Amazon wants to use AI to send you the perfect free sample
Amazon is getting into the free samples game to get its users to buy even more products.
According to two job postings in the last several months uncovered by Axios, Amazon has been looking for people to join a team tasked with “targeted product sampling,” which uses machine learning to find custom samples for a given user.
A page on the company’s website indicates Amazon is already sending select customers free products, confirmed by tweets from multiple shoppers, who’ve received coffee, mascara, or eye drops over the last several months. It’s unclear whether it’s using its algorithms to do so, but it’s certainly likely. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
Some users said the targeting was accurate, some were perplexed:
Amazon just sent my wife a free sample of… eye drops. Pretty brilliant experiment to use Amazons’s recommendation system on your shopping history and introduce you to new products (presumably with high margin) pic.twitter.com/y3Cmhj5Jy1
— Erik Bernhardsson (@fulhack) December 1, 2018
Saturday I *thought* about non-flavored coffee and how I really need to get some and then I opened my mailbox 10 minutes later and Amazon had sent me a box of free non-flavored coffee samples. The algorithms know all!
— Melissa Marchionna (@im_melissa) December 3, 2018
Amazon sent me a free sample of coffee grounds??? I don’t even drink coffee but thanks ig
— (▀̿Ĺ̯▀̿ ̿) (@__alexisjordan) August 21, 2018
One of the job postings says that product sampling is an advertising product that “leverages Amazon’s customer data to allow brands to put their products in the hands of the right customers to drive product awareness and conversion.” It also claims the team is operating as “a true start-up” that is “reinventing” how customers discover new products.
The other ad says free samples are more likely to ensure that shoppers will buy a product than traditional display ads. As Axios rightly points out, the sample strategy—which works well for companies like Sephora—gives Amazon a massive advantage in the digital advertising market over its main rivals, Facebook and Google, who don’t have the same infrastructure to ship out a product a user had browsed or clicked on.