Mayor to review 1,000 Amazon products in bid for company’s new HQ

It’s been about a month since Amazon announced it was accepting bids from US cities to host its second major headquarters. A city that comes away with a new Amazon campus could potentially see a significant economy boost, so competition will certainly be fierce. And with the deadline for cities to submit their proposals exactly one week away, Kansas City, Missouri has emerged as perhaps the city with the most creative strategy. As noted by VentureBeatKansas City mayor Sly James purchased 1,000 products from Amazon for charity and is reviewing every single one — and the reviews very quickly pivot into why his city would be a great place for the company’s new HQ.

James explained his plan with a few videos on Twitter and also set up a URL that lets interested parties (like Amazon) see everything he’s reviewed. Products run the gamut from 22-inch wind chimes priced at only $14.99 (“I live in beautiful Kansas City where the average home price is just $122K, so I know luxe living doesn’t have to cost a ton”) to the classic kids story Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (“Alexander had a really bad day, but here in KC, we’re ranked as one of the 20 happiest cities to work in right now…”). You get the idea.

Video here

Site here

James just kicked the program off earlier this week, but he already has posted dozens of reviews — though a read through his entertaining Twitter feed makes it sound as if he’s not actually doing all the posting himself. But there’s little doubt this goofy but heartfelt venture is driving some positive buzz for Kansas City. Whether or not that’ll make a difference in the bidding process remains to be seen, but the city does meet enough of Amazon’s criteria that it should be in the running.

Source: Engadget

Why it’s Hot:

Going all out for your city’s economic growth means more than formal pitches, apparently. Taking to social to find humorous and creative ways to stand out is a solid idea — let’s see how it pans out for KC’s chances!

 

Walmart Puts Its Eggs in a Time-Saving Basket: Grocery Pickup

In today’s installment of the the ongoing food/convenience/price/partnership saga…

Seeking an edge against Amazon, Walmart is pushing a service that delivers your order to your car. Customers never have to step inside the store.

A personal shopper is something you might expect at Bergdorf Goodman or a boutique on Madison Avenue.

Not at the Walmart on Route 42 in Turnersville, N.J.

But that’s where you will find Joann Joseph and a team of Walmart workers each day, filling up shopping carts with boxes of Honeycomb cereal, Cheez-Its and salted peanuts.

The customers select their groceries online, and then the shoppers pick the items off the store shelves and deliver them to people when they arrive in the parking lot. Customers never have to step inside the store.

“It’s about saving people time,” Ms. Joseph said as she helped load groceries into the back of a minivan one morning.

Walmart, which is one of the largest food retailers in the United States, sees grocery pickup as a way to marry its e-commerce business with its gigantic network of stores — a goal that has eluded many other retailers. The company started ramping up the service two years ago, and it is now available in about 1,000 of Walmart’s 4,699 stores across the country.

The initiative is the latest salvo in Walmart’s retail battle with Amazon, and the centerpiece of its strategy to gain the upper hand in the pursuit of consumers looking to streamline their food shopping.

Many retailers are focused on new ways to deliver groceries to people’s homes — particularly in big cities. Walmart is betting big on the millions of Americans in suburban and rural areas who drive everywhere. The company is trying to make ordering groceries online and then picking them up in your car as seamless as a fast-food drive-through.

Amid this heated competition, Walmart has been experimenting with different ways to get an edge. In a few cities, it works with Uber to deliver groceries to homes.

And last month, Walmart said it would begin testing a home-delivery service in which a worker loads the food into the refrigerator, even when no one is home. The customer can watch the process remotely from a home security camera and track when the delivery worker enters and leaves the house.

While these initiatives are limited to only a few states, the company’s grocery pickup is widespread. Walmart is betting that a big part of the country (“from Scranton to Sacramento,” one Walmart executive said) is more of a drive-through than delivery culture.

Source (and interesting longer article): NY Times

Why It’s Hot

This is business-model interesting! There is a lot going on in the grocery industry to deliver on customer demand for convenience. Walmart, as king of retail, needs to innovate while ensuring that they can maintain their fundamental model and prices. Fresh Direct, then UberEATs then Amazon + Whole Foods — create interesting pressures. Will Walmart stay ahead?

Have Amazon and Walmart met their match?

German discounter Aldi is betting billions it can win over American shoppers. How? By offering them way fewer choices than rival retailers.

Aldi

The unlikely proposition has worked nearly everywhere Aldi has set foot. The company is now one of the biggest retail groups in the world with more than 10,000 locations, businesses in 18 countries and annual revenues approaching €70/$83 billion.

