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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Shazam: a simple smart phone app that takes consumers to purchase instantly
Article Type: Internet currency From: Journal of Consumer Marketing, Volume 29, Issue 2
Edited by Dennis A. PittaUniversity of Baltimore
Fans of Harry Potter may remember the magical device, the port key. In one of the Potter movies the port key transported people from one location to another instantly. It is safe to say that marketers have sought their own port key, their own means of getting consumers from one place to another. The internet is a kind of transportation medium but it does not work as automatically as the magical device.
Several years ago, wireless devices foreshadowed a new world for the internet. They made access ubiquitous and allowed consumers to broaden their world. A few years before, consumers wondered out loud what they would do if they lost their cell phones. Today, one would wonder what would happen to them without the myriad of smart phone applications they have embraced.
The applications available for iPhones or Android phones range from free to expensive and from fun to utilitarian. For each of the many games available, there seems to be an application with real utility. One that seems timely is called GasBuddy. It shows users what the current gasoline prices are in a given area, or using the phone’s built in GPS function, what gas prices are near the user’s location. Sometimes the savings can be significant and GasBuddy demonstrates the value of information. That type of application focuses on price which is not always in a retailer’s interest.
There are others, which exploit the characteristics of Internet connectivity to satisfy impulse consumption. Shazam is in this category. Shazam was launched in the United Kingdom in 2002 as a call-in service. In 2008 it became an iPhone app and gained fame as an easy way to “name that tune.” Shazam is, on the surface, a free and relatively simple app. It allows consumers to identify a song playing in their environment. The environment might be a work or retail location, or even a public area. It works by using the smart phone’s microphone to “hear” the song. Then it identifies its characteristics and matches them with a published recording. The application marketplace for Shazam outlines its benefits with, “Shazam identifies music instantly, so tag as often as you like with no monthly limits! Shazam is the quickest and easiest way to discover more about music. Hold your phone up to the music to identify a track, buy it, watch the video, [or] get the lyrics.”
For consumers of a certain age, the app might satisfy a measure of curiosity, identifying something from the past. For others, it might help them key into to something new and cool.
The application is easy to download with a file size of approximately 3MB when installed. One does need to grant a series of permissions that may trouble some users who are highly concerned about their privacy. However, the application is not unique in this respect since many others require the same information. After granting the required permissions, downloading is quick and uneventful.
How Shazam works
The app uses a technique to break down each track into a simple numeric signature: the code that is unique to each track. In essence it creates a ’fingerprint’ of each performance. When you use Shazam to identify a song it turns the clip into a signature using the same method. It then matches patterns in its library to the code it created from the user’s clip. When there is a match, Shazam identifies the song.
The App’s importance
Admittedly, identifying a song is not a paradigm shifting experience, but it does command the attention of a portion of consumers. One might wonder what are the long-term prospects for a firm whose sole purpose is satisfying an occasional impulse. However, astute marketers can learn something important. Shazam has created something of a customer conveyance, a marketing port key. After a consumer downloads the application to his i-Phone or iPod touch, Android phone, Blackberry, Windows Phone or Nokia device, a chain of events occurs. When a user employs Shazam to identify a song, he or she can hear it and can also buy the track on Amazon MP3. Amazon MP3 states that it has over 17 million songs available for sale. That link is powerful and makes offering Shazam for free highly logical. For first time users, exposure to Amazon MP3 might even be a welcomed diversion from the original online music store, i-Tunes.
Beyond the now expected links to music stores, Shazam does something broader. Advertisers have realized that consumers may treat the music in commercials just like other music. Shazam can identify commercial melodies and can transport users not to music stores, but to websites that feature the product advertised. Famous brands like Old Navy have already started exploiting it. In local jargon, a consumer needs only to pick up his phone and “Shazam” the tune playing during an Old Navy commercial. He or she will be sent to a mobile site where the consumer can buy the advertised product. Recently, both Tide and Old Navy have been experimenting with Shazam as a means of selling their products. This goes one step beyond traditional practice.
Advertisers have long used music to attract viewer and listener attention. Now they can build catchy tunes into their commercials with a new objective: namely, to pique consumer curiosity and get them to “Shazam” the music thereby moving them to a purchase site. Despite the proliferation of online media, Shazam has had an unintended effect on TV ads. It has increased the number of customers going from awareness to purchase. Instead of posting a website address to be entered into a cell phone, one can just take the viewer there. Since the probability of a customer actually typing in a web URL on his phone is low and typing it accurately is even lower, Shazam makes the process automatic. In addition, the process is even faster than using the now ubiquitous QR codes. Thus the percent of viewers who see the TV ad then view the product and actually purchase it should increase. One more benefit is data on how well a given commercial performs. Each purchase is empirical data for marketing decision making.
Implications for marketers
Just this year there were comments that social media had effectively crippled television commercials. Now, evidence from Shazam shows that marketers can make their advertising more effective by shortening the exposure to purchase process. Currently, the app has no direct competitors. However, they may arise and when they do, the clutter they provide may affect how well Shazam succeeds.
For the moment, it should be recognized that Shazam offers significant benefits to marketers. By linking a simple curiosity based click to “identify” to links to a sales webpage it presents an easy choice scenario. If marketers use attractive prices to preserve the impulse to buy and create an easy purchase process, the application offers a valuable increase in marketing efficiency. It just might be a glimpse of the future.
Please forward all requests to review innovative Internet sites to: Dr Dennis Pitta, University of Baltimore, 1420 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-5779, USA. Alternatively, please send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org for prompt attention.