Amazon continues to amaze me with their innovative approach to business. As a customer-centric business, they are a prime example of how retaining a laser-focus on the needs of your customers will always be the driving force behind new innovation. Customers, including myself are notoriously demanding: we want to buy items and then have them shipped when we want them, and to where we want them. We don’t want our lives to be interrupted and so if we are not in, we want you, the retailer, to ensure the parcel gets left in a safe place or dropped at a location where it can be collected at our convenience. There is a cost to offering this service, and one that most of us will happily pay for, but if you can do this for free or at very low cost – then we are really interested.
What I like about the Amazon model is the constant desire to ‘challenge-the-norm.’ Shipping is a good example: in the UK they clearly utilise a range of excellent well-known carriers but the rise of their own Amazon Prime service has become increasingly prominent. Amazon has effectively taken a large chunk of its shipping operation ‘in-house’ and realised that it can complement its existing network of shipping carriers by using local contractors to deliver parcels next day – including Sundays. A resident in my local area suddenly appeared on my doorstep to deliver a parcel I had ordered one Sunday evening, and I am assuming he was working directly for Amazon (Prime). I have paid an annual subscription fee to use ‘Prime’ and it has already paid for itself given the volume of orders my family makes from the site.
Amazon has applied similar innovations to its international shipping in the US where it is leasing a fleet of planes that will enable them to reduce the cost of international shipping and effectively take an element of this service in-house too. This is on top of their experimental drone technology, which will one day see our parcels being delivered by robots! One thing is for sure; the skies are eventually going to be full of Amazon machines.
What lies at the heart of these delivery innovations is the customer. Our behaviours, demands, preferences, are driving disruption in the eRetail space. Companies like Amazon have to find new ways of offering better services that meet these multiple needs.
I remember when 24hr delivery on a weekend was seen as ‘something for the future’. Now it is the norm, and it would not surprise me if in the not-too-distant-future I am talking about how I can order items to arrive within a 30-minute delivery slot – with the ability to communicate with the delivery-drone – pre-arrival – to have delivery location/timing changed, based on my changing schedule.
The future is now because we, the customers, demand it…