The Echo line and its Alexa assistant are Amazon’s avenues into our physical lives and our digital behaviors. With the data it collects, Amazon is able to better understand how we shop and how we want the devices of the future to listen, respond, and problem solve as if they were other human beings. Amazon has stiff competition in this space, primarily from Apple and Google, but its early investments in smart speakers and AI have helped Amazon overcome its absence in the key consumer markets like mobile, search, and social networks. As a result, Amazon has made early and tangible inroads in developing an ecosystem that customers will find increasingly hard to abandon down the line.
As Seen On TV is a generic nameplate for products advertised on television in the United States for direct-response mail-order through a toll-free telephone number. As Seen On TV advertisements, known as infomercials, are usually 30-minute shows or two-minute spots during commercial breaks. These products can range from kitchen, household, automotive, cleaning, health, and beauty products, to exercise and fitness products, books, or to toys and games for children. Typically the packaging for these items includes a standardized red seal in the shape of a CRT television screen with the words "AS SEEN ON TV" in white, an intentional allusion to the logo of TV Guide magazine.
As you come across items you want, click "Add to Cart" to save them. If you're undecided, add it anyway and you can always take it out of the cart later. When you're done, click the "Cart" button at the top of any Amazon page and select "Proceed to Checkout." Your first purchase includes creating an account. When Amazon prompts you to log in, enter your email address, choose "I Am a New Customer" and fill in your personal info. You'll also need to enter a credit card to complete your purchase. If you haven't shopped online before, the prospect of giving out your card number might seem intimidating, but online stores use encryption to prevent hackers from stealing your information. To stay safe on Amazon, just as with any other site, never give out your password, keep up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer and watch your bill for unexpected charges. Some credit card companies also provide one-time use numbers for shopping online -- check your card company's website to see if it offers this feature.
While Amazon was expanding into streaming video, hardware, and cloud computing, it simultaneously maintained an aggressive push into even faster shipping and all new retail formats. The company started its same-day shipping initiative, Prime Now, in New York City in 2014, and it’s since expanded it to dozens of cities around the world. Around the same time, Amazon began a program called AmazonFresh to stock and ship groceries — including vegetables and refrigerated and freezer products — that it used as a way to stay competitive with traditional big-box retailers like Walmart and Target and Uber-like logistics newcomers like Instacart. The company now sells its own line of meal kits through Fresh to rival ready-to-cook options from companies like Blue Apron and Plated.
Amazon was founded in 1994 around Bezos’ desire to start an internet-based business, with the goal of selling items online emerging as an early and obvious inroad into the dot-com boom. A former Wall Street worker with electrical engineering and computer science degrees, Bezos zeroed in on books as a viable initial product category for his online store due to the universality of literature, the existing stock of print books, and the relatively low price of each unit. Bezos briefly considered naming his company Relentless.com — an early sign of the man’s tenacious business mindset — but friends and family suggested it was too malevolent sounding. Relentless.com, which Bezos bought roughly 24 years ago, still redirects to Amazon.com. The company now controls almost half of all print book sales in the US.
Some other large e-commerce sellers use Amazon to sell their products in addition to selling them through their own websites. The sales are processed through Amazon.com and end up at individual sellers for processing and order fulfillment and Amazon leases space for these retailers. Small sellers of used and new goods go to Amazon Marketplace to offer goods at a fixed price. Amazon also employs the use of drop shippers or meta sellers. These are members or entities that advertise goods on Amazon who order these goods direct from other competing websites but usually from other Amazon members. These meta sellers may have millions of products listed, have large transaction numbers and are grouped alongside other less prolific members giving them credibility as just someone who has been in business for a long time. Markup is anywhere from 50% to 100% and sometimes more, these sellers maintain that items are in stock when the opposite is true. As Amazon increases their dominance in the marketplace these drop shippers have become more and more commonplace in recent years.
Amazon hasn’t been content stopping with smart speakers and just standard old appliances under its AmazonBasics brand. In its quest to put Alexa everywhere, the company now sells a dizzying number of smart home devices that go well beyond its core speaker and set-top box beginnings. First there was the Echo Dot, to help bring Alexa to analog speaker systems and get the voice assistant into more rooms of the home. Then there was the Echo Look, for AI-assisted outfit recommendations, and the Echo Show, which contained a display and camera for video chatting and was designed to be a hands-free screen for the kitchen.
Twitch started in 2007 as a 24-hour live stream of co-founder Justin Kan’s life (he coined the term “lifecasting”) called Justin.tv, but it became very clear very quickly that live gaming content was more popular than pretty much anything else. In 2011, Twitch spun off gaming-centric channels as Twitch.tv, and it grew exponentially as online games and the technology to broadcast them live on the internet became more widespread and popular.
Bezos selected the name Amazon by looking through the dictionary; he settled on "Amazon" because it was a place that was "exotic and different", just as he had envisioned for his Internet enterprise. The Amazon River, he noted, was the biggest river in the world, and he planned to make his store the biggest bookstore in the world. Additionally, a name that began with "A" was preferential due to the probability it would occur at the top of an alphabetized list. Bezos placed a premium on his head start in building a brand and told a reporter, "There's nothing about our model that can't be copied over time. But you know, McDonald's got copied. And it's still built a huge, multibillion-dollar company. A lot of it comes down to the brand name. Brand names are more important online than they are in the physical world."
When it comes to TV sales personalities, none are more famous and revered than the late Billy Mays. Mays ran commercials for dozens of different products, but perhaps the most popular of those products was OxiClean, which is an easy to use, non-toxic, and remarkably effective cleaning detergent that can take care of dishes, polish silver, and clean virtually anything else. Billy Mays put his trademark enthusiasm behind the product, and its quality is known worldwide.