Fast Company

Amazon’s Chief Scientist Andreas Weigend on Web 3.0 Marketing, Twitter, "WeBusiness"

Andreas Weigend, former chief scientist of Amazon, spoke to audiences Tuesday at the World Innovation Forum about how to bring your business into Web 3.0 marketing. Weigend, who teaches at Stanford and is an expert in data mining, argues that we’ve moved from “eBusiness” (essentially, getting businesses online in Web 1.0) to “MeBusiness” (customer focus in Web 2.0) to “WeBusiness,” which realigned marketing with a community focus. Weigend used his time as Amazon to teach lessons on how marketing has evolved into a combination of communication between the customer and businesses, the customer and other customers, and the customer and the world.

“Amazon helps people make better decisions,” began Weigend, who believes all businesses should mimic this practice. For example, he cites Amazon’s customer reviews--hardly a novel idea, but one that convinces consumers that they’re making the right decision. Just scroll around Amazon, Weigend suggests, and you’ll see several variations on this practice, from “customers who bought this item also bought…” to “customers who viewed this item also viewed…” In other words, according to Weigend, these features say, “customers who viewed this item ultimately bought…”

As Wiegend points out, customers are providing a wealth of free data to businesses of all sizes, and it’s up to the company to implement this data to help customers make better decisions. The former Amazon head scientist explained that this customer data is readily available in search engines. “People are manually entering in data,” he said. “This is much more powerful than asking people with surveys!” Weigend urged business heads to go to their IT department and request the last 1,000 search queries on their company Web sites. There, he said, you’ll find what customers are looking for, and how to make their searches and decisions easier.

In terms of customer-to-customer interaction, Weigend says Amazon implemented, in a sense, a “share the love” feature. “If I buy a book, a screen pops up asking if I have friends that I’d like to share this with,” he said. While there are economic benefits for entering this information (10% credits and discounts for both parties), Weigend said there is another reason for this interaction. “Maybe more important is that I appear smart to them--after all, I just bought a book!”

Customer-to-world communication is another tactic Amazon implemented. Weigend realized that customers wanted to communicate their personality to the world in some way; for example, with its wish lists, Amazon provided customers with a tool to publicly share their interests. “It shows that this is a book I’m interested in,” said Weigend. "[But] it [also] shows what kind of person I am.”

Weigend reasons that this is why Twitter has become so popular (even as Twitter cofounder Biz Stone was about to come on stage), and theorized that consumers love this customer-to-world interaction because it creates an “illusion of an audience.” “I have 1,000 followers, and I feel that if I say who I’m having breakfast with, then 1,000 people will read it,” he said, discussing his Twitter page. “But we did a few experiments, and I’m deeply crushed--I thought lots of people were following me, but now I am not so sure.” Weigend believes this “illusion” of an audience helps foster an online community on Twitter and Amazon, where features like wish lists give the impression that they are publically sharing their interests.

Do you have a wish list on Amazon? How many followers do you have on Twitter? How many followers do you actually have on Twitter?

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