The obvious reason why Walmart and Amazon are jockeying to expand their in-home delivery systems is to make ordering online a simpler proposition. Both companies see having in-home and in-garage delivery options as bolstering their overall value to consumers -- the less work the consumer has to put in, the more attractive shelling out money for Amazon Prime or Walmart+ seems. But more quietly, in-home delivery programs may also be opening a pathway for both companies to expand their presence in the smart home market.
This year, a growing set of acquisition companies have turned buying up Amazon third-party sellers into an incredibly lucrative business. In exchange for an upfront payment, usually in the high hundreds of thousands or low millions, these companies will buy out successful Amazon third-party sellers and roll their products up into a larger conglomerate. That has made “getting acquired” an increasingly common goal among the most successful Amazon sellers -- and it might signal a broader shift in the culture of selling Amazon, as vast troves of outside capital floods into the sector.
Now, if a player falls in love with a rug they’ve added to their virtual apartment, they can buy a real-life version from Design Home directly. Tthe iOS game is essentially doubling as a furniture store. That’s a significant escalation not just for the budding relationship between retailers and video games -- it also suggests that video games might themselves become the retailers of the future.
Amazon is slowly offering an option that would let sellers fulfill orders outside of its marketplace in unbranded boxes. In doing so, Amazon is only deepening its influence over the e-commerce world -- so much so that, if sellers opt to use its fulfillment services, Amazon will continue to make money no matter where consumers buy from. In a world where Amazon controls much of e-commerce logistics, even consumers who want to avoid shopping at Amazon might still end up benefiting from the corporation’s massive reach.
Things likely won't be as crazy as they were last April for Amazon. But if panic buying does happen again, Amazon seems more prepared to handle it -- and to neutralize a subsequent rush of price gouging. Experts say the company has tweaked its algorithms to deal with new challenges. But even more hurdles lie ahead, and sellers are worried their businesses may be impacted.
For years, companies have invested in recruiting employee influencers who can put a face to the brand and offer a (favorable) behind-the-scenes glimpse into their companies. Companies believe that their employees can carry their message much further than a faceless brand account. But while the employee advocacy marketing tactic has existed for a few years, it is increasingly moving into TikTok -- in large part because TikTok is so good at creating a sense of intimacy with viewers.
On the surface, Amazon Explore looks almost identical to Airbnb’s Online Experiences platform, even down to the layout. Users toggle through a series of live-streamed sessions -- like cooking classes, ghost tours and fashion tutorials -- broken out by continent. But instead of an attempt to disrupt the hospitality industry, for Amazon, Explore seems to be an experiment with another, more intimate model of selling goods. It's all part of Amazon's move toward live-streaming commerce and more organic product discovery.
The major publicly held companies -- like Tupperware, Nu Skin and Primerica -- have posted sales increases. And 63% of companies reported to the Direct Selling Association, the industry’s main trade group, that they’ve seen a “positive impact” on their US revenue since the start of the pandemic. It turns out that the same algorithms that can amplify political social media posts are also great for spreading a multi-level marketing pitch.
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.
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