Foregoing private stores or other online alternatives, a large number of individuals and businesses prefer to sell through Amazon.com. With more than 95 million unique visitors each month, Amazon can be an ideal place for vendors looking to increase sales or simply unload items they no longer want or need. And because Amazon enjoys a generally positive reputation with its customers, the site can be a great place for sellers to build brand recognition for their businesses.
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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 never going to be able to compete with Google’s YouTube in user-uploaded video content, and it didn’t have the social infrastructure of Facebook to become a destination where people discuss their lives and share videos from around the web. But what Amazon did have was the resources to purchase a company that was poised to outrun both Facebook and YouTube to a new type of business: live-streaming, in particular video games live-streaming. The pioneer of that market was Twitch, which Amazon purchased in 2014 for just shy of $1 billion.
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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 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.
Amazon runs data centers for its online services and owns generators or purchases electricity corresponding to its consumption, mostly renewable energy. Amazon contracted with Avangrid to build and operate the first wind farm in North Carolina to power Amazon's Virginia data centers. The wind farm was built and began operating in December 2016 despite opposition from President Trump and some North Carolina Republican legislators.
A 2015 front-page article in The New York Times profiled several former Amazon employees who together described a "bruising" workplace culture in which workers with illness or other personal crises were pushed out or unfairly evaluated. Bezos responded by writing a Sunday memo to employees, in which he disputed the Times's account of "shockingly callous management practices" that he said would never be tolerated at the company.
Prime started as a two-day shipping membership for devoted Amazon shoppers, and it didn’t add any additional benefits until 2011. However, since then, Prime has grown into a subscription service with more than 100 million paid users worldwide, while the service itself has evolved to include additional perks over the years, including a Prime credit card now with 5 percent cash back. (Amazon also operates Amazon Pay for purchasing online goods elsewhere with your Amazon account, and the Amazon Cash service for translating cash into store credit using a barcode, although neither are restricted to Prime users.)
Amazon is known today not just as the everything store, but as the creator of Alexa, one of the most pervasive digital voice assistants on the market today. As an extension of Alexa, Amazon has become more than just a seller of other people’s products. It’s now a hardware maker (Fire Phone aside), having embarked on its boldest product play since the original Kindle when it decided to develop its own line of smart speakers to house its artificial intelligence software. Once again, the division responsible for this piece of hardware was Lab126, Amazon’s hardware arm that gave it the tools to dominate the e-reader market nearly a decade prior.
Yet despite having a hand in so many different industries, consumers largely trust Amazon with everything from their personal information and buying habits to the literal conversations they have in their own homes. According to a study The Verge conducted in partnership with consulting firm Reticle Research last year, Amazon is the most-liked and trusted technology brand by a wide margin. One likely explanation there is that the company has a strong relationship with its customers, thanks in part to its zealous commitment to low prices and a seemingly never-ending quest to make modern life more convenient.
A growing number of supermarkets allow their customers to shop online for their groceries, preparing the order for pick-up or delivering it directly to their door. Shopping from home for your grocery store items is a great way to deal with this necessary chore: It's convenient, it's a time saver, and sometimes you can even take advantage of online sales not otherwise accessible.
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Throughout the store there are features like “Most-Wished-For,” a collection of products that are most added to Amazon.com Wish Lists; “Trending Around NYC,” hot products that NYC-area customers are buying on Amazon.com; “Frequently Bought Together”; and “Amazon Exclusives.” These features, along with customer review cards with quotes from actual customer reviews, make it fun and easy to shop.
Customers will find products like the card game Codenames (4.8 stars, with more than 2,000 customer reviews), which 88% of reviewers rated 5 stars, and a Lodge 3.5 Inch Cast Iron Mini Skillet (4.4 stars, with more than 10,900 customer reviews), which 76% of reviewers rated 5 stars. Of course, Amazon 4-star shoppers can also find Amazon devices like the Echo Spot (4.5 stars, with more than 5,600 customer reviews), and the Fire TV Stick (4.4 stars, with more than 197,000 customer reviews). Customers can test-drive dozens of Amazon devices and smart home accessories that work with Alexa, and shop a curated selection of speakers, fitness tech, and other highly rated consumer electronics.
Install a browser extension. Tools like Honey hang out quietly while you shop, combing the web for the lowest price on whatever you’re buying. “One tool that saves Honey members time and money is Droplist,” says Honey’s Parisi. “Droplist watches selected items, notifying shoppers when the price of an item drops below the amount initially chosen. Droplist monitors the price of the item for 30, 60, or 90 days and will automatically send an email when the price drops to the amount that was set.”
On January 22, 2018, Amazon Go, a store that uses cameras and sensors to detect items that a shopper grabs off shelves and automatically charges a shopper's Amazon account, was opened to the general public in Seattle. Customers scan their Amazon Go app as they enter, and are required to have an Amazon Go app installed on their smartphone and a linked Amazon account to be able to enter. The technology is meant to eliminate the need for checkout lines. Amazon Go was initially opened for Amazon employees in December 2016. In August 2018, the second Amazon Go store opened its doors.
In early 2018, President Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Amazon's use of the United States Postal Service and pricing of its deliveries, stating, "I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy," Trump tweeted. "Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourne [sic] by the American Taxpayer." Amazon's shares fell by 6 percent as a result of Trump's comments. Shepard Smith of Fox News disputed Trump's claims and pointed to evidence that the USPS was offering below market prices to all customers with no advantage to Amazon. However, analyst Tom Forte pointed to the fact that Amazon's payments to the USPS are not public and that their contract has a reputation for being "a sweetheart deal".
When it comes to last-mile delivery, Amazon has publicly disclosed its work on drones and the Prime Air program to use those unmanned aerial vehicles to drop packages on our doorstep. The project has been in the works since 2013, and it’s hit a few snags as the regulation of US commercial drone operations has been a slow and often painful process for companies trying to get operations off the ground.
As it stands today, Amazon employs more than half a million people, more so than any other technology company in the country and second only to Walmart in the US. But the eventual result of its investments in robotics and AI is that technology’s biggest and fast-growing workforce could see that growth start to slow and, perhaps years down the line, even shrink as robots tackle ever more complicated tasks. In the process, the company may develop robots for use outside its fulfillment centers. Amazon has already changed how we shop and, by extension, how we live our lives. Its next big step could be changing how we work.
In March 2015, it was reported in The Verge that Amazon will be removing non-compete clauses of 18 months in length from its US employment contracts for hourly-paid workers, after criticism that it was acting unreasonably in preventing such employees from finding other work. Even short-term temporary workers have to sign contracts that prohibit them from working at any company where they would "directly or indirectly" support any good or service that competes with those they helped support at Amazon, for 18 months after leaving Amazon, even if they are fired or made redundant.
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.
Raw Generation is a raw juice company that launched its ecommerce store through Shopify, only to experience little success in its first 6 months. But you know what they say, where there’s a will there’s a way, and owner, Jessica Geier, was determined to find it. Raw Generation used deal sites to take the company’s monthly revenues from $8,000 to $96,000!