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.
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.
Yet the more monumental retail push occurred last summer, when Amazon purchased grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and proved, yet again, that Bezos is willing and able to buy his way into a new market when it’s unfavorable to start from scratch. Amazon now uses Whole Foods’ grocery pick-up and delivery perks and in-store discounts as a way to reward its Prime subscribers. It’s also using its massive resources to lower Whole Foods prices, making it more competitive with Kroger, Target, and Walmart. In response, Walmart has begun investing heavily in e-commerce and grocery delivery to protect its turf from Amazon, setting the stage for an unprecedented retail war.
Cyber Monday generally means more retailer-wide discounts, rather than product-specific ones that pop up on Black Friday, says Novickis. But occasionally, the specific products that do get marked down on Cyber Monday are serious steals. "If a merchant stocked up on a product for Black Friday and then it didn’t sell as well as expected, there could be a deeper discount on Cyber Monday," she says.
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AWS started way back in 2000 as a way to help other retailers manage e-commerce operations, but it soon expanded into much more when key project members managed to convince Bezos that improving and evolving Amazon’s own infrastructure may hold the key to a new business model. In 2006, the product as we know it today launched into public availability and proved to be a pioneer for the entire cloud computing industry, offering cloud storage, hosting, and a suite of other tools for managing entire digital infrastructures in remote data centers. The division now pulls in roughly $6 billion every quarter and continues to grow at breakneck pace. It earned $17.5 billion in revenue in all of 2017 and regularly outperforms the company’s entire North American retail division in terms of profit.
Amazon, with its unfettered access to troves of valuable consumer and seller data, came upon a rather interesting business model around 2009, when it launched a private label division under the name AmazonBasics. It started first with the items the company noticed people most often purchased without thinking too hard about the brand name, like batteries and HDMI cables. But as The New York Times reported this past summer, this proved to be a way to fast track a fledgling product category into a massive money-making top seller — AmazonBasics’ AA batteries now outsell Duracell and Energizer on Amazon.com after just a few years.
Fitness guru Billy Blanks entered American homes across the country when he introduced his Tae Bo workout. The creator of the martial art known as Tae Bo, Blanks sought to teach people how they could get more physically fit, be more confident, and do so from the comfort of their own home. The Tae Bo workout has revolutionized the way people get their exercise and provided millions of people access to an easy and effective martial art that they can learn through instructional videos.