Back in 1995, Amazon was an online book store based out of founder Jeff Bezos’s garage. If you had told anyone then that this Seattle startup would end up being the world's largest online retailer, they would have spat their coffee out. Amazon have been relentless in their quest to dominate as many markets as possible.
When they wanted to sell books in the UK, they simply acquired the country's biggest online book retailer. When Amazon wanted to get involved in audio books, they bought Audible, and when they wanted to do streaming, they took full control of LoveFilm and molded it into Amazon Instant Video. Amazon aren’t showing any signs of stopping in their plans to dominate the retail market. Here is a rundown of where they’re headed to next.
Amazon is great for ordering just about anything online. You want a book, a couple DVDs, some inflatable toast? Amazon has got you sorted. What the online marketplace couldn’t do was to offer the bespoke products that Etsy, ‘the marketplace for unique goods’, could. This was rectified in October, when Amazon Handmade was announced, a place for artisans to sell handmade products through the Amazon platform.
Selected craftspeople can now hawk their wares on the website for a 12% cut of their sales. Should Etsy be worried? Despite the boutique marketplaces decade of experience providing a space for ‘thoughtful consumers’ to shop, there is a worry that Amazon’s huge online presence could make them 'The Etsy Killer'.
Gone are the days where you couldn’t order a bag of crisps from a global online retailer and get them delivered the next day. Amazon are increasingly moving into food delivery: with Amazon Fresh in the States, convenience food available through Prime Now and (as of last week) Amazon Pantry in the UK. Pantry is a service where prime members can get boxes of non perishable food (such as cereals, pet food, cleaning products) delivered for a flat rate. Amazon are pitching it as a way to avoid having to shop for and transport bulky consumables. Such an obvious attack on UK supermarkets is bad news for an industry already feeling the squeeze from budget German retailers.
In a further move to be the only place you shop, Amazon also wants to reduce your unplanned shopping for maximum gain. They are selling Dash buttons in the US - wifi connected buttons that when pressed automatically reorder a specific product from Amazon. The idea is to stick a button next to your kettle, and press it whenever you are running low on teabags. In theory, this means users will never run out of essentials, meaning they will never have to nip to the shops and spend money somewhere which isn’t Amazon. Devious.
Brick and Mortar Shops
Some people prefer to do their shopping in person. This might be because they like to get close and personal with products, or they want the kind of customer service that can only be had in the real, physical world. Not to be left out of anything, Amazon have opened a physical bookstore in Seattle's University village. The books will be the same price as online, and under each one will be a review from Amazon.com: the companies way of integrating the online marketplace with the offline marketplace.
It’s a bit odd, but Amazon want to introduce an always listening, cylindrical robot into your home. Amazon Echo is a cloud connected voice command device and wireless speaker which you can call out to at any time for information. You could interpret this move as Amazon competing with Google for search, as shouting a query at Echo is an alternative to loading up a search engine.
More likely this is Amazon moving into an entirely new niche: a Siri like virtual assistant, taken off the phone and loaded onto a wireless speaker. Although a lot of people seem to be asking, 'What is the need?' it's worth noting that people felt the same about the iPod on its release. Echo could be as a big a success as the Kindle... or as bad a failure as the Fire Phone.