06 Nov What is Amazon up to?
I first noticed Amazon Lockers in our local Safeway. The bright yellow metal boxes at the front of the store caught my attention, but I had no idea what they were for. I asked the clerk and he said they were for Amazon deliveries. Huh? In a grocery store? Interesting. I hadn’t really paid attention to Amazon before this, apart from buying books or gifts online from them a few times a year for the last decade.
Then Amazon acquired Whole Foods this past summer for a cool $13 billion+. What was an e-retailer doing buying an organic grocery chain? Now I was officially curious. So when I saw a USPS mail carrier delivering on a Sunday a few months back, I wasn’t surprised when his reply to my, “Why are you delivering today?” was, “We made a deal with Amazon to deliver their stuff on Sundays and holidays.”
Most people know that Amazon, founded just over 20 years ago, is the world’s largest online retailer of books, clothing, electronics, music, and pretty much any other everyday item you can think of. But what are they up to now? I decided to do a little research to find out.
A Forbes article on the Whole Foods acquisition claims that Amazon’s purchase of what many people jokingly call “Whole Paycheck” is all about consumer data and the private label business. By purchasing the exclusive supermarket chain, Amazon is playing out its strategy to become more vertically integrated. The same Forbes article mentions that–an eye-opener for me–the Academy Award nominated “Manchester by the Sea” film was produced completely by Amazon. I had no idea they were in the movie-making business.
While Whole Foods is its largest acquisition yet, it’s only the latest in a long line of companies Amazon has swallowed up, including Audible, Inc., the largest U.S. producer and retailer of audio books, acquired in 2008, and Zappos.com, one of the world’s largest online shoe stores, acquired in 2009.
You might remember when public concern arose earlier this spring after a consumer asked Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant device, “Are you connected to the CIA?” The robot’s response was less than transparent, and quickly re-programmed to ease consumers’ minds.
Amazon’s drone-delivery program has also been controversial. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first announced the company’s drone initiative in 2013, stating that the delivery program would rollout in 2018. Many laughed at the rigorous timeline, doubting it could or would be done. However, Amazon is still on track. The company has been testing delivery of packages by drone in the UK and Canada and already gave a public demonstration of the first U.S. delivery. Just last month an executive order by Trump was signed to allow testing of drone operations here in the U.S., opening the door to drone delivery testing on Amazon’s home turf.
Amazon is also engaged in the clean-energy sector in a big way. It operates 18 wind and solar farms, just recently christening its largest wind farm yet, located in Texas. Amazon’s website says they have a “long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for the AWS global infrastructure footprint.” AWS, or Amazon Web Services, is a cloud services platform used by other industry giants like Netflix, Kellogg’s, Expedia, and 3M.
I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz from busy moms about Amazon Dash, a service offering the ability to instantly re-order products with the click of a button. Oh, yeah, and from dads who claim Amazon Fire is better than Netflix. (I’m not convinced yet.)
Just last month I started seeing TV commercials where an Amazon delivery person leaves a delivery inside your house. This is the new Amazon Key service, and it’s designed to fight against “porch pirates” who steal packages from your doorstep when you’re not at home. It launches this week in 37 cities, just in time for the holiday ordering season. Pretty brilliant.
Amazon is growing so exponentially that it’s looking to build a second headquarters. The retail giant is specifically looking for its new location to include non-stop flights to Seattle, the home of its main headquarters, and close proximity to the Bay Area. A cohort in Sacramento put together a proposal, excited about the potential of adding 50,000 high-paying jobs to the area. Could Amazon be the next major driver of economic growth in Northern California? With 238 proposals to sift through, we probably won’t know until next spring.
When I was a kid, the Amazon I learned about was the world’s largest river in a giant tropical rainforest in South America where most of the world’s trees and organisms lived. I wonder if the Amazon my daughter will grow up to know will be something entirely different.