There is no doubt that Amazon is taking the retail industry by storm with its constant releases of the newest gadgets, partnerships and investments. In the past six months the major online brand has released multiple tools to make online shopping, and now even in-store shopping, even more seamless, and with the news of its partnership with Wholefoods, “Amazon’s biggest investment to date,” the market is looking forward to seeing what will happen next.
With more than 460 stores in the US, Canada and the UK, Whole Foods has been in the market since 1978, offering high quality, premium organic and natural products and, with this partnership, Amazon is starting to dominate the retail sector. According to the Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, “this partnership presents an opportunity to maximise value for Whole Foods Market's shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers.” This is not the first time Amazon has tried to establish a physical presence. Recently, the company launched a cashier-less grocery store concept called Amazon Go that allows customers to walk in, grab their items and walk out. It is expected that the new partnership will try and incorporate this innovative idea.
Amazon is finally taking its big step into the grocery market after a less successful launch of Amazon Fresh. Amazon Fresh was introduced in the US over seven years ago and launched in the UK in 2016. For Amazon to make significant inroads into grocery industry, it needs to increase its footprint in traditional stores and cannot just depend on its online business to do it.
Amazon is reportedly looking at business messaging service Slack Technologies with an acquisition in mind. This deal could be a follow-up to the launch earlier this year of Amazon Chime, a video conferencing and content-sharing service that Amazon added to its growing enterprise networking services for business customers. There are many reasons as to why the tech giant would be interested in collaborating with the upcoming messaging service. It is possible that the company is trying to control the whole customer experience, from shopping to paying and now communicating directly with its customers, a bit like Apple, a company with a vast ecosystem of devices, content, experiences, and financial capabilities. However, Slack nor Amazon have not yet commented on the news, but consumers of both brands are eagerly awaiting news on how this collaboration might develop.
Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it is jumping into the “try before you buy” online clothing trend with the new Prime Wardrobe. Amazon’s latest perk for Prime members lets customers buy everything that catches their eye and return what they don’t want. While Zappos, a company owned by Amazon, has successfully grown as an online shoe store, Amazon itself appears to be experimenting with different ideas to build up its clothing business.
Amazon Prime Wardrobe is free for Prime members and allows them to pick at least three items, and up to 15, from more than a million Amazon Fashion options, including clothes, shoes and accessories for kids and adults, to fill your Prime Wardrobe box with no upfront cost. Once you have selected your Prime Wardrobe-eligible pieces, Amazon will ship your selections to you in a resealable return box with a prepaid shipping label.
Right now online clothing and accessories sales make up 24% of the total in the US, according to Cowen & Co. By taking the hassle and regret out of returns for clothing, Amazon could make people much more comfortable pulling the trigger on an online apparel purchase. Choose your items well and you get a bonus discount, but pick poorly and no big deal. The speed and simplicity of Prime Wardrobe could be its biggest selling point. If you want the clothes for a special occasion, you can be confident Amazon will get them to you in time, and you won’t have to fiddle with getting a box and shipping label if you want to send something back. That hassle of sending clothes back can often cause people to keep items they don’t want, or dissuade people from buying clothes online at all. Amazon eliminating these troubles could remove one of the last big selling points for brick-and-mortar retailers. And because you can return the clothes that you don’t like or want, Prime Wardrobe could make it more comfortable for customers to purchase through voice commands to the Amazon Alexa.
Alexa is a voice interaction device, which is currently being introduced to Amazon’s iOS mobile app via an upgrade for Apple device users. Alexa’s integration adds a new dimension as you can now ask it to add items to a list or buy them. Sending Alexa out into the vast mobile smartphone and app market could help Amazon enable experiences for a much larger set of customers. There is almost nothing that this virtual assistant cannot do; she can be used to make phone calls, buy things, control products throughout the home, plan a vacation, order a taxi and much more.
Alexa comes with an accessory called the Dash Wand. This wand is a barcode scanning device to scan items that can be purchased off the website. Available to Prime Members for $20, and the purchase also includes a 90-day free trial of Amazon Fresh grocery delivery and pick-up service. This accessory allows even more physical yet online connections with the customers of Amazon allowing them to scan or tell Alexa what they want.
From collaborations with top grocery stores to talking virtual assistants, Amazon has managed to thrive in all variables of retail. Not only will Amazon continue to dominate the world of online shopping, it is now taking its turn to take over physical stores to enable even more security to its loyal customers. Although we can’t predict exactly what Amazon’s next move is, it is clear that the giant is investing more in its physical presence and that the retail market needs to be ready to fight back.