Six Recent Amazon Launches You Should Know About

 Photo credit: Amazon

Photo credit: Amazon

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.

Amazon is growing so fast it is hard to keep up.  Since launching its eCommerce site nearly 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 nearly 200 million monthly website visitors, 100 million Amazon Prime members and 2017 revenues of $178 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 making competitors such as Best Buy rethink their strategy. Here are six moves that Amazon has made within the last 12-24 months that you should keep your eye on. 

1. Not home? Not a problem.  In-home delivery is for you

In October of 2017 Amazon launched an in-home delivery service called Amazon Key. On the day of a customer delivery the customer receives a message asking them to either block or watch the delivery while it takes place.  If they choose to block the delivery the customer can select a standard delivery option. 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 can 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. Amazon recently expanded Amazon Key to include the option of having purchases dropped off in the trunk of a customer’s car.

2. 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. These services are expected to challenge those provided by Best Buy’s Geek Squad which played a critical role in Best Buy’s turnaround.  

3. 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.    

Amazon Echo Look.jpg

The echo look can take photos or a 360 degree view of your outfit

Photo credit: Amazon

4. 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 can order three or more items, receive them and then try on items at home before purchasing anything.  Customers can then schedule a pick-up for the items they do not want, for free, of course. The service is free to use with a Prime membership.  In comparison, Stitch Fix charges a $20 styling fee per box of clothing but customers can put the $20 toward anything they keep.  However Stitch Fix provides a personal styling service powered by AI and reviewed by human stylists to determine the clothing items that are sent to customers. 

5. Faster than ever delivery with Amazon Prime

In February of 2018 Amazon launched even faster delivery options for grocery items. Amazon now offers free 2-hour delivery on orders over $35 for Whole Foods customers in selected areas. Customers must have a Prime Now membership. Deliveries are made from Whole Foods stores in certain markets and the service will be expanded across the US.  Launched in 2014, Prime Now is an exclusive service for Prime members and offers delivery of tens of thousands of items across categories such as groceries, packaged consumer goods, household items and even restaurant food.  Prime Now also offers members one hour delivery for $8 on orders over $35.  

6. 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, located in New York’s Soho district, 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 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.  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 is also planning to open more cashier-less Amazon Go stores as well as Amazon bookstores.  

By looking at all of these initiatives it is clear that Amazon continues to blur the lines between online and offline retail.  Super-fast shipping is tapping into what seems to be a near universal need for instant gratification.  See it, have it right away. No waiting.  Amazon also realizes as much as customers love the self-service aspect of the internet there is no substitute for great service in person.  It underscores the fact that the best digital strategies have both online and offline components.  Although the echo look feels a bit gimmicky it, along with Amazon Prime Wardrobe, demonstrate Amazon’s continued focus on the apparel category. Amazon only trails Walmart in apparel sales in the US and is expected to claim the top spot in 2018. Finally, offline shopping is not a thing of the past but instead it continues to evolve into a better experience for the customer.

Check in weekly for articles on digital transformation and customer experience innovation to learn what strategies businesses are using to accelerate their sales growth.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/271450/monthly-unique-visitors-to-us-retail-websites/

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

https://www.theverge.com/2018/6/6/17431486/amazon-echo-look-style-assistant-camera-alexa-now-available

https://www.recode.net/2017/10/25/16538828/amazon-key-in-home-delivery-prime-camera-lock

https://www.recode.net/2017/7/10/15930998/amazon-geek-squad-smart-home-alexa-set-up-installation-consultation

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/08/amazon-prime-now-whole-foods-groceries-delivery.html

https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/12/amazon-finally-opens-up-prime-wardrobe-to-more-customers/

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/19/amazon-to-be-the-no-1-apparel-retailer-in-the-us-morgan-stanley.html

http://uk.businessinsider.com/amazon-opens-new-store-4-star-2018-9

https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-opens-new-store-4-star-2018-9/

Tricia McKinnon