The American grocery market, one of the largest and most competitive in the world, is on the cusp of dramatic change since Amazon.com Inc. acquired Whole Foods Market Inc. this summer and Google struck a partnership with Wal-Mart.

But the Germans have a plan, forged in the rubble of World War II. Aldi offers a deliberately pared-down selection – most stores stock between 1,300 and 1,600 items. By comparison, Wal-Mart’s Supercenters have in recent years carried around 120,000 items. On a basket of 30 typical household items, Aldi’s prices are on average almost 17% lower than Wal-Mart’s.

Aldi is gambling it is more in tune with the American tastes, rolling out small, nimble stores instead of sprawling warehouses and supermarkets that take longer to navigate.

Why It’s Hot
It’s another example of how major players are betting on simplicity, standardization and speed. And a reason to pause and consider the trade off between choice and control versus convenience and ease.

Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon

Google and Walmart are testing the notion that an enemy’s enemy is a friend.

The two companies said Google would start offering Walmart products to people who shop on Google Express, the company’s online shopping mall. It’s the first time the world’s biggest retailer has made its products available online in the United States outside of its own website.

The partnership, announced on Wednesday, is a testament to the mutual threat facing both companies from Amazon.com.

But working together does not ensure that they will be any more successful. For most consumers, Amazon remains the primary option for online shopping. No other retailer can match the size of Amazon’s inventory, the efficiency with which it moves shoppers from browsing to buying, or its many home delivery options.

The two companies said the partnership was less about how online shopping is done today, but where it is going in the future. They said that they foresaw Walmart customers reordering items they purchased in the past by speaking to Google Home, the company’s voice-controlled speaker and an answer to Amazon’s Echo. The eventual plan is for Walmart customers to also shop using the Google Assistant, the artificially intelligent software assistant found in smartphones running Google’s Android software.

Walmart customers can link their accounts to Google, allowing the technology giant to learn their past shopping behavior to better predict what they want in the future. Google said that because more than 20 percent of searches conducted on smartphones these days are done by voice, it expects voice-based shopping to be not far behind.

“We are trying to help customers shop in ways that they may have never imagined,” said Marc Lore, who is leading Walmart’s efforts to bolster its e-commerce business.

Google is a laggard in e-commerce. Since starting a shopping service in 2013, it has struggled to gather significant momentum. Initially, it offered free same-day delivery before scrapping it. It also tried delivery of groceries before abandoning that, too.

If Amazon is a department store with just about everything inside, then Google Express is a shopping mall populated by different retailers. There are more than 50 retailers on Google Express, including Target and Costco. Inside Google Express, a search for “toothpaste” will bring back options from about a dozen different retailers.

Google said it planned to offer free delivery — as long as shoppers met store purchase minimums — on products purchased on Google Express. Google had charged customers a $95 a year membership for free delivery. Amazon runs a similar program called Amazon Prime, offering free delivery for members who pay $99 a year.

Source: NY Times

Why it’s Hot

Amazon has been considerably powering forward of late — when it comes to partnerships, integrations, and expansions — and one was left wondering where the competition would net out. The future implications about data and voice integration are more interesting than the retail implications today, since Google is king at data integration.

Amazon makes their own version of the P.O Box

Amazon now it wants to play an even more involved role in how packages are delivered. The company’s latest product, called Hub, is designed to act like a mailbox–not just for Amazon mail, but for any packages or deliveries. While it does not have AI-powered capabilities and it is not a large acquisition, it is a look at where Amazon is headed.

Hub is targeted primarily at residential building owners, and it promises that all packages from any sender will be stored safely and securely. Instead of having packages left at your door, in your lobby, or with a concierge desk, they’re placed within Hub, which has differently sized compartments designed to accommodate most packages. To access your package, you simply enter an access code and one of Hub’s doors will pop open.

Hub aims to fix one of the few areas of package delivery that Amazon doesn’t yet control: the final step between delivery and your actual home. It provides a convenient solution for packages getting delayed because of building hours, lost packages, or theft.

Why it’s hot:

  • One more step to Amazon take-over of all consumer retail interactions – you do not even have to shop on Amazon to interact with them now
  • Might have special implications for Amazon Prime subscribers
  • Whole Foods implications – could make grocery delivery even more appealing – helping food stay fresh

Source: Fast Company

Amazon’s next big industry conquest

Amazon has a has a “secret” skunkworks lab called 1492, dedicated to health care tech and complementing another Amazon unit announced earlier this year to disrupt the world of pharmaceuticals.

Jeff Bezos

The new team is currently looking at opportunities that involve pushing and pulling data from legacy electronic medical record systems. It is also looking to build a platform for telemedicine and exploring health applications for existing Amazon hardware, including Echo and Dash Wand. It’s not clear whether Amazon is building any new health devices, but sources didn’t rule it out.

