This time, it’s not Amazon Web Services, the cloud underpinning Amazon’s operations and those of other companies around the world, but Amazon’s Go technology that is being peddled to new clients. Bezos’ e-commerce behemoth is in talks to sell the flashy cashierless solution to movie theaters and airports, CNBC reported.
If Amazon is successful, the play to sell Go to other businesses may some day turn what now appears a revolutionary technical advance (with potentially devastating consequences for cashiers) into a commonplace asset. Just as AWS, the B2B play partially financing Amazon’s low-margin retail biz, supports thousands of businesses unbeknownst to their customers, Go-as-a-service could come to change all of retail without many consumers even realizing Amazon is behind changing checkout norms.
The fact that this was an open practice that at least some consumers simply did not understand they were either opting into or automatically participating in points to calls for greater transparency and regulation. Google says it “fell short” of its “high standards” on the issue, but legislation like Europe’s GDPR, CCPA, and legislation in some 10 other US states indicates those standards may be imposed on tech companies by government agencies going forward.
At the heart of the shift in gift-giving culture is the rise of online shopping. While previous generations would take to their local shops or markets to find the perfect gifts, today the process is infinitely simpler thanks to online retail giants like Amazon. At the click of a button, Internet users can purchase a present to be sent directly to their (or, even better, the recipient’s) door. Indeed, this is how the majority of people appear to be approaching gift giving today; approximately three quarters of consumers in the UK say they now buy more than half of their Christmas presents online.
Apple execs told the Times that the company’s apps show up so frequently in searches not because it tips the scales but because its apps are already very popular and are designed to please consumers. But that logic is in itself concerning: A company with nearly unparalleled power and insight into what consumers are looking for in terms of apps uses its understanding of consumer desire and vast resources to create apps that will defeat rivals (especially startups or young companies) in the App Store it owns. Even if there is no foul algorithmic play, the competitive advantage is clear. The question is whether it’s enough for antitrust action.
Amazon already uses its most valuable weapon — its own internal data — to compete with its own suppliers. It analyzes customer behavior around noted CPG brands, key market sectors, and private-label offerings from brands that sell on its platform to make decisions about where to launch its own private labels.
What can CPGs do to make it a win-win?
On this week’s Location-Based Marketing Association podcast: SpotHere raises $50M, Israel’s Shufersal serves the visually impaired, Jibestream acquired by Inpixon, Amazon rolls its Treasure Truck, Comscore + PlaceIQ launch MovieLift, TomTom releases APIs for EV developers.
It’s that factor, consumer data and Amazon’s vast store of it, that stands out most in Jason Del Rey’s reporting on Recode’s new podcast series, Land of the Giants. Specifically striking is the episode on Alexa, in which Amazon employees openly speculate about a future in which smart microwaves will hook up with Amazon’s growing healthcare ambitions to tell you when it’s time to stop making popcorn and smart countertops will join the intelligent kitchen conversation. As Del Rey notes, Amazon execs talk about this future openly, dropping tidbits about customer obsession along the way and appearing truly unperturbed by the thought that such interventions into our domestic lives may go too far or generate unintended consequences. Optimism for the quality of Amazon products and a fervent belief in the company’s benefit to consumers—without due consideration for products’ risk and would-be limits—seem to pervade the corporate culture.
On this week’s Location-Based Marketing Association podcast: PreciseTarget, Pinterest, Pokemon Go in NYC, Amazon killing Dash button, Walgreens using Theatre, MediaMarkt rolls out Signify indoor navigation, RevealMobile adds Canadian data.
For FedEx as for the many other companies and industries Amazon has decimated over the past 20 years, the problem in confronting Amazon may turn out to be one of margins. While FedEx needs a profitable delivery business to survive, Amazon can afford to lose money on delivery and make it up with relatively free-flowing profits from Amazon Web Services and its booming ad business.
In fact, Amazon can afford, thanks to the faith and generosity of investors, to make no profits at all. No easy task, competing with that.
There’s a renewed push in Silicon Valley to tackle last-mile delivery. The use of autonomous vehicles, drones, and artificial intelligence is what more and more vendors are pushing for. Last-mile delivery is the most expensive part of shipping, and increasing fees mean prices are only going higher. The company that can get goods from a transportation hub to the customer’s doorstep in the shortest amount of time will win the retail game, and technology firms are hoping that their innovative solutions will be the answer that retailers are looking for.
Here are six examples of companies that are working to innovate in the last-mile delivery space.
Amazon wasn’t the only retailer to see high purchase intent during its two-day event. Competing retailers saw similar successes piggybacking on Amazon’s newest shopping holiday with their own discounts and limited-time deals. This year’s Prime Day event drove a 14% spike in U.S. traffic on its first day, compared to baseline traffic from the month of June.
