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Things Amazon Did In June That Did Not Involve Buying Whole Foods

I made the mistake of tweaking my Google news alert settings so that I would get more frequent updates, particularly about Amazon, about three days before Amazon announced its intention of acquiring Whole Foods. Bad call on my part.

But one interesting outcome from the experiment was that I noticed that while everyone else was slobbering over the announcement, they almost drowned out a lot of other important things that Amazon was up to. So I thought I would put together a round up of things Amazon did in June that did not involve buying Whole Foods. Note: this is by no means an exhaustive list!

We’re thinking about making this kind of analysis a more frequent thing – maybe even its own newsletter subscription – so let us know what you think about it in the comments below. Helpful?Repetitive? Valuable?

Amazon vs. Microsoft Office

Amazon sued a former employee for violating a non-compete by going to Smartsheet.

  • Business Insider speculates that the suit reveals plans to take on Microsoft in the productivity apps market.
  • oAs the story developed, a judge barred the employee, Gene Farrell, from starting work at Smartsheet even though the company asserted that it does not compete with Amazon.
  • oAmazon eventually dropped the suit.
  • And then there is the rumor that Amazon wants to buy Slack instead.
  • oBusiness Insider notes that Amazon is the only tech company without a messaging service (compared to Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google).

Amazon: Tech Company or Retailer? Or Anti-Trust Target?

Amazon’s AWS business and retail business don’t sit well together for a lot of people. AWS continues to grow and evolve (though not without its own competitive challenges), and after the Whole Foods announcement, voices stating that Amazon is becoming too big are getting louder.

Amazon vs. Retail

Is Amazon out to destroy Retail? How about Retail Brands?

  • IKEA is giving up on selling its own products online and is rumored to be looking at Amazon as its new digital partner. As a branded manufacturer, there’s not much downside – it’s not like it really matters if Amazon cannibalizes IKEA stores as long as those Billy bookcases keep moving. Reuters confirms that testing (on the unconfirmed partner’s site) will begin in 2018.
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  • oFast Company reported that IKEA continues to NOT confirm that Amazon is its new digital partner and notes that any IKEA items being sold on Amazon are through third party sellers.
  • Amazon may be getting ready to expand its Amazon Go concept. GeekWire reported that the company has a job listing for a real estate manager for Go, and has received copyright protection approval for Amazon Go in the UK.
  • Is high-end photography an Amazon defense for fashion? Digiday explores the idea, asserting that luxury retailers can successfully differentiate from Amazon’s “commodity” photography. But given Amazon’s data-driven approach, how long do you think it will be before they figure out fit technology?
  • Some third-party sellers on Amazon are using Alibaba to acquire their products – one seller’s story.
  • Amazon, in another case of patent inanity, is granted a patent to prevent in-store comparison shopping on its WiFi network. One, why is this even a patent, and two, why hasn’t anyone else tried to patent this ages ago, like in 2010 when Amazon first launched its price comparison app for in-store shoppers at other retailers?
  • Business Insider decides that Amazon’s private label snacks, branded Wickedly Prime, are pretty good.
  • A court ruling in the US affirms that Amazon cannot be held liable for third parties selling knockoffs on the site. As more brands cut deals with Amazon for “certified” labeling in return for selling there, could this protection erode over time?
  • Amazon sellers, finding the marketplace competition too stiff and “overcrowded”, are hedging their bets and signing on with Walmart.
  • Business Insider writes a review of Amazon’s Outfit Compare service, free to Amazon Prime subscribers with the mobile app. This isn’t the same as Amazon’s Echo Look device, which is both AI and human-driven. Outfit Compare is billed as solely human-driven.
  • Doubling down on fashion, Amazon announces Prime Wardrobe, which allows consumers to fill a box, try it all on and only pay for what they keep:

Amazon vs. Christmas… In July

The first rumors about Amazon Prime Day began on June 13th.

Amazon vs. Media

Between ad revenue and content investments, Amazon seems poised to disrupt another industry sector: media.

