6 Amazon Products and Services You Should Know About
By Tricia McKinnon
This is the third part of a three-part series on how retailers can compete better with Amazon. This article looks at what recent product and service launches from Amazon say about its future priorities. Part One focuses on four companies that have implemented winning strategies. Part Two takes a look at Alibaba and how its tech. investments provide insight into what the future of retail will look like. You can read Part One here and Part Two here.
Since launching its eCommerce site 25 years ago in 1994 Amazon has grown in ways few would have anticipated when it first started out. It is hard to remember the early days when you could only find books on its website. Now Amazon has 200 million monthly website visitors, more than 100 million Amazon Prime members and 2018 revenues of $233 billion. What is Amazon’s formula for success? According to Jeff Bezos himself:
“If you want to get to the truth about what makes us different, it’s this, we are genuinely customer centric, we are genuinely long term oriented and we genuinely like to invent. Most companies are not those things. They are focused on the competitor rather than the customer. They want to work on things that will pay dividends in two or three years, and if they don’t work in two or three years they will move on to something else. And they prefer to be close-followers rather than inventors, because it’s safer. So if you want to capture the truth about Amazon, that is why we are different. Very few companies have all of those three elements” – Excerpt from the book, The Everything Store by Brad Stone
True to form Amazon can’t stop inventing and reinventing itself. Many of its recent product and service tests and launches reveal that it is fixated on making shopping as convenient as possible. Amazon is also focusing on improving customer service in ways that are challenging competitors like Best Buy. Here are six moves that Amazon has made that you should keep your eye on.
1. Amazon partners with other retailers for growth
Amazon recently launched a new service called Amazon Counter where customers can pick up their Amazon orders from other retailers’ bricks and mortar locations in Europe. The new service marks one of the few instances of Amazon launching a new service offering for the first time outside of the US. To offer this service Amazon is patterning with clothing, footwear and home goods retailer Next in the UK and with bookstore chain Giunti as well as Fermopoint and SisalPay storesin Italy. Currently customers can only pick up orders at these locations but Amazon is also working on adding a return option. Europe was likely picked to trial this service due to the popularity of click and collect and a higher penetration of eCommerce sales than other markets. This service will add to the more than 2,500 Amazon lockers that are stationed across the UK.
Speaking about the initiative, Next CEO Simon Wolfson said: “in a tough retail environment, our aim is that Amazon Counter will contribute to the continued relevance and vibrancy of our stores.” Amazon is also looking for more partners in Europe ranging from large retail chains to mom and pop stores.
2. Bricks and mortar stores are here to stay
Amazon continues to expand its investment in bricks and mortar stores with its September 2018 opening of a new store concept called Amazon 4-Star. The store only sells the best of what Amazon.com has to offer. Instead of a typical store where you find a mix of good, better and best products as well as some undesirable ones this store gives customers exactly what they are looking for.
The store only sells products that have at least a 4-star rating on Amazon.com including Amazon Echo devices, games, books, kitchen and home products. The store also features well-conceived sections such as: Most Wished For, Frequently Bought Together, Amazon Exclusives and Trending Around NYC (in Amazon’s Soho store). The Trending Around NYC section is a reflection of Amazon.com items that are selling well in NYC and now customers have the option of picking them up in person.
Products have digital price tags that display the product’s full price as well as its price on Amazon.com. Since prices on Amazon.com change frequently the price in-store is updated to reflect that. Price tags also display how much Amazon Prime members save and the product’s ratings. Amazon recently opened another 4-star store in California and one in Colorado. Amazon is also planning to open more cashier-less Amazon Go stores as well as Amazon bookstores.
3. Not home? Not a problem. In-home delivery is for you
In October of 2017 Amazon launched an in-home delivery service which is now called Key by Amazon. On the day of a customer delivery the customer receives a message asking them if they want to accept the delivery and watch as it takes place. Customers must have a Prime membership and an Amazon Key Home Kit which consists of a security camera, a smart door lock and the Amazon Key App which customers use to unlock their door from anywhere. According to Amazon this is not an experiment, it will be part of the shopping experience going forward. Last year, Amazon expanded Key by Amazon to include the option of having purchases dropped off in the trunk of a customer’s car. At the beginning of this year Amazon announced Amazon Key for Garage. This new service allows customer deliveries to be placed in the customer’s garage when they are not home. Key for Business is another new service where delivery drivers are given the key fob for a building so they can gain access to buildings to drop off packages.
4. Need your tech questions answered in person? Amazon has a solution
Amazon is now providing an in-home service to customers who need help setting up a smart home. As part of a service that was launched in early 2017 called Alexa Smart Home Consultations Amazon offers free in-home consultations where Amazon experts answer all smart home customer questions, demo Alexa devices and provide an assessment of which smart home products are the best fit for the customer. Customers can also get smart home products installed by Amazon for a fee. Amazon recently expanded Amazon Key to include the option of having purchases dropped off in the trunk of a customer’s car. These services are expected to challenge those provided by Best Buy’s Geek Squad which played a critical role in Best Buy’s turnaround.
5. Shopping has never been easier with the echo look
Amazon launched the echo look in April 2017 “to help you look your best”. It is a handsfree camera and style assistant. Using the hands-free voice commands the echo look takes a photo of a customer’s outfit or takes a 360 degree view in a video clip. The key feature is Style Check which can analyze two different outfits and provide the customer with an opinion on which outfit looks best. It provides insight into fit, styling and current trends. It does this using machine learning algorithms. It also provides recommendations for complimentary items which can of course be purchased at Amazon. It looks like Amazon is trying to automate your best friend.
The echo look can take photos or a 360 degree view of your outfit
Photo credit: Amazon
6. Buyer’s remorse a thing of the past with Prime Wardrobe
Amazon launched Prime Wardrobe, a “try before you buy” service for clothing, accessories and shoes in June of 2017. Customers order three or more items, and then can try on the items at home within seven days. Customers have the option of returning any items they do not want and they pay for the ones they keep. The service is available to Amazon Prime members.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone