In November 2013, Amazon.com announced a partnership with the United States Postal Service to begin delivering orders on Sundays. The service, included in Amazon's standard shipping rates, initiated in metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and New York due to the high-volume and inability to deliver timely, with plans to expand into Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix by 2014.
That same year, the company launched Dash buttons for instant reordering of products like laundry detergent, and it’s more recently been investing in new services that let package-carrying couriers unlock the truck of your car and even your front door. Most recently, Amazon has signaled an intention to disrupt health care by purchasing online pharmaceutical startup PillPack. All of this has helped Amazon grow its North American retail operation at an unbelievable pace; annual sales for the division more than doubled from $50.8 billion in 2014 to $106.1 billion last year.
In one brief keynote, the company announced a car infotainment device, yet more updates to the standard Echo speaker and Dot line, a subwoofer, a set of stereo amplifiers, a Chromecast Audio competitor, a smart wall clock, a smart plug, and a super-powered Slingbox-style device for over-the-air programming. Oh and lest we forget, Amazon also made a microwave with Alexa built in, using it as a model to start competing with companies like KitchenAid, LG, and Samsung by making Alexa the go-to voice assistant and AI hub for household appliances. In addition to building its own devices, the company also invests in startups through its Alexa Fund to scout new and promising entrants and product categories, and it’s acquired quite a few of those companies — including security cam startup Blink and smart doorbell maker Ring — to ensure it has every corner of the smart home covered.
Although the company did raise the minimum wage for all of its employees earlier this month, it’s plowing ahead on warehouse robotics and automation in a way that could fundamentally reshape how its lowest-paid employees perform work — and how many of those employees it needs to retain. Amazon now uses more than 100,000 robots in warehouses around the world to help move and organize products, according to The New York Times, and it also sponsors an annual robotics competition to help spur innovation in AI that could result in more dexterous and intelligent robots capable of performing complex physical tasks.
In November 2015, Amazon opened its first physical bookstore location. It is named Amazon Books and is located in University Village in Seattle. The store is 5,500 square feet and prices for all products match those on its website. Amazon will open its tenth physical book store in 2017; media speculation suggests Amazon plans to eventually roll out 300 to 400 bookstores around the country. Amazon plans to open brick and mortar bookstores in Germany.
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While Amazon grew in the ‘90s largely thanks to its growing share of the print book market and its dominance of online book sales, it was its early investments in ebooks and e-readers that turned it into a digital publishing and book-selling powerhouse. Amazon began work on its first Kindle e-reader starting in 2004 under codename Fiona, with its internal Lab126 hardware division leading the product development process. The first device was released in November of 2007 and sold for $399. Amazon has since released numerous iterations of the Kindle, and it now dominates the e-reader market after edging out competing products from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others.
Amazon.com operates retail websites for Sears Canada, Bebe Stores, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, and Lacoste. For a growing number of enterprise clients, including the UK merchants Marks & Spencer, Benefit Cosmetics' UK entity, edeals.com and Mothercare, Amazon provides a unified multichannel platform where a customer can interact with the retail website, standalone in-store terminals or phone-based customer service agents. Amazon Web Services also powers AOL's Shop@AOL.
Audible.com is a seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and TV programs and audio versions of magazines and newspapers. Through its production arm, Audible Studios, Audible has also become the world's largest producer of downloadable audiobooks. On January 31, 2008, Amazon announced it would buy Audible for about $300 million. The deal closed in March 2008 and Audible became a subsidiary of Amazon.
The infomercial industry is huge and is worth a staggering $250 billion as of 2015. It all started back in the late 40’s and early 50’s when major sponsors of serial television programs were soap manufacturers (i.e. Proctor & Gamble, Lever Brothers and Colgate-Palmolive), which is how “soap operas” got their name. There is some controversy although the first infomercial is thought to have been for a blender either made by VitaMix or Waring Blenders and aired in 1949 or 1950. Time limits for commercials were imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not too long after this which halted the growth of infomercials until 1984 when those limits were removed.