Time for this week's Amazon news roundup! If you're selling on Amazon, you may be affected by recent events. It's always good to keep an eye on the news with such a fast-moving platform. I curate a selection of news updates each week, which you can sign up to receive right here.
Wal-Mart and Google team up to challenge Amazon's Alexa
Walmart and Google team up to go head-to-head with Amazon's voice-enabled shopping app Alexa and its Echo hardware devices. Starting in September, customers can shop from Walmart using either the Google Assistant app or a Google Home device.
Google also announced that it will remove the $95 annual membership fee for Express and offer free delivery on orders above a certain amount. Amazon currently controls 70% of the voice-enabled speaker device market. While still a small percentage of the overall consumer market, adoption of voice-enabled shopping is growing quite quickly. This year, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month, an increase of 128.9% over last year.
Whole Foods is now Amazon
It’s "Day One" for Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods, and things are already being shaken up. Whole Foods was officially brought under Amazon's umbrella only yesterday, but already there's a new brand theme: "We're growing something good."
Above: Screenshot of Amazon Prime
Amazon immediately discounted prices on 14 top-selling grocery products like avocados, ground beef, and bananas. The store also announced that Prime will be Whole Foods' new customer rewards program. Displays of discounted Amazon Echo devices were randomly set up in the produce area. What will change in the longer-term? Whole Foods will certainly have more competitive pricing; Amazon was very clear that this would be a priority. Hashtags throughout the store mention "more to come" in terms of price drops.
Beyond pricing, I think that Amazon will start piloting some of its delivery technology in stores: lockers, for example. The swaths of user data it can marry between online and in-store purchases could inform vendor merchandising decisions, as well as the assortment for Amazon's own private label grocery brands (Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime, and now Whole Foods 365).
As I commented in a RetailWire article today, there is a theme of Amazon disrupting verticals which incumbents strongly proclaim can't be disrupted. Grocery is one such category, I believe. The naysayers don't believe Amazon will be able to squeeze more margin and cross-sell opportunity out of the razor-thin margins in grocery. I don't think we've scratched the surface yet in terms of knowing how far Amazon can leverage its newfound physical store footprint.
Online pet products category seeing major growth
Amazon is leading the charge in the super-fast growing category of online pet product purchases. Amazon saw sales of $2 billion in the pet category in 2016, up 40% from 2015.
100% off your new device
Even Amazon makes mistakes when running product promotions. Over the weekend, Amazon's Echo Dot devices went on sale for a discount of 100% off the purchase price. Amazon quickly canceled orders and even intercepted packages from carriers, but some lucky customers did receive a gratis device as a consequence of Amazon's mistake.
No details have been forthcoming about how the incident occurred, but it serves as a helpful reminder to be extra cautious when setting up product promotions and coupon codes.
Fewer Brands use Seller Fulfilled Prime than expected
Analysis from Marketplace Pulse finds that out of the Top 100,000 Amazon.com sellers, just 283 have committed to the program (0.2%). Amazon has promoted the program to sellers, saying that more than 500,000 new products received the Prime badge thanks to Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP). But investigation of the actual adoption rate finds that it isn't a very popular option with sellers in general.
SFP allows marketplace sellers to offer Prime two-day shipping without using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). Marketplace Pulse posits that the "results of this study suggest that the program is not common among sellers. There are strict requirements for being allowed to participate, and few sellers have the infrastructure, and the experience to meet them."
Amazon enables single sign-on for North American, European, and Japanese marketplaces
As announced via email to users this morning, brands can now use Seller Central to see sales, orders, and buyer messages all in one place. (Members of our Amazon Channel Mastery Facebook group can view the full email.)
This is possible once you link your global selling accounts. This will be a big time-saver for brands that've expanded to international Amazon marketplaces!
That's it for my news coverage this week! As usual, there are a ton of things going on with Amazon and there's a lot to take in. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list so you don't miss hearing about the news next week.