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How Amazon Got It Wrong with their Amazon Coins Launch

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Amazon made some noise this week by launching their Amazon Coins program. In essence, it’s a new form of virtual currency that you can buy through Amazon and use on Kindle Fire apps, games, and content. This post is not a commentary on the program itself or the potential it has to change what we know about Internet currency. If you want that, check out this great article on Pando Daily.

Instead, I would like to talk about how Amazon missed a huge opportunity when they launched this program to existing Amazon users. The missed opportunity lies within the email, which introduced the program, and the site experience that followed. Let’s take a journey together, shall we?

I, like many others, am a $79/year paid Amazon Prime member who buys tons of stuff through Amazon each year. I stream content through Amazon, get monthly prescriptions sent to me automatically, download books on my Kindle, and apps, games, and video on my Kindle Fire. I am what you would consider a “super user”. So when I heard about Amazon Coins for the first time, I was immediately open to the idea of learning more.

I first saw it a couple of days ago, when I went to Amazon to buy a birthday gift for my niece who turns six next week.

This is great! Free money…err coins…err currency! Whatever this was or whatever it meant—I’m cool with it. It means free stuff that lets me try out something new! Apparently, I have 500 coins in my account right now! Ok! Let’s head over to my account to check that out! I clicked on the “Your Account” tab to check out my new bounty! The problem is that it took me to this default account page:

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No problem! I’m sure my Amazon Coin balance will be listed under “Payment Methods” or “Gift Cards”. No dice. Hmm, maybe because it can only be used on digital content for my Kindle Fire, it will be under “Digital Content”. Not there either. No time to worry about this right now. I have a gift to buy. I’ll check it out later.

Today I received the following email:

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Ok great. Now’s a better time to learn more about Amazon Coins and maybe even spend my balance to see how it works! After all, Cut the Rope is a favorite on my iPad, I’m sure it will get some heavy gameplay on my Kindle Fire, too. I clicked the big yellow button that reads “Shop the Appstore” and it took me to this page:

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Ok. I see tons of things I can presumably purchase with my balance, but no mention of my Amazon Coins or the price of the content in Coins. Maybe there’s a better explanation of how to do that when I click on the Amazon Coins banner.

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I learned a little bit more information. Like the fact that $1 = 100 coins. That’s helpful information. Now where’s my balance? Maybe it’s in the Your Account drop down?

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Nope. Hmm. Confusion. Maybe I should just buy this app that’s listed on the homepage. It says it’s free. Maybe it’s free because I have an Amazon Coin balance. I bought the app. Amazon then sent me this email for confirmation:

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So was this app free because I had a balance of 500 Amazon Coins? Or is it free because it’s the app of the day?

Notice my confusion and frustration?

No doubt I ‘m not the only one confused and frustrated. Here are three things Amazon could have done better when launching this Amazon Coins program. And most importantly, generate early usage and adoption!

1. Show me the balance!

If you’re going to introduce me to something new with a gift, show me the gift! That confirmation of my new coin balance would make me ripe for using up my balance right away.

2. Make it easy for me to make my first purchase!

You may have hooked me yesterday when I saw the homepage message. But you definitely hooked me with today’s email. Then you took me to a place with no cohesiveness of messaging. Momentum gets lost and confusion sets in.

3. Convert everything to the new currency…for now.

The best way to illustrate how to use my new coins would be to show me products listed in the same currency. If I am just learning about Amazon Coins, don’t show me products in dollars.

Here’s what Amazon should have launched with:

I think that the email I received today was pretty good and effective. But the landing page it brought me (a motivated, interested buyer) to was lacking. Here’s what I think a better page would have looked like:

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This page educates the customer on the Amazon Coins program, clearly illustrates where to find the newly gifted coin balance, and offers an opportunity to purchase right away. I am pretty shocked by how Amazon chose to launch this program. They are introducing a brand new program that needs explanation and quick adoption to succeed. Instead of being smart about it, they used default landing pages and rested on their free gift to help its success.

So what do you think? Were you as surprised as I was with how ineffective this experience was? How would you improve it?


Brooks Bell helps consumer brands profit through A/B testing, analytics and personalization.

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