1492 isn’t the only team inside Amazon that is working in health and life sciences. Amazon Web Services has also hired a slew of health experts to beat out Microsoft and Google for contracts with large hospitals and pharmaceutical vendors. The company has also invested in a health startup called Grail, an early cancer-testing startup founded by a Google exec.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/26/amazon-1492-secret-health-tech-project.html

Why It’s Hot
Um do you really need to ask?

Amazon, not content to ship a mere 1.6m packages per day, announces new service

Amazon has introduced a new service called Prime Wardrobe. Users can get between 3-15 clothing items shipped for free, pay for the stuff they keep and ship the rest back (also for free).

Story on TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Not only will this be a huge win for the USPS, but we will now be able to use the phrase “Warby Parkerization” at client presentations….or not.

Amazon Goes Offline with a Physical Bookstore

After helping drive many U.S. bookstore chains out of business, Amazon has been opening its own retail stores recently.

Its first Amazon Books location in New York City opened in Manhattan’s Shops at Columbus Circle, which was previously home to a pretty large — and now closed — Borders Books and Music.

A customer review, the number of total Amazon.com reviews and a star rating are displayed under each book on the shelf. All the books in the store either received four-star ratings and above on Amazon.com, or come from lists of best sellers or a hand-curated selection of new, yet-to-be reviewed titles.

The brick-and-mortar locations aim to provide a “mecca of discovery” for book lovers, according to Jennifer Cast, vice president of Amazon Books. The books all have the covers, not the spines, facing out, to encourage browsing —even though the store could have fit as many as 5,000 more titles if books were displayed the conventional way, Cast said.

Why It’s Hot:

Though it’s possible to check out like a regular bookstore, Amazon Books offers significant discounts to Amazon Prime members. This provides a strong incentive for customers to join Amazon Prime — a program that analysts say prompts more spending on Amazon.com.

Experts say that by converting just two or three dozen customers a day to Prime would result in a tremendous growth in revenue. Customer lifetime value for most Amazon customers is in the low thousands of dollars.

Not Hot: Amazon’s ironic patent

Amazon’s long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon’s own stores.

The patent, titled “Physical Store Online Shopping Control,” details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways.

The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you’re trying to access a competitor’s website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what’s offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright.

You can read the entire patent here.

Why it’s not hot?
Amazon’s patent also lets the retailer know your physical whereabouts, saying, “the location may be triangulated utilizing information received from a multitude of wireless access points.” The retailer can then use this information to try and upsell you on items in your immediate area or direct a sales representative to your location.

It’s the very sort of thing that Amazon itself protests. Amazon is among companies that signed ‘day of action’ against FCC’s planned rollback of net neutrality rules
https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/6/15745974/net-neutrality-day-of-action-tech-companies

Amazon is rolling out a Dash Wand with Alexa to make you buy everything

ake Amazon wants its Prime subscribers ordering from its online store all the time, so it just cooked up a new device to help them do exactly that — and it’s essentially giving it away for free.

The company just launched a new instant-ordering gadget, the Dash Wand, that lets you fill up your Amazon shopping cart by using voice commands or scanning barcodes on the packages you have sitting in your kitchen cupboards.

The Dash Wand is essentially an updated version of the OG Amazon Dash wand that debuted in 2015, but this newer version crucially adds Amazon’s artificially intelligent assistant, Alexa, to help out. The digital assistant can sync your shopping list across Amazon devices, convert units of measurement, and search for recipes.

This is a huge upgrade for Amazon’s instant-ordering devices. The original Dash was significantly bigger, cost more than twice as much as this new one, and only worked with AmazonFresh orders.

Amazon’s really pushing the Wand, offering a similar deal to previous promotions for its instant ordering Dash buttons. If you buy a Dash Wand for $20,  you’ll qualify immediately for $20 credit for your next purchase after registering the device. It literally pays for itself — and you can opt-in for a free 90-day AmazonFresh trial, which typically costs $15 per month. It’s actually a pretty great deal for anyone with a Prime subscription.

The Wand is also magnetic, so it can live on your fridge close to all of your most frequently ordered foods, and its Alexa access makes it more useful than the Dash buttons, which are restricted to one item instant ordering.

You don’t get the full Alexa experience here, though. The Wand can’t play music, and its press-button functionality means it won’t automatically respond to the genial “Hey, Alexa” wake command.

It might sound ridiculous that the company is essentially giving the Wands away with all the discounts and incentives, but it’s a savvy business move. Making the shopping experience easier and offering a new Alexa toy to play with will only drive up orders, as if Amazon needs any help to keep its business afloat.

