When we talk about the success of e-commerce retailers today, many of us automatically think of Amazon. Founded in 1994 in Seattle, Washington by Jeff Bezos, Amazon is now the biggest and most successful online retailer in the world, with $178 billion made through sales in 2017 alone.
Amazon’s dominance in the online sphere cannot be disputed, and much of this can be attributed to how the business has grown and evolved in its own unique way. Whereas most retailers are happy to simply position themselves as sellers of retail goods, Amazon has created an entire ecosystem of its own that is simply too convenient for many to resist.
The main draw of Amazon has always been its sprawling marketplace of goods, which allows shoppers to purchase everything from paperclips to PlayStations and have it arrive on their doorstep the next day (or even on the same day in some cities). But it has also seen wild success by being one of the first retail brands to leverage the power of convenience and give consumers access to a huge range of benefits and services in a single bundle via its Prime subscription.
The beauty of Amazon Prime is in the comprehensiveness of its offering. For an annual fee, consumers have access to free next-day delivery, music streaming, video streaming, early access to exclusive content, unique discounts and much, much more. This makes it an extremely attractive proposition for any semi-regular Amazon shopper, and in 2017 it exceeded 100 million subscribers for the first time.
However, as many retail experts are now all too aware, the answer to retail success does not lie exclusively within e-commerce. Despite the poor performance of the UK’s high street in recent months, there is a strong opportunity for retailers to redefine the purpose of their bricks-and-mortar stores and give shoppers an unforgettable experience they can’t get anywhere else.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon was one of the first big retailers to recognise this, which culminated in the opening of its first Amazon Go store in Seattle at the beginning of 2018. But this is no ordinary shop: by utilising AI and machine learning technology on the shelves to identify what consumers pick up and purchase, it delivers exactly the kind of innovative in-store experience that is so crucial nowadays to keeping customers coming back for more.
Amazon’s drive for excellence – coupled with its seemingly unlimited budget – has helped it adapt more quickly to industry developments than others, but that’s not to say there aren’t competitors following in their footsteps and experimenting with ways to deliver new in-store experiences.
Topshop, for example, recently won an award for its use of VR technology at its flagship Oxford Street store. The popular high street retailer used the technology to create an interactive pool scene, complete with a 360-degree virtual reality water slide, that enticed shoppers walking past the store to come inside and witness it for themselves.
Elsewhere, Microsoft is rumoured to be working on technology that could be used to power checkout free retail stores, which could prove to be a direct competitor with Amazon’s own technology.
While Amazon has carved out its position in the marketplace as a trailblazer of innovation, there are plenty of other retailers out there making strong inroads and transforming their stores for the better. Needless to say, whatever Amazon announces in the near future, we can be sure plenty of others will follow suit.