Mike Isaac

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Amazon Aims to Court Developers With In-App Merch Deals



It’s hard out there for an app store. If you aren’t Apple or Google, you’re trying to court users to your platform. You’re trying to promote your storefront. And, above all else, you want to keep your developers happy.

Amazon is certainly trying hard on all those fronts. Especially the latter.

In that vein, the company on Tuesday morning kicked off its Mobile Associates API program, a new way to give developers who are creating apps for the company’s proprietary Android-based app store another source of revenue by partnering with Amazon on in-app purchasing.

The value proposition is simple: Developers load the ability for users to purchase items from Amazon.com into their apps, via a linked Amazon account. For any goods ordered through the app, developers can earn up to six percent from the cost of those user purchases. The rest goes to Amazon.

Example: If I’m a game developer creating a sports app, I could let users buy real, physical soccer balls (or some other contextually relevant item) listed on Amazon.com from inside the app, using Amazon’s one-click purchasing method. I get a cut of the deal, while the user gets a shiny new toy sent directly to their home.

Clever, for sure, and a whole heck of a lot like Amazon’s existing affiliate program for websites, where Webmasters can make an extra buck whenever an Amazon products is purchased through a link on a third-party site. It also obviously plays heavily to Amazon’s strength as an online retailer, and gives the Seattle-based commerce company yet another potential pathway to making money off of its Appstore.

It’s an even better deal for developers, who have another option to potentially monetize their apps. As Amazon pitches it, the usual models are either paid or “freemium” (free to download, with better features and functionality added after buying them inside the app later on); in Amazon’s ideal world, more developers will be able to afford to launch free apps while getting paid through the revenue cut on in-app transactions.

The most striking part: It’s essentially yet another pathway back to Amazon’s retail operation, preloaded onto millions of Kindle devices that already serve as media and shopping portals for millions of Amazon customers. The more apps served up to users with the new functionality, the better the chance for increased retail sales.

If it actually works, and users do indeed want to do their purchasing of physical goods via in-game apps, everyone ends up getting paid. And getting paid is definitely one way to keep your developers happy.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus