Amazon has been developing an expanded content platform, helping consumers learn more about select products on its site with recommendations and write-ups from a number of experts. The program started very quietly around April, and in recent days, Amazon has expanded this panel of experts to include several notable names in their own niches, like home improvement guru Bob Vila, floral designer Lila B. Design, home style blogger Laura Trevey, curated Amazon shop Canopy, interior design resource Remodelista, and several others.
The experts are tasked with writing about recommended products, often in a list-style format that has proven popular with online readers — like 8 Necessities for Wine Lovers, or 9 Fire Pits You Can Afford, for example. Others are just lists of items around a given theme, like The Art of the Home Bar, which is one of Canopy’s contributions.
We haven’t seen the Expert Articles appear as live links on specific product pages. From our understanding, the retailer is now trying to determine how to best integrate this content into the browsing experience on Amazon.com. In some cases, the articles are discoverable in on-site search results when the user enters keywords relevant to a given article.
Amazon may also be testing ways to promote the expert’s articles on landing page or detail place pages, we’ve heard. For now, you can see them aggregated on a central hub.
Currently, there are Expert Articles in topical areas like Kitchen, Home, Books, Furniture & Decor, Pet Products, Lawn & Garden, Fashion and more.
The platform has been in development for some time, though Amazon has not yet publicly announced its plans with regard to these efforts. However, it appears that Amazon began recruiting experts earlier this spring. At least one, Elements of Style, touted its involvement in the program on its own websites in April.
Stephen Crowley, a designer at Amazon, wrote on his personal blog that he joined Amazon’s Engagement Design Group in May to work on a new product called Expert Articles.
The program is still in its early stages, and the partner list is fairly limited for the time being. Those tapped as experts are considered to be influential in categories relevant to Amazon shopper demographics.
According the post from Crowley, the direction was for the articles on the site to be engaging and different from the rest of Amazon.com, he writes on his personal site.
“It was important for us to share the uniqueness Amazon brings with its products and information,” he says.
While most of his post details how the site and the article pages were designed for web and mobile, he does talk about how the design is meant to make it easy for customers to scan the information provided with predictability. That is, they can see the images, product title, Prime eligibility ,and price with just a glance at these Expert Articles.
One expert who was invited to join the program tells us that there’s no commitment to the number of articles they have to submit, nor are contributors being paid for their participation. Instead, the value proposition is that by having their byline on Amazon’s site, they’ll be exposed to a wider audience thanks to the retailer’s massive reach.
That being said, it doesn’t seem that Amazon has yet “flipped the switch,” so to speak, to send traffic to these posts.
“We’ve seen little to no traffic from this yet, after having published about a week ago,” one expert told us. “But we understand it’s early in the beta and are hoping they’ll find new ways to promote us and this content in the new year,” they said.
Nor has Amazon fully developed the platform for experts to contribute.
“They sent us initial guidelines of what to include, and we simply send over all the product information and links in a Word document, as requested by their team,” an expert said. “It’s a pretty robust process, but we’re hoping this will evolve as the program grows.”
Combining content and commerce is something a number of newer online retailers, as well as content companies, have been experimenting with in recent years.
Some, like Thrillist, found success with this model, while others, including Refinery29, which largely abandoned its commerce efforts, have struggled. But for Amazon, the addition of content may make sense as it would just be another tool to help consumers find items they want to buy, and there would be no concerns with the blurring of lines between editorial and advertising as have afflicted more traditional publishers, like Condé Nast, who dabbled in this model previously.
While a lot of content companies are moving away from display ads and moving to native content that is less noisy and (potentially) more likely to be seen and digested by readers, you can think of these articles as Amazon’s own contribution to the “native” trend: Amazon is bringing editorial to help sell products in a more engaging way.
On another level, Amazon is already a very big user of ad retargeting for display ads. Potentially, you can also imagine how some of these could end up in a new form of retargeting ad network that focuses on native advertising.
On Amazon’s own site, its product pages today are very cluttered and haven’t had a major refresh in years. At the same time, user-generated reviews have been a very central part of the company’s marketing/sales proposition. Updating and upgrading user-generated reviews in a cleaner and more modern interface is a logical progression for the company.
The new Expert Articles are also reminiscent of the more content-led approach that Amazon is taking in a new section called Launchpad, which focuses on selling products from startups and smaller producers, which feature larger images, interviews with the company founders and other content.
Amazon did not return a request for comment before this article was published.