The Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick have had the ability to shop Amazon.com products for some time, but the feature has been sitting dormant. A trusted source within Amazon, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells me a full-fledged shopping feature was nearly complete and ready to be tested in the wild, but Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pulled the feature after receiving a demo. His biggest complaint was the limited shopping cart functionality. The Fire TV shopping feature demoed to Bezos allowed customers to either buy products immediately via Amazon’s 1-Click feature or add items to your Amazon shopping cart to then be purchased later through the Amazon.com website. Bezos insisted on the ability to manage your shopping cart and checkout on the Fire TV itself, so the shopping feature has been postponed. I’m told it’s not uncommon for a team within Amazon to work on something, get it mostly done, and then have the feature/project pulled or cancelled by Bezos. While the Fire TV’s full-fledged shopping feature likely won’t be released in time for the upcoming holiday shopping season, Amazon has started using parts of the shopping feature to allow Fire TV owners to buy select products through banner ads on the Fire TV’s home screen. Read on for a spotlight of this new limited shopping ability which gives us a good indication of what the full shopping experience will be like once it arrives on Fire TV devices.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick has had a banner ad at the top of the home screen, added by the launch day software update, ever since it was released last November. The Fire TV gained the same banner add in February of this year. The banner only exists on the home screen and, up until now, has only advertised videos, apps, and games available through the Fire TV. Amazon has now started advertising products, like toys and tech gadgets, which can be purchased directly through the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick itself.
Selecting the product banner ad either takes you to a small list of available products to purchase, like in the case of the “Holiday Toys” banner, or directly to the item information of a particular product, like in the case of the Fitbit or Halloween candy banner ad.
The item information screen is quite fully featured and includes sections for product features, description, details, images, and even product reviews. The only thing really missing, that you would find on Amazon’s website, is Amazon’s “Customer Questions & Answers” section as well as additional buying options from the third-party sellers offering the same product.
Product descriptions and details are limited to only text, so you won’t find any of the full page rich descriptions from the manufacturer like you sometimes see on Amazon’s website. Descriptions larger than 4 lines of text will pop open the Fire TV’s default rectangular gray text viewer, like you find in the device’s help section.
Past the product’s description and details is a horizontally scrolling image gallery similar to the ones you’ll find when viewing a Fire TV app’s details. Selecting an image thumbnail will, expectedly, display the image in fullscreen. If the product has a promotional video, as many products on Amazon are starting to include, you’ll find the video at the end of the image gallery. Product videos are played in fullscreen and can be paused, rewound, and fast forwarded like any other video on the Fire TV using the remote’s media buttons.
At the bottom of the product screen is a breakdown of the product’s star ratings, as well as access to all the product’s customer reviews. Reviews are listed in Amazon’s default “most relevant” sorting order with no options to change the order. You can’t, for example, only view reviews with a particular star rating or sort reviews by “most helpful” as you can do on Amazon’s website. You do, however, have access to all reviews in their entirety, which is nice.
Instead of just purchasing the item, you have the option to add it to your Amazon wish lists. Selecting the “Add to Wish List” button brings up a list of your Amazon wish lists to select from. There’s no way to remove the item from your wishlist,view items in a wishlist, or create a new wish list.
If a product comes in various configurations or sizes, you can view them and select the options you want before purchasing. Selecting an option will change the products main image to reflect the selection when appropriate.
Selecting the “Proceed to Checkout” button takes you to your order summary where you can change the shipping address, payment method, and shipping options. All addresses and payment methods saved in your Amazon account are available to select. Payment methods other than the one I have configured as my default method were marked in red with an alert icon. Changing my payment method to one of these alternate methods prompted me to re-enter my credit card number as a security verification measure. The shipping options available are the standard ones you would encounter when shopping on Amazon’s website.
There are no options to add a new payment method or a new shipping address. If you want to ship to an address or pay with a method that is not already configured in your Amazon account, your only option is to select the “Add to cart and exit checkout” option found at the bottom of the shipping and payment screen. Selecting this option places the product in your Amazon cart and prompts you to “complete this purchase via a phone, tablet, or computer.” This aspect of the shopping experience, as well as the inability to purchase multiple items at once via a true shopping cart system, is likely what Jeff Bezos did not like about the current Fire TV shopping experience, causing him to postpone the full-fledged shopping feature.
Selecting the large “Place your order” button, which is selected by default after entering the checkout process, executes the purchase in one step. In the case of a single product being advertised, like the Fitbit, Amazon Echo, and Halloween candy ads that I’ve seen, it takes only three button presses to purchase the item: one press to click on the banner, a second press to checkout, and a third press to place the order.
Fire TV owners with kids, or technologically-challenged family members, will be happy to know that the Fire TV’s parental control option that requires a PIN to be entered before making a purchase has been extended to also include shopping purchases.
The full-fledged Fire TV shopping feature still under development is expected to bring the ability to purchase nearly all products offered through Amazon.com. You’ll be able to browse products in various departments, apply filters and sorting options, as well as using the Fire TV’s voice-search functionality to more easily find what you’re looking for. While that feature has been sent back to the development team to gain a true shopping cart, the upcoming holiday shopping season is too enticing for Amazon not to use the already functioning aspects of the new shopping feature in a limited fashion. I’m sure my sweet tooth will appreciate Amazon’s decision when the candy I ordered, much too easily, arrives in a few days.