Source: Mashable

Why It’s Hot

Connected AI experiences make the virtual assistant craze more useful. Amazon is pushing forward on many different ways to connect Alexa with other platforms, and this is a great example of a type of utility that in a few years we will wonder how we lived without.

 

The Amazon “stock market”

Just beneath the placid surface of a typical product page on Amazon lies an unseen world, a system where third-party vendors can sell products alongside Amazon’s own goods. It’s like a stock market, complete with day traders, code-slinging quants, artificial intelligence algorithms and, yes, flash crashes.

Amazon

Sellers of commodity items on Amazon are constantly monitoring and updating their prices, sometimes hundreds of thousands of times a day across thousands of items, says Mr. Kaziuk nas. Most use “rules-based” pricing systems, which simply seek to match competitors’ prices or beat them by some small fraction. If those systems get into bidding wars, items offered by only a few sellers can suffer sudden price collapses — “flash crashes.”

It’s clear, after talking to sellers and the software companies that empower them, that the biggest of these vendors are growing into sophisticated retailers in their own right. The top few hundred use pricing algorithms to battle with one another for the coveted “Buy Box,” which designates the default seller of an item. It’s the Amazon equivalent of a No. 1 ranking on Google search, and a tremendous driver of sales.

http://news.morningstar.com/all/dow-jones/us-markets/20170326515/the-high-speed-trading-behind-your-amazon-purchase.aspx

Why It’s Hot

Getting under the hood of how retail monster Amazon operates is always fascinating. The idea that prices are updating hundreds of thousands of times a day is nuts.

Bet You Didn’t Know Starbucks Is Teaming Up With Ford and Amazon…

Starbucks announced that it has created a third-party skill for Amazon Alexa, which allows their customers to reorder their favorite drinks and food through the voice recognition technology when you state, “Alexa, order my Starbucks”.

This Alexa skill works through the Starbucks Mobile Order and Pay feature and give customers the benefits of placing an order on the go and pick it up at a nearby location without the hassle of waiting in line.

This summer, Ford will add Alexa to vehicles with its SYNC 3 in-car technology. Ultimately, this will allow drivers/passengers to press a button to ask for directions, sports scores, weather updates and everything else Alexa would normally do or answer. This also means that Ford drivers will be able to place Starbucks orders while they are in their car in a hands free way!

Learn More: http://www.geekwire.com/2017/starbucks-partners-ford-amazon-allow-car-orders-via-alexa/

Why Its Hotstar

Brands are finding new ways for consumers to purchase products, making it more accessible for them. Considering Starbucks doesn’t deliver and customers must drive to their locations to purchase products, this partnership with Ford is such a great opportunity for the brand to capture more sales and mitigate time for costumers waiting in line to place an order.

Alexa voice technology is becoming increasingly popular so it is interesting to learn about how brands will create “skills” within their tool to connect themselves and the consumer through voice.

Merck aims to put Amazon’s Alexa to work on voice-enabled diabetes tools

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Alexa? Help pharma find patient solutions.

That’s what Merck & Co. is aiming for in its new partnership with Amazon Web Services to develop digital voice-enabled solutions for people living with chronic diseases.

Using the tech behind the Amazon Echo, Merck plans to initially work on diabetes. Its first initiative will be a call to entrepreneurs, techies and industry types for an innovation challenge expected to begin within the next month.

The yet-to-be-named challenge will be run by strategy and innovation consultancy Luminary Labs. While specifics haven’t been released, the call to action will “be open to solutions broadly enough that innovators of all stripes can come up with really novel ideas but being narrow enough to provide guidance and carefully evaluate submissions,” said Sara Holoubek, founder and CEO of Luminary Labs.

An independent jury will evaluate the submissions based on their use of voice-enabled technology that addresses Type 2 diabetes patient issues.

Merck’s long-term plan is to create tools for other chronic diseases using the same Amazon Lex platform and the voice-enabled Alexa home system.

Analysts estimate Amazon will sell more than 110 million Amazon Echo devices over the next four years, and many are already pointing to healthcare as an important item on Alexa’s eventual to-do list.

“Users will soon go far beyond turning on lights or calling an Uber, and will venture deeper into healthcare, helping people better manage treatments and communicate with caregivers,” Luminary notes on its website. “From reminding people of their nutrition plans to scheduling their insulin dosages, the Merck-sponsored Alexa challenge will call on developers to push the boundaries of voice technology for people with diabetes.”

