: Giga Om

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • skugern

    First thing that comes to mind is the shopping, specifically grocery, list. Out of oregano? Tap the “buy” button next to it on your list and it shows up on your doorstep two days later.

    • Dan13

      Playing off your idea, this could really be useful in a cook book app. Don’t have one of the needed ingredients? Just buy it while in the app and amazon will ship it to you.

  • Nathan D.

    Well, this is interesting. I could see myself doing this but not that often.


    I won’t be participating in this but i love the idea. It’s all about the Benjamins baby and Amazon knows how to bring them in.

  • Slith

    Legos. Design a model, order the pieces needed to create it.

  • tarwin

    I like the recipe/ingredient idea mentioned above. But I’m guessing won’t stop there. If this trial is successful then they’ll most likely pair up with tv shows and movies so that whenever characters talk about how great a product is (the not so subtle product placement) you’ll then have the choice to buy said product (if Amazon does this and they’re smart they’ll only offer this option if the person pauses the show/movie because otherwise it’d just be an annoying in-show ad). They could also do it for other products/outfits which appear on the show.

    They could also do it with publications. To a limited degree with products mentioned in books but definitely in magazines which are already rife with ads, new products and reviews.

    I don’t know if this would end up being good or bad but I see the potential in it (for both).

    • thel0nerang3r

      They mention the “x-ray” or something like that, where you can tap on a character to get more info from IMDB. I guess they could do the same for the product. You tap it on the video and it shows you more info and the option to buy it.

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  • roland

    Way to go Amazon the is going to be fun

  • ChrisLH

    Other than my issues with the Kindle Fire, I’m a huge fan of Amazon. We buy nearly everything from Amazon from diapers to electronics. Amazon has a HUGE advantage over its competitors (Apple, Google, Microsoft) in that they have set up an enormous distribution network for content AND physical goods. Where Google is trying to push ads for things you MIGHT like, Amazon is actually selling stuff. Other than their own software, hardware and peripherals, none of these other competitors is actually selling products. Throw on top of that the huge cloud infrastructure that Amazon has developed and they really are in a great position for long term growth.

    This concept is merely an extension of their other services and if done correctly (unlike the Kindle Fire, which will still be hugely successful), has the opportunity to be a huge source of growth and innovation in the mobile application business.

    Amazon is playing the long game very smartly. I laugh at all the people who talk about how Amazon’s profits aren’t as huge as the other companies, but I think short term investment will pay long-term dividends.

  • smeghead68

    Seems like a neat idea but how do you know what you are buying? Is it good quality… If I buy a character in a game, do i end up with a $2 stuffy made in china or something else. If the product is something that i am already familiar with i can see this working but if i don’t know what i am getting i would be leery.

    • ChrisLH

      I’d imagine that Amazon is handling all of the distribution and that it would have ratings similar to how Amazon and the Amazon Appstore work now. You would have ratings specific to the app/game itself and also for any associated products. Low quality products will have low ratings and people won’t purchase them.