According to data collected by Constructor.io, an AI-first SaaS provider for ecommerce sites, among the non-Amazon companies having sales during Prime Day, search volume increased an average of more than 500%.
On this week’s Location-Based Marketing Association podcast: U.S. Army #InOurBoots VR recruiting, Transport for London using WiFi tracking, Havaianas shoppable boardwalk, McDonald’s Sweden’s QR picnic blanket, Zeta Global takes over PlaceIQ’s ad business, Amazon’s employee incentive for creating delivery start-ups.
In a recent column, Recode founder and New York Times columnist Kara Swisher cut to the core of what would seem to be concessionary calls for regulation from Big Tech firms, summarizing their attitude like this: “We make, we break, you fix.” She’s right, and with Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook doubling their combined lobbying spending from 2016 to $55 million in 2018, it is worth taking a closer look at the kinds of arguments the companies are trotting out to avoid responsibility for the outcomes of the technology they produce and sell. We should be particularly concerned about the arguments tech firms are making about AI, which is already remaking our society, replacing steps in crucial human decision-making processes with machine-generated solutions.
For an example of how tech firms are attempting to get away with peddling potentially dangerous AI-based tech to powerful entities like law enforcement agencies while accepting minimal accountability, consider Amazon’s Rekognition.
The blurring lines among search, social, and e-commerce only muddy the water when it comes to determining the customer’s journey to conversion. So, how can advertisers accurately attribute their marketing dollars to customer wins? Increasingly, marketers are turning to a multi-touch attribution strategy that includes both online and offline conversions, thereby moving away from simplistic last-touch attribution models.
The other day, Uber Eats announced a new service that struck me at first as a little surprising but, once I absorbed the idea, seemed strangely inevitable. In select cities like Austin and San Diego, you can now order food ahead of time, monitor your order status, and arrive at the restaurant just in time to begin dining, your table ready and waiting for you. This on-demand dine-in service is meant to remove time and effort from the experience of eating out, and it may also help restaurants fill empty tables during off-peak times by enabling special time-based incentives.
When I say it seems inevitable that an app would eventually “solve” waiting for your food at restaurants, I have two things in mind. The first is a quote from Twitter co-founder Ev Williams that, to me, strikes at the root of contemporary trends in innovation. The second point I want to observe here is that the highly representative user experience created by Uber Eats is taking place on a mobile phone.
Amazon’s success comes at a cost for publishers. Its growth means that retail and CPG brands are shifting digital spend away from publishers, siphoning off a key source of revenue. How can publishers compete? Their survival may come down to better ways of monetizing existing channels like email, as well as more effective use of their greatest asset: first-party data.
The hope for publishers lies in email and the power of the email address. With email, publishers have a logged-in channel that’s virtually fraud-free. Email represents a direct relationship with the consumer and one that is detached from platform intermediaries that have unfairly claimed revenue and attribution from the rightful influencer: the publisher. And contrary to popular belief, email is still a channel where people spend over five hours a day. What’s more, email is impervious to subtle shifts of an algorithm that force a publisher to buy the right to reach people, as opposed to owning the relationship with those who have requested a publisher’s content in the first place.
Unlike other shopping “holidays,” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Amazon Prime Day is specific to a single retailer. But as the event grows, other retailers—both online and offline—are finding ways to leverage the anticipation that consumers are feeling.
Last year, 63% of Prime Day shoppers said they visited competing websites to compare prices. This is a major opportunity for online retailers to capitalize on the spike in traffic and provide consumers with personalized and targeted offerings and exclusive deals.
Long lines of shoppers snaking around retail stores used to be commonplace on the morning after Thanksgiving. So was the tradition of picking up a print newspaper for an early look at the Black Friday ads. But with retailers like Amazon, Nordstrom, Alibaba, and Flipkart creating their own shopping holidays, the frenzy around Black Friday and Cyber Monday has been tamped down. Is this a sign of the times or just a blip in retail’s evolution?
To find the answer, the mobile app marketing firm Liftoff and the mobile measurement company Adjust teamed up and took a deep dive into the consumer activity on shopping apps throughout the calendar year. In a new report, the firms found that with excuses to shop year round, traditional shopping holidays, like Black Friday and the New Year period, are waning in significance. These events are gradually becoming less vital for online and offline retailers, even if they remain important moments.
Jeff Bezos likes to say, “Your margin is my opportunity.” Like with Whole Foods and grocery, Amazon moves into new verticals and applies its logistics-first approach to carve out margins, then undercut competitors. It is even getting into shipping, in a move to own its delivery infrastructure.
The next local conquest could be restaurants. For Amazon, it’s not just about serving food, but doing so in a way that aligns with its forte: delivering things to your home. The biggest clues and synergies lie in its established delivery and logistics playbook as well as its recent $575 million investment in Deliveroo.
Enter the cloud kitchen.