  • Amazon launched an audience match service called Advertiser Audiences, which competes with Google & Facebook. The difference, though, is that Amazon is closer to the transaction end of the purchase funnel, which theoretically means the ability to target consumers who are already “primed” to buy. (Ha ha, see what I did there?)
  • Amazon’s ad revenue business is estimated to be $1.2B in 2017, and some analysts predict it could be as much as $20B by 2020.
  • Amazon is gaining ground on Netflix in the EU, with average demand for Netflix content down 32%, while Amazon demand went up 57% over the last year.
  • oPWC predicts that streaming services (primarily Netflix and Amazon) will overtake the UK box office by 2021.
  • One reason Amazon may increasingly be interested in ad revenue is to offset its own advertising expenses. A blogger for Motley Fool writes that Amazon spends more on online advertising than Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Kroger combined.
  • A production team talks about the experience of working with Amazon to produce a series based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last, unfinished novel. Of particular note: the public pilot testing process.

Amazon vs. The World

The US and EU might be the most Amazon-phobic markets, but the company is making big moves all around the world.

  • In India:
  • oWhole Foods wasn’t the only grocer Amazon is rumored to be buying. Bloomberg reports rumors that Amazon may be in talks to acquire BigBasket, an Indian online grocer.
  • oBigBasket’s CEO denies the rumor.
  • oAmazon says its India unit grew 85% in unit sales in first quarter 2017, outpacing rival Flipkart’s growth during the same period.
  • oFlipKart cleared a major regulatory hurdle on acquiring eBay India, and is rumored to be in talks to merge with Snapdeal, both billed as a move to position against Amazon in the Indian market.
  • In Australia: Bain & Co. released a study on the potential impact of Amazon on the Australian market, forecasting the online retailer will own AUS$8-10B of the market in 5 years – double what others are forecasting.
  • In Spain: The Spanish government launched an Amazon store featuring food and wine from Spain. The idea is to feature small & medium sized businesses in an export play to the UK and Germany.

Amazon vs. The Poor

  • Amazon announced a discounted version of Prime available to those receiving food stamp (known as SNAP) assistance. Huffington Post speculates this is a prelude to accepting SNAP as payment for online groceries, noting the company is already involved in a pilot program doing exactly that in 3 states.
  • Amazon announced a new Prime benefit, called Amazon Reload, which gives shoppers a 2% bonus on any cash/debit they load into Reload. It’s more stored value card (where Amazon holds your cash) than actual cash back. TechCrunch (and others) speculate that this is another way for Amazon to reach low income shoppers.
  • oCNet points out that Amazon offers better rewards elsewhere, like with the Prime Rewards Visa Card (5% back on Amazon purchases, among other perks) – but that’s assuming your credit is good enough to get one.
  • Ernst & Young’s fintech lead predicts that Amazon will become a dominant player in fintech in the near future, noting investments in payments, lending, and credit scoring.

'Amazon Proof'?

Auto parts and cars in general was one of the last holdout businesses that investors and pundits were willing to say was “Amazon proof”

What Can Alexa Do?

Amazon adds new capabilities and skills to Alexa, primarily delivered through the Echo device. Here are some of just a few notable developments impacting voice devices in the home:

  • Amazon added phone capabilities – but then had to add the ability to do call blocking after the fact.
  • Don’t want to give Amazon your money but want to play with the Alexa voice service? Make your own DIY Echo.
  • Amazon gets quite the reaction to their Times Square advertisement featuring a 79-foot tall Echo.
  • Oddball music requests from Echo users (“play Bruce” or “play dog music”) are causing the music industry to rethink its approach to the device.
  • A startup figured out how to capitalize on Alexa’s in-skill advertising, until Amazon updated its Alexa skill policies to shut it down.
  • The Japanese “messaging giant” Line launched a set of speakers to compete with Echo (as well as Google Home and Apple’s HomePod). It comes in bear and chicken.
  • Amazon launches a new Dash Wand, equipped with Alexa voice skills, so that users can either scan products to reorder, or just talk to the device.
  • oThe new device is an upgrade over the old one, eliminating the need to move to a desktop or mobile phone to complete a transaction.
  • oGeekWire didn’t like the difference between the cart-based ordering and the voice ordering when they tested the device:
  • A consumer study asserts that consumers are mostly only price-driven when it comes to buying an in-home voice device. Which actually serves to demonstrate the dangers of asking consumers about price more than it does anything else.

Alexa apps are starting to attract investor funding – and not just focused on retail.

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Articles & Opinions July 11, 2017
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