On Amazon.com, shoppers can spend hours browsing and buying products, watching movies and listening to music; on the Apple Watch, however, Amazon is challenged to complete all interactions in a matter of seconds.
The tricky part of conducting transactionsand certainly e-commerceon the watch is coming up with tasks that are useful but also fast-paced. This is why early developers for Apple's smartwatch, including Amazon.com, are using the watch's display merely as a starting point with a transaction that can be finished on a phone, tablet or desktop device.
"Apple expects the usual [Apple Watch] interaction to only last 10 seconds," said Daniel J. Van Dyke, mobile analyst for Javelin Strategy and Research. "Even if the initial app is slightly underwhelming, there is a huge amount of potential on the way."
Amazon describes its smartwatch app's features as providing truncated versions of existing mobile functionality. In search, for example, the e-tailer said its app shows "glanceable product information" such as the name, price and ratings. Its app supports one-click purchases and a new capability called "save a shopping idea," which allows users to speak into their watch to record a note that can be accessed elsewhere.
Amazon has to try not to throw too much into that postage-stamp-sized screen, said Julie Ask, mobile analyst for Forrester Research. "It has to be a quick experience, an easy experience, but not an amazing experience," she said.
Amazon has loyalty on its side. Early adopters of mobile technology are also likely to be subscribers to the Amazon Prime expedited shipping service, meaning that they are already familiar with Amazon's shopping process, Ask said.
Amazon has already seen the pitfalls of trying to do too much with mobile technology: the poor sales of its Fire phone were attributed a design that was way too focused on Amazon shopping. Innovations such as Firefly, which could identify products using the phone's camera and mic, were "hypothetically amazing, but didn't recognize many items quickly enough," Ask said.
With Apple Watch, one possible concern is making it too easy for users to make unintended purchases, Van Dyke said. When CNET demonstrated the Amazon smartwatch app in a video, the presenter accidentally ordered an Xbox One bundle (list price $399.99) while warning viewers against making that very mistake.
"The question is 'How will it perform in real-world conditions?'" Van Dyke said. "Amazon can do a lot to refine the user experience, such as adding a confirmation screen" or providing for easy cancellations.
Another area of strong potential as well as strong risk is for Amazon to leverage location-based offers on the watch, Van Dyke said. Consumers will have "a higher threshold to receive such alerts on their wrists" than they do on their phones, he said.
Because the main benefit of owning a smartwatch is to avoid having to dig out a phone to review alerts, consumers "will be open to receiving more notifications on wearables in general," he said. "When you have it on your phone, you tend to ignore it."
Van Dyke added that Apple has, historically, been very good at making it easy for shoppers to adjust preferences. That means that retailers that push too many alerts may find their apps blocked from communicating with the Apple Watch. In effect, community policing could discourage bad actors, who would likely not get another chance once banned by a shopper.