Until now, Amazon Music has remained distinct from the company’s larger e-commerce business, but the recent addition of merch suggests that these two sides of the platform may become more tightly integrated down the line. It also shows the way in which Amazon, as its empire expands, is tying consumer products more tightly to its ecosystem.
For years, big money investors have been leery of Amazon businesses, concerned that even successful products lack any real brand value outside of the context of Amazon. But the arrival of private equity deals suggests that financial types increasingly see Amazon businesses as sustainable, long-term investments, given that private equity investors tend only to pour money into established businesses.
Financial advances are not a new phenomenon in the e-commerce world. But now they are zeroing in on Amazon sellers. The rise of these e-commerce fintech programs is happening against the backdrop of big investors pouring money into e-commerce businesses -- and the two trends are deeply intertwined. For sellers, these fintech firms are creating a pathway to scale a business fast, right as private equity companies and larger rollups are actively looking to acquire e-commerce businesses.
Amazon is doing away with its Early Reviewer Program, and is instead pushing third-party sellers to its existing reviewer programs, like Vine, as well as its newly introduced “Request a Review” button. The shuttering of the Early Reviewer Program is a further refining of Amazon’s review ecosystem. While it is not a significant loss to sellers, it shows the progress that Amazon has made in regulating how reviews are solicited through the platform.
Amazon is making a minor change to the customer data it shares with sellers. But Amazon’s move is just an extension of a growing, if not uncommon, source of tension between marketplaces and their sellers: third-party sellers account for around half of sales on a site like Amazon, but while they might be selling their products, they don’t actually gain customers.
Amazon’s attachment to U.K.-based food delivery service Deliveroo remains an intriguing footnote for both companies. While Amazon has done little to tie itself or its services to Deliveroo beyond its initial investment, Amazon’s backing suggests that the food delivery market -- a sector that Amazon has dabbled in previously, through a series of failed programs like Amazon Restaurants -- remains a strong interest for the company.
A longtime e-commerce business is now entering the Amazon roll-up fray: Berlin Brands Group (BBG) -- a Germany-based company that began as an e-commerce seller in 2005, creating and marketing its own products on Amazon and other platforms. In January, BBG announced that it was, for the first time, entering into the acquisitions space. It's an important milestone for the increasingly competitive Amazon acquisition industry.
Amazon has been actively staffing up Live over the last year, pitting it in a race against Facebook, TikTok and even Mall of America and Klarna to pitch products through livestreams. To stand out, Amazon is making Live a more friendly space to brands -- and they’re doing that by recruiting official video hosts, as well as by integrating livestreams more deeply into the rest of the Amazon site.
Amazon is continuing to invest in Alexa's conversation technology. A recent rollout is following a number of smaller initiatives from Amazon’s smart speaker team, which -- while relatively under the radar -- total to a notable investment in making conversations with Alexa smoother. Altogether, these innovations might have a marginal impact on customer adoption of voice commerce. And it might also push small brands that have resisted building out Alexa integrations because of lack of resources to develop their own Alexa skills.
Amazon is continuing its quest to offer social media-like features. For Amazon, the concern is that social-media-driven commerce -- long hyped to be the future of shopping -- now seems inevitable. The company’s rollout of Live and #FoundItOnAmazon is about capturing the value of social commerce before other social media companies can cut into its market share -- and its most recent feature, the little-noticed Amazon Posts, could go a long way toward achieving that goal.
In the aggregate, onlookers can draw out broad themes for how a company like Amazon sees itself, based on its investment history. And in Amazon’s case, though those signals are murky, they point to a few of the company’s areas of interest -- including an increased focus on fulfillment and delivery, plus growing fascinations with customer service, sleep and smart home devices. Here, we map out a few potential patterns in Amazon’s investments from the past five years.
Amazon's recent acquisition of e-commerce platform Selz has already sparked speculation about its larger meaning for Amazon’s ambitions. Depending on who is speaking, the acquisition is either the clearest signal yet that Amazon is going to compete directly with Shopify -- or it’s a small, local purchase aimed to expand Amazon’s reach in a new market, Australia, and nothing more. But it does show that seller services is the next e-commerce battleground.
This week, Mitsubishi is unveiling its newest car on Amazon Live. Live-stream shopping has long been hyped to become the future of e-commerce in the U.S., but this past year, tech giants finally invested in the new medium. Amazon’s event represents an escalation of those efforts -- and hints at a possible future where Amazon Live becomes a hub of all kinds of live events and product launches for brands.
Publisher recommendations are being prominently featured in Amazon searches. And sellers are trying to figure out how to capitalize. In recent months, some agencies have popped up with promises to facilitate connections between Amazon sellers and publishers enrolled in the Onsite Associates program -- creating what amounts to a behind-the-scenes industry of brokers that help sellers get their products listed on Amazon's first page. But the overall ecosystem remains murky.
In the past two years, Amazon has rolled out a suite of fashion-tech features, all in the hopes of finding new ways to draw in fashion customers. The pace of innovation is furious, with new features popping up nearly every month -- yet while some of those features have already disappeared and might amount to throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks, they have, in the aggregate, grown Amazon's fashion clout. Here's a look at some of Amazon's high-profile fashion launches over the past year and a half.
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