A growing network of e-commerce platforms like Shop Where I Live and Bookshop.org have popped up to provide a close-to-home alternative to Amazon. Their vision is of an online shopping world that isn’t dominated by two or three giant companies, but instead is decentralized across hundreds of different, localized websites. Already in a number of cities worldwide, these websites focus on getting small businesses online and creating more equitable business models. But do they present a viable alternative to Amazon's growing dominance?
At the time of its debut, Amazon seemed late to the subscription box trend. After first gaining momentum with the rise of Birchbox in 2010, some experts thought the bubble was bursting. But subscription boxes have witnessed a bit of a renaissance during the pandemic -- and while the surge is led by the industry’s biggest names, more quietly, small retail stores like Speach’s are turning to Amazon to roll out their own subscription-box businesses. They see the boxes as a vital driver of growth in a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are still struggling to make ends meet.
While Section 230 might not be keeping Bezos up at night the way it is Mark Zuckerberg, the law does still have significant implications for Amazon’s future business -- especially when products bought on the site turn out to be dangerous. A small number of court cases are revealing an awkward contradiction for the company: One of Amazon’s greatest strengths as an e-commerce platform -- its vast logistics network -- might also be making it look a lot like the true seller of a third-party item, opening it up to new types liabilities.
Most intriguing about Tupperware’s success is that it has amassed all those sales largely without the help of a traditional e-commerce store. The vast majority of its business still comes from its nationwide network of sellers, who have figured out how to bring direct-selling to Zoom, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and even WhatsApp. Tupperware’s general e-commerce store, which it launched last year, brings in just 4% of its revenue.
In a sense, #BoxedOut was just a clever advertising effort. But the central thrust of the campaign — that a group of small independent booksellers would coordinate to fight Amazon’s disruption of its industry — felt oddly new. While plenty of one-off businesses have criticized Amazon before, coordination on a broader scale is rare. And it might signal a future trend among small retailers struggling to match Amazon and Walmart — if they want to beat the heavy hitters, they need to work together.
Lawyers and other experts who specialize in seller suspensions say that a recent wave of suspensions was among Amazon’s biggest. Craig Gedey, whose firm Thompson and Holt advises suspended sellers, told Modern Retail, “It’s the busiest weekend we’ve had all year.” But the mass suspensions represent a familiar pattern for Amazon -- whenever the company tweaks its algorithm, often without warning, sellers find their livelihoods on ice overnight.
The tight-knit partnership between “Get Organized” and The Container Store is just an acceleration of an ongoing trend: Streaming is becoming ever more entangled with e-commerce. Product placements have existed forever, of course -- think of "E.T.", the 1982 film that sent sales of Reese’s soaring 70%. But these placements were almost never as thorough as the full-scale collaborations on “Get Organized.” And as brand sponsorships become more encompassing and data-driven, TV shows are beginning to look a lot more like retailers.
Amazon would really like a peek at your Target receipts, all in the name of refining its ad business. The goal is improved micro-targeting -- if Amazon can figure out what people are not buying on Amazon, for instance, it can serve them ads for Amazon products that they might not think to buy online. What's more, Amazon is collecting all this data in order to learn what kinds of purchases it has yet to monopolize.
Lost in Ocean Spray’s accidental moment in the spotlight is this fact: Ocean Spray is one of America’s oldest — and largest — retail coops. Since its founding, a network of farmers have owned and run the business. And even without TikTok in the picture, its business model is uniquely equipped for 2020. A number of businesses are turning to the cooperative model to stay afloat, while a group of incubators want to shepherd forward bigger coops that they believe can form the backbone of a more sustainable economy.
Livestream shopping has taken off abroad, but Amazon has struggled to replicate that success on its own platform. So the company is trying a new way to promote its Amazon Live platform: Recruit micro-influencers. The program is still small, but participants say that it has the potential to bring a more social-media-like experience to buying on Amazon.
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