Why It’s Hot

Through recent discussions about how we’ll use Alexa or any voice-enabled assistants, this is extremely smart.  Leveraging technology to assist those that have a lot to manage with their health can potentially keep people more compliant, and therefore keeping themselves healthier.  Taking annoying tasks to remember off people’s plates so they can enjoy more of their life is a great direction to take this technology.  Expect to see more of this in the near future.

Source

Amazon GO Shopping

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. Amazon has created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so shoppers never have to wait in line. With Amazon’s Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout.

Why It’s Hot:

By eliminating much of the staff needed to operate a store, Amazon keeps costs lower than traditional competitors. It’s also in a strong position to bring together data on its customer’s shopping habits online and offline to make better suggestions in all situations.

The experiment could also be seen as a new technology platform that Amazon could offer retail businesses after working out all of the kinks.  Similar to the way Amazon Web Service provides hosting for sites like Netflix and Adobe, Amazon Go will provide patent-protected technology infrastructure for “self-shopping” brick and mortar stores.

The Future: Brought to you by Alexa

At its launch, Alexa was designed to work with 135 skills. In 2017, its skills has increased to almost 7,000. Alexa can now do anything from order you a pizza, read your kids a bedtime story, and turn your lights on and off. Alexa is always listening, aptly responding to whatever you need, and what started as an experimental device is slowly becoming a household fixture.

As consumers, we’re aware of the devices tracking us. But for most, it’s hard to wrap your head around the foretold dangers of beings surveilled, because most don ‘t feel direct implications. And while privacy remains a hot topic in tech, Alexa promises that anything shared on their servers is 100% safe and undiscoverable to outsiders.

The interesting reality is: I basically give Amazon all of money. I even admit to using Amazon Now when I need toilet paper on a Saturday when I can easily walk to the corner store and pick it up myself. Amazon is the go-to for all my needs as a consumer, and in turn, Amazon knows a lot about me.

“While Google is working to anticipate your needs, Amazon is readying itself to be the only place you need to go to fulfill them.”

Image result for rosie the robot maid

Why it’s hot?

  • The Everything Store: It’s easy to buy into the Amazon universe. It’ll be interesting to see how their business grows in tech as this device becomes more of a household fixture.
  • Privacy: People are aware of surveillance, but convenience will likely bypass any privacy concerns.
  • Environmental and Cultural implications: Amazon Now, Amazon Prime – both feed the culture of instant gratification that brands and media continue to cultivate. What are the implications of devices like Alexa on consumption and willpower for society?

 

#PrimeDayFail a Huge Success for Sarcastic Tweeters

Amazon’s notorious Prime Day on July 15 promised to have “more deals than Black Friday” but no promises were made about the quality of the items being sold. According to the tweeting masses, it felt more like your parents’ last garage sale. The result was the hashtag #PrimeDayFail and some pretty funny memes.

ABC News Link

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Not everybody, it seems, was jazzed up about buying a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant for $1,361.

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Nor, apparently, for a family pack of brass knuckles, a Diane Keaton t-shirt (size XXL) or a plate of ham.

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Why It’s Hot

Despite Amazon’s assertions that Prime Day was a smashing success, the response on social media was highly critical of the event. Because of the speed and reach of social media, retailers can no longer get away with stunts like this without backlash. Amazon can learn from this and stage a better event next year.

Amazon, Advertising’s Newest Marketing Medium

This past week, Amazon rolled out shipping boxes that looked different from the trAmazon packagingaditional brown boxes.

Media experts say this is a new area of growth potential for Amazon, who provides costly free shipping services for its Amazon Prime users. With that being said, they also view the potential of putting ads on the box as a fine line between providing a new source of revenue for Amazon without overwhelming the boxes with so many advertisements that potential brands don’t see the benefit anymore.

 

Whys it’s hot

Amazon has been very proactive in terms of the expanding services they have been providing to consumers as well as features to enhance these services (such as Prime Day, which claims to be bigger than Black Friday (read here for more). Free shipping is one of the ‘must have” features in the eyes of Amazon Prime users. This offering is costly for Amazon, and by coming up with new ways to make revenue such as embracing ad’s on the boxes, they can continue to offer and enhance their services. This is particularly important for Amazon right now as promising competitors such as Jet.com threaten to steal market share

 

For more advertising on Amazon box’s, read about it here

 

 

 

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Connected TV Penetration at 56%

Leichtman Research Group says 56% of all U.S. homes have at least one television set connected to the Internet from a smart TV, video game set-top box, blu-ray player, and/or an Internet-connected TV-video device, such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire TV. This is up from 44% in 2013, and 24% in 2010. 52% of households have a subscription video on-demand service from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and/or Hulu Plus.

