With the aid of augmented reality, an enhanced showrooming tool has arrived with the new Amazon app update. Instead of needing to take a photo of an item or scanning its barcode, the new feature, Flow, recognizes items via their packaging, logos, artwork or other visual features.
Waving an iPhone's camera in front a shelf or counter identifies items within "seconds." Once recognized, the items are subsequently placed in a queue that can be added to an Amazon cart. In a statement, Amazon portrayed it as a tool to quickly build up a shopping list at home.
"Flow instantly matches products in your home to items on Amazon," said Sam Hall, vice president of Amazon Mobile. "Once you have added that box of garbage bags or baby wipes, just keep moving your phone over other packaged goods you need to restock and the Amazon app recognizes the product and saves it into your search history. You can search items lined up on the counter, stored on a shelf, or pick them out of a cupboard, taking care of your shopping needs in seconds."
First developed in 2011 by Amazon's A9 division, Flow has been available in standalone apps.
The big advantage is speed. Bar codes are hard to find on packages and the smartphone camera often has trouble focusing. For many cases of product, items must be scanned individually.
Writing for Wired, Roberto Baldwin said that, although Flow isn't always accurate, most items he tested were recognized in about two seconds.
"It's all part of the company's goal to take you from 'I need that' to 'I bought that' in less than 30 seconds," he writes. At the store level, Mr. Baldwin said users "can use Flow to scan a row of competing products, then compare their prices and Amazon ratings once they land in your queue."
Flow's history feature gives the user access to all their scanned items, sorted by date, product category, item name or scan type.
Will Flow make showrooming a bigger threat to brick and mortar retailers?