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.
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.
Some workers, "pickers", who travel the building with a trolley and a handheld scanner "picking" customer orders can walk up to 15 miles during their workday and if they fall behind on their targets, they can be reprimanded. The handheld scanners give real-time information to the employee on how fast or slowly they are working; the scanners also serve to allow Team Leads and Area Managers to track the specific locations of employees and how much "idle time" they gain when not working. In a German television report broadcast in February 2013, journalists Diana Löbl and Peter Onneken conducted a covert investigation at the distribution center of Amazon in the town of Bad Hersfeld in the German state of Hessen. The report highlights the behavior of some of the security guards, themselves being employed by a third party company, who apparently either had a neo-Nazi background or deliberately dressed in neo-Nazi apparel and who were intimidating foreign and temporary female workers at its distribution centers. The third party security company involved was delisted by Amazon as a business contact shortly after that report.
In late 2016, the company launched its first experimental Go store, which replaces cashiers with a computer vision system that automatically detects when you take products off the shelf and checks you out as you leave the store. Go now has two locations in Chicago, three in Seattle, and one that just opened in San Francisco today, with more planned in California and New York City over the course of the next year. Bloomberg reported in September that Amazon may open as many as 3,000 Go locations by 2021, with the goal of competing with stores like CVS and 7-Eleven, as well as fast casual and made-to-go meal establishments. The company is also now experimenting with brick-and-mortar stores that sell only four-star rated products from Amazon.com, starting with a location in New York City.
When it comes to which shopping holiday will save you more—Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday—for years, Black Friday dominated, a tried and true tradition for many deal-saavy families. However, as retailers have rolled out sales on Thanksgiving (and even earlier) and more people have gravitated to online shopping, Cyber Monday has become a big draw for those who want to forgo the early wake-up call and long lines, and shop from the comfort of their couch.
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.