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Some 33% of adults on a daily basis, and 58% weekly, watch video on non-TV devices — home computers, mobile phones, iPads, tablets, and eReaders. This is up from 27% daily, and 53% weekly two years ago.

Why It’s Hot: We currently leverage connected data sets (assignment of unique user IDs to all devices used/owned) to understand how people are reached by our TV commercials and to use digital video channels to provide a more optimal video experience to those people; e.g., delivering more exposure to those who are under-reached, exposing those who have been viewing our competitors’ commercials, et al. However, TV still dominates in terms of penetration and offers almost no control over message delivery (e.g., targeting, frequency management). As more HHs convert to connected TVs and as viewing shifts from linear TV to on-demand, subscription-based TV, marketers will have much more control over message delivery and theoretically, will deliver an experience that is better for the consumer (no more message bombardment caused by marketers who are trying to attain 1% more reach) and for business.

Amazon Continues to Up the Loyalty Game

Just announced: Amazon Prime members will get free streaming entertainment on JetBlue. The e-commerce company will let members of Amazon’s $99 annual loyalty program Prime stream its instant video service for free on their Wi-Fi enabled devices via JetBlue’s inflight Wi-Fi service. JetBlue is the only U.S. airline to offer free Wi-Fi on its planes. Called Fly-Fi for Amazon Prime, the service will give Prime members access to original Amazon shows like “Transparent,” its other streaming TV and movies, as well as the ability to rent or buy other titles on Amazon’s Instant Video store. Prime members will be able watch Amazon Instant Video from their laptops, Fire devices, iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets without downloading anything beforehand.

Read more here.

Why it’s hot:

Smart move for both brands. Once again, Jet Blue stands at the forefront in the airline industry. And Amazon continues to rule loyalty as they have been expanding the Prime program’s offerings in an effort to grow its membership with services such as grocery delivery, one-hour delivery in some cities, beefed up video streaming and the creation of a Bluetooth speaker called the Echo that syncs with Prime music.

Amazon Dash: Press to Buy

Amazon has introduced a one-click way to purchase products without having to access online or through an app.  Amazon Dash is a one-click button that orders the product it shows.  Need diapers.  Press the branded Huggies button.  Need detergent.  Press the button for Tide. Just place a button near where you use the product (laundry room for detergent, coffee maker for Maxwell House) and press when you need to replenish. There are 17 brands set to debut at launch.

Each button communicates on your home wi-fi network to communicate with Amazon. Setup is through the Amazon shopping app on your mobile phone, but after setup, you don’t need your phone.  If an order has been placed, Dash won’t accept a second order until the first is delivered. You can also turn off auto-ordering, so not everyone can press the button and automatically purchase the product.

 Why It’s Hot

Amazon Dash can either be considered brilliant through its one-touch ordering or a retail nightmare leading to a severe habit of impulse purchasing. Either way, it breaks down boundaries to ordering and builds brand allegiance.  If you have a Tide button, do you need to order from All?  It’s the latest evolution in one-click ordering that can eventually be applied to other products and services.  Wiper blades worn out? Click a button on your dashboard to re-order.  Want a slice of pizza? Click from Dominos.  It doesn’t get much simpler. Almost too simple.

Amazon Introduces Dash

Amazon began to roll out new hardware called Dash, a button you can stick anywhere to refill on your favorite household items. Initial partners include L’Oreal, Gerber, Glad, Gatorade, Gillette, Larabar, Izze Soda, Tide, and a few more, but really, the possibilities are endless. The plan is to introduce and implement, but eventually do away with these buttons after familiarizing the customer to the mechanism to order from Amazon.

“Along with buttons, Amazon is launching what it calls the Dash Replenishment Service, which is ultimately designed to do away with the buttons entirely. Companies that make products can bake this technology into their own hardware: things like coffeemakers, washer/dryers, printers, and pet food dispensers. It’s not so great for household goods like paper towels, but Amazon is betting that eventually these sensors will get so small and cheap to make, that you could have them in individual products too.”

Why It’s Hot: This hardware helps to solidify Amazon’s relevance in everyday utility, and it’s spot on the idea of instant gratification. It will be interesting to see how brands’ marketing strategies will evolve from this new consumer mindset.

Amazon Dash Button.

You’re entire house is now a shopping cart. Amazon is rolling out a new hardware called the Dash button. It’s a physical button that you can stick wherever and press when you want to order more of something.

Need diapers? Hit the diaper button. Need more toilet paper? Just hit the toilet paper button. Dash button with 18 different partners and each button is tied to a specific brand or a specific product of a brand. The Dash button is available exclusively for Amazon Prime Members.

