Amazon - A Better Alternative to Offline Stores?
It's no surprise to hear that Amazon is absolutely killing it online. They've become the world's largest internet retailer and founder Jeff Bezos has his sights set far and wide on continuing to build and expand his ever-growing empire.
Amazon is absolutely dominating the market in every way possible and traditional brick-and-mortar companies are left scrambling, finding it harder and harder to keep up the competition.
As if the playing field wasn't already skewed enough, Amazon has gone and absolutely dominated the buyer experience off-line as well. By introducing creative, novel concepts and ideas such as same-day shipping, drone delivery, Amazon lockers and branching out with physical retail locations including Amazon Go shops, bookstores and college pickup points, the company is only continuing to stay ahead of the curve.
Unless you're living under a rock, you've heard of the gloriousness that is Amazon's same-day shipping service. Order your products at 11 AM and you can receive them in your inbox by 8 PM that evening. Talk about instant gratification, yeah?
To make it even better, this service is offered seven days a week with Amazon Prime members enjoying it a significant discount when compared with non-members.
The company has found a genius way to increase Prime subscriptions and we’re kind of jealous at the level of ingenuity. Same-day delivery services are offered on orders of $35.00 or more in addition to products which are clearly labeled "FREE Same Day Delivery". In the event that an order doesn't quite cross the $35 threshold, the same day delivery service clocks in at $5.99 per order – not too bad.
If you happen to be a regular ol’ non-Prime consumer -- that's OK buddy, Amazon still kept you in mind – you just don’t quite get the complete hook up like their actual members do. Sans Prime membership, consumers can still receive same-day shipping however the charges are $8.99 plus an additional $.99 per item per delivery.
The service is available in several large metropolitan areas with Amazon taking a rather generous view of the term "metropolitan area".
Can you say #winning?
It seems like we've been hearing talks of Amazon drone delivery forever now at this point. However, back in December Amazon legally delivered it's very first prime order in the UK via drone just 5 miles outside of its Cambridgeshire testing facility.
This however, was no easy feat as the approval of Britain's Civil Aviation Authority was needed with the equivalent needed from America's Federal Aviation Administration for comparable testing (#newsflash: they got it).
Nonetheless the test seemed a success with the delivery of packages of up to 5 pounds in 30 minutes or less potentially happening much sooner than we might have originally anticipated.
One can only imagine how unbelievably earth shatteringly awesome this experience is going to be for the everyday consumer once it is in full effect. According to representatives, an Amazon fire TV and a bag of popcorn took approximately 13 minutes from the moment it was ordered online to delivery.
How is the traditional store going to be able to compete with that you ask? We literally have no idea.
Once this concept is fully executed, drone delivery is expected to be available solely during daylight hours and will be a completely weather dependent service (i.e. good visibility, low winds).
There have also been talks about consumers being required to have landing pads set up in their backyards as a way for drones to hone in on drop locations.
As if this wasn't crazy enough, they were recently awarded a patent for a "system in which a package would be 'forcefully' propelled from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and would be help to land by tools including parachute."
Whoa mama. We're feeling pretty Johnny Bravo right about now.
Amazon had a problem. Their customer satisfaction rates were declining due to several instances of stolen packages and/or damaged goods from shipping companies. Now, if anyone knows anything about Amazon, it's that probably the only three things they remotely care about are monetization, expansion and customer satisfaction. So they did something kind of epic. They created the Amazon locker.
This has done wonders and is a much needed option for those of us who live in large cities where having your brand-new BOSE stereo sound system sitting on your front stoop for longer than 2.5 minutes poses a significant problem.
Enter the locker concept.
Not only did Amazon pretty much effectively find a solution to a growing problem, but they went ahead and streamlined the process for you as well -- because they got it like that.
The pick-up process was clearly designed to create a wonderful user experience. Buyers simply wait for an email confirmation that the package has been dropped off at their local locker location and head to it with smart phone in hand. Once arrived, individuals simply scan the bar code listed in the confirmation email or enter it on the screen and -- Voilà -- the lock her door opens. How cool is that?
Yes, Amazon is even looking to further expand its “beta” line of retail locations, seemingly sealing the proverbial nail in the coffin to many already struggling brick-and-mortar businesses.
There have been several speculative discussions surrounding Amazon’s plans for further expansion into the physical retail realm. The company has already opened a beta Amazon Go Store located in Seattle, Washington, but has made a point to say that they are taking it slow and focusing on only "...one store at this time”, according to the company's CFO Brian Olsavsky.
However, they have also paradoxically made it clear that they plan to create more brick-and-mortar bookstore locations. Currently Seattle, San Diego and Portland are the lucky three, but Olsavsky has noted that they plan on opening five more convenient physical locations this year.
…and that’s not all.
The company has been testing pop-up stores at various college campus locations designating them as "college pick up points" for online orders. The small pop-up stores serve as locations where individuals can learn about and purchase Amazon devices and services and are a form of expansion that Olsavsky has admitted he sees "great value" in.
Amazon has always been heavily geared towards consumer satisfaction and making sure that it's consumers receive the best experience possible. In true form, the company has made sure to apply this mantra both off-line as well.
The various strategies and features they've put in place such as same-day shipping, drone delivery, Amazon lockers and retail locations including college campus pop-up shops and bookstores only continue to enhance the consumer experience off-line.
If there's one thing Amazon knows how to do well, it’s how to keep its consumer base happy, and that means facilitating the most pleasantly efficient and convenient experience possible both on and off-line.
Brick and mortar businesses are going to need to continually work to devise creative strategies and plans in order to remain competitive in the face of this ever-growing retail giant. From same-day shipping to parachute backyard delivery, Amazon is changing the game in more ways than one and we only continue to keep looking forward in anticipation of what they have up their sleeve next.
Article by by D. Holland Ingram