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Amazon 'Spark' feature in iPhone app tempts users to buy items through Instagram-style feed

Amazon has launched a new social feature for Prime members using its iPhone app called Spark, encouraging customers to share photographs of their orders with other users and to tag items they are interested in acquiring, with the feature potentially helping the retailer sell more of the shared products.

Launched on Tuesday for iOS devices, Spark is an image-centric service similar to Instagram and Pinterest, providing users with a feed of photographs and videos posted by other customers. The feed is generated by the user selecting five or more interests when registering, TechCrunch reports, with posts from those categories populating the list.

Like other social networks, users can comment on posts and give their stamp of approval with a "smile," an act which also tells Amazon to show more of that type of posting. Users can gain badges for posting and writing reviews, with sponsored posts from paid social influencers denoted with a "sponsored" tag.

Posts featuring Amazon products show a shopping bag icon in a bottom corner, along with a count of the number of items featured. Tapping on the bag icon brings up the product page for a featured item, or a list if multiple products appear within the image, with users given the option to find out more information and to purchase the item.

"We created Spark to allow customers to discover - and shop - stories and ideas from a community that likes what they like," an Amazon spokeswoman told Reuters.

Ultimately, Spark is being used as a way for users to discover other things that they may be tempted to buy from Amazon, with the photographs and comments potentially being a more relaxed and welcoming way to browse and shop compared to reading user reviews and viewing supplier-provided images from the standard store pages.

At the moment, Spark appears to only be available for use on the iPhone and iPad, though it is likely to spread to the Kindle Fire tablet line and other Android devices in the future. It is also currently limited to customers in the United States, and while non-Prime members will be able to browse, only Prime subscribers are allowed to post their own images to the service.

This is not the only social-based project Amazon has come up with, as the Echo Show and the rest of the Echo range can be used to contact other Echo users. Amazon also operates the Chime video meeting service, and is reportedly working on a mobile messaging service called "Anytime" that supposedly will compete with other chat platforms, like Apple's iMessage.