Why It’s Hot: 
Amazon is bringing “one click shopping” to real life. And although it has only been launched with 18 partners, Amazon has opened the platform to developers, makers and manufacturers allowing others to integrate the same service. Although, at the time of drafting this Hot Sauce, one does wonder if it’s an epic April Fool’s Day prank in the making ….

Amazon’s Brick and Mortar Play

Amazon is in talks to buy RadioShack stores, say recent reports. Amazon may soon take another leap into the world of brick-and-mortar retail.

According to Bloomberg, the company has been in talks with RadioShack about acquiring at least some stores from the ailing retail chain. The stores would become showcases for Amazon’s own products, such as the Kindle e-readers and tablets, and serve as pick-up and drop-off sites for Amazon customers.

RadioShack is on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, and according to other reports, it has also been in talks with wireless carrier Sprint about selling some of its stores. The deal with Amazon may not happen, but nonetheless, it shows where Amazon is headed.

Earns Radio Shack

Why it’s Hot:

The possible move, discussed as part of RadioShack’s looming trip to bankruptcy court, would represent Amazon’s biggest push into traditional retail. To head off competition from Wal-Mart—one of the few retailers that could pose a legitimate threat to Amazon—and to expand its operation, the company has adopted a new hybrid business model, combining e-commerce with offline services. To head off competition from Wal-Mart—one of the few retailers that could pose a legitimate threat to Amazon—and to expand its operation, the company has adopted a new hybrid business model, combining e-commerce with offline services.

Marriott to test streaming Netflix and Hulu

Check into most hotel rooms today and your TV viewing choices consist of local channels and standard cable fare such as the Weather Channel, Discovery, USA, etc.  But none of the streaming networks that you can’t get with ordinary cable are available  So no Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.

That’s about to change.  In a nod to the future and the rapid growth of streaming Internet content (video and music), Marriott Hotels is offering Netflix, Hulu and Pandora to their guests via their in-room high-def TVs as part of a test. As Bloomberg reported, Marriott spokesperson John Wolf said “We have invited leading technology companies and content providers to work with us to design the next wave in in-room entertainment focusing on on-demand programming. We are currently offering guests in eight test hotels the opportunity to stream their content through our high-definition TVs whether it is Netflix, Hulu or Pandora.”

Marriott is currently considering payment options — possibly as part of a premium Internet package or as a separate charge to stream each network — one for Netflix, one for Hulu, etc. For now, Marriott is allowing guests in test locations to log in through their own subscription accounts for streaming content, as noted by this Twitter post.

Wow. I’m impressed. The Marriott TV system they have here allows you to log into Netflix, Hulu, etc for free with your own account.

— Brophey Wolf (@brophey)                                                                 January 16, 2015
Why It’s Hot
With the popularity of streaming content providers, it’s no surprise that hotels are trying to monetize it.  What better way to relax from a business trip than binge watching your favorite series or relaxing the kids after a day at Disney than their favorite shows on Hulu? It also a win for Netflix and others, who can open up new revenue opportunities by streaming their content not to a single household at a time, but a hotel’s worth of a hundred guest rooms.  Look for this idea to rapidly take off.

Amazon + Snapchat = Black Friday Deals

The holidays are quickly approaching and Thanksgiving is next week! Brands are in the throes of offering deals and bolstering sales as we near the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday.

Amazon.com has teamed up with Snapchat to offer 10 second deals for users with the goal of bolstering sales.The launch was announced via Instagram to the brand’s 94k+ fans.

snapchat_Amazon

According to CNET, “Consumers are spending more time and money on mobile, and Amazon is trying to keep those dollars in its network by reaching out to social media followers.”

Why It’s Hot

Instagram and Snapchat both have large, primarily mobile audiences. This holiday campaign for Amazon will be an interesting test as they explore the thread between mobile, social media and ecommerce.

 

 

Amazon Wants to Enter Our Homes With New Gadget

Amazon is trying to earn a spot on our bookshelves, countertops and coffee tables with Echo, a wireless device that’s ready to stream music and answer the types of questions you could easily ask Windows’ Cortana or Apple’s Siri. Only, its software is named Alexa.

Now, Echo only starts listening when prompted with the word “Alexa” followed by a request. It starts at $199, but Amazon Prime members can purchase it for 50% off for a limited time.

Why It’s Hot

Amazon has not seem much success with consumer gadgets (e.g. the Fire phone that cost the company $170M last quarter). However, if Echo is successful it could revolutionize the e-commerce industry. For example, the device could be used to not only add items to your shopping cart but make almost any purchase you can think of on a whim. Per TechCrunch, “One-click purchase becomes no-click purchase. Your entire house (or at least, anything within earshot of Alexa) becomes the impulse-buy candy shelf from the grocery store’s checkout lane.”

Sources: AdWeek, TechCrunch

Target Launches Mobile Recognition App

Target wants to prove that traditional media like print and TV can drive e-commerce sales, highlighted in its new back-to-school marketing push. Target is launching a mobile app that works with the retailer’s fall print catalog to trigger sales for its Room Essentials collection, aimed at college students. Target’s In a Snap mobile app also works with print ads in magazines including Conde Nast-owned Domino and Architectural Digest and Time Inc.’s Real Simple.

Shoppers with the app downloaded first hover a mobile device above an ad or a page in the catalog. Once the app recognizes a product, users can shop the item by viewing it on Target’s e-commerce site and check out without leaving the app. Compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, the application lets users shop for Target items without the hassle of scanning barcodes, looking up links, or searching store shelves for the perfect product.

 target-app-01-2014

 

Why It’s Hot

More and more brands are trying to prove that traditional advertising can drive sales and it will be interesting to see if this technology takes off and extends to other forms of advertising (TV, OOH, etc.) Furthermore, Target is constantly competing with Amazon (Firefly App, Dash Scanner, showrooming, etc.)  and if this campaign is considered successful other retail brands will be rolling out similar apps.

Sources: Adweek, PCMag

Amazon Asks FAA For Permission To Test Its Delivery Drones

Amazon has petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for exemption from rules barring it from testing drones in the United States.

The online shopping company made waves recently by showing off small unmanned aircraft that it claims will be able to deliver parcels to consumers in 30 minutes. The drone delivery service, called Prime Air, could greatly speed up Amazon’s delivery times, creating a competitive advantage for it over other digital marketplaces and lowering the time-threshold advantage that traditional stores still enjoy over their online competition.

 

Amazon Delivery Drone

Why It’s Hot: Could revolutionize e-commerce delivery, significantly cutting down delivery times, prices, and even pollution.

Amazon’s FireFly Recognizes Products in the Real World

Along with announcing the long-rumored Fire smartphone, Amazon also announced the release of a new digital service that lets users scan real-world information to identify products

FireFly can identify up to 100 million products by scanning images like books, TV and art, and even pieces of information phone numbers, UPCs, bar codes. Scans also can pick up on sound, to identify songs or entertainment by audio signature. The service uses Flow OCR technology, meaning it can also integrate with other apps that use similar information to more accurately identify information and grow the database over time.

The vision is two-fold.  In the short-term, scans will link to product pages on Amazon.com and to media available on its digital stores. But the long-term vision is to incorporate scanning behavior into everyday life. Scans of food can yield nutritional facts or ingredients. And the Amazon SDK will allow third-party apps to leverage scanning technology to match user’s preferences to recommend products scanned, like the label of a wine bottle, to take the guesswork out of purchases.

Why It’s Hot

FireFly is a first major step forward in the use of personal technology and big data to augment how we interact with the real world. By creating an SDK that learns from users tastes and preferences, Amazon is hoping to lock in users by providing service that extends beyond eCommerce. Products like Google Glass, however, demonstrate that we have the capability to integrate similar services more naturally into everyday life. Will the scan remain a direct action or become an automatic process that happens behind the scenes, without a user even thinking (or wanting) that action?

Rumored Amazon Smartphone Heightens Competition with Apple

Following a cryptic tweet from the company’s official Twitter account on June 4, sources are now reporting that Amazon will unveil a new smartphone device on June 18th.  If true, the new device would pit Amazon against Apple in yet another high-growth tech category.

amazon

 

“The companies are increasingly going head-to-head in devices such as tablets and in Web services including online entertainment, as they strive to be digital gateways to consumers. Mobile is central to that effort as more people carry gadgets and do their computing on the go,” cites Bloomberg Businessweek.

The smartphone category, while dominated by large players like Apple and Samsung, remains an area of high-growth, particularly in global markets. So what would this device do to differentiate itself?

“A video accompanying the tweet showed people moving their heads around to view a device that’s just out of sight, shot from different angles, implying the phone may have 3-D viewing capabilities, a feature reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.”

Why It’s Hot

Amazon is looking to continue expanding its brand as a true “technology company” that is far bigger than the ecommerce heritage that built the company. But the move is more than brand-building.  Analysts suggest that Amazon will use a low/moderate priced, high performance device to drive more revenue to Amazon’s other channels and raise the entire boat as a whole. This continues the trend we’ve seen towards the device as a bridge to other services, rather than the intended revenue-driver itself.