Amazon

Amazon Looking To Challenge Apple In Payments War

27 November 2018

From Seeking Alpha:

Amazon is aggressively pursuing market share growth in mobile payments. WSJ reports that Amazon is asking gas stations and restaurants to offer Amazon Pay options to customers. Amazon also will be increasing the presence in brick and mortar stores with whom it does not directly compete for retail sales. On the other hand, Apple also is looking to gain a decisive market share for its own digital wallet platform.

A recent Bloomberg report mentioned that Apple Pay is in second position, behind PayPal in number of active users using the digital wallet. However, Amazon has a significant benefit due to its online retail business, Prime membership and further growth in the brick and mortar space. Amazon also is investing heavily to increase the market share of Amazon Pay in international regions. As the mobile payments market matures, we should see two or three major players grabbing a big chunk of the market share.

. . . .

Amazon Pay has been around since 2007. However, Amazon has only recently started making aggressive investments to increase the market share of its digital wallet. It’s now asking brick and mortar stores with whom it does not compete to allow Amazon Pay options for customers. It’s not clear whether Amazon Pay will use QR codes or NFC technology which is used by Apple Pay. QR codes are generally preferred by smaller business owners as they can print and tape the codes without any big investments in NFC terminals.

Link to the rest a Seeking Alpha

Amazon’s Books Bestseller Lists (Print/Kindle Combined)

24 November 2018

Here are Amazon’s Books Bestseller Lists (Print/Kindle Combined), Updated Hourly:

All Books

Fiction Genres

Romance

Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Comics and Graphic Novels

Non-Fiction

Biographies

Self-Help

Christian

History

Religion and Spirituality

 

Amazon workers strike in Germany, Spain on Black Friday

23 November 2018

From Reuters:

Workers at Amazon logistic centers in Germany and Spain staged strikes on Friday, walking off the job on Black Friday, the discount spending spree that kicks-off the start of the crucial Christmas shopping season.

Amazon Germany said around 620 workers were participating in the strikes at its Bad Hersfeld and Rheinberg facilities but the majority of employees were continuing to work and there was no impact on customer orders.

Germany’s Verdi services union had called for Amazon workers to strike for 24 hours until midnight on Friday, demanding better pay and labor contracts that guarantee healthy working conditions.

. . . .

Amazon Germany said its jobs offered competitive pay and comprehensive benefits from the first day of employment.

Staff in Germany earn a starting salary of 10.78 euros ($12.23) per hour and earn on average a monthly wage of 2,397 euros after two years.

Workers at Amazon’s biggest warehouse in Spain, San Fernando de Henares, walked off the job on Friday and will also strike on Saturday. Unions said between 85 and 90 percent of staff were taking part in the industrial action.

Amazon Spain said the figures did not reflect reality and a majority of employees were processing orders.

Link to the rest at Reuters

Amazon Pay Accepted Here? Web Giant Aims to Put Digital Wallet in Stores

21 November 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. is gearing up to challenge Apple Inc. in the mobile-payments race.

The e-commerce giant is working to persuade brick-and-mortar merchants to accept its Amazon Pay digital wallet, according to people familiar with the matter, attempting to expand a service now used primarily for purchases online.

To start, the company is looking to work with gas stations, restaurants and other merchants that aren’t direct competitors, a person familiar with the matter said. Retailers that view Amazon as a threat could resist the effort, the people said.

The push to become a bigger player in consumer payments shows Amazon’s desire to further integrate itself into the lives of its customers. It isn’t clear exactly how customers would use Amazon Pay in stores: They could tap their phones at checkout, much the same way they use Apple Pay, or scan a code on their phones, among other options. Apple says Apple Pay was accepted at more than five million in-store locations in the U.S. as of May, and the number of merchants accepting its wallet is growing.

U.S. consumers have been slow to adopt digital wallets, which were responsible for less than 1% of  all U.S. card transactions last year, according to the Nilson Report. Amazon is looking to Asia, where digital wallets and mobile-payment apps like Alipay and WeChat Pay are commonly used. Amazon executives want to gobble up the U.S. market while the competition remains fairly minimal, according to people familiar with their thinking.

. . . .

Amazon is offering incentives such as lower payment-processing fees or marketing services to entice merchants to accept its digital wallet, according to people familiar with the matter.

. . . .

Lower payment-processing costs could be a convincing pitch. Rising interchange, or swipe, fees, account for a big chunk of those costs and are a point of tension between retailers and credit-card companies. Card networks including Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. set the fees, which merchants pay to banks and other issuers when consumers use their cards to shop.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

U.S. online shipping up 17% this season

21 November 2018

From Seeking Alpha:

U.S. consumers spent $31.9B shopping online in the first 20 days of this month, up 17% Y/Y, according to Adobe Analytics data.

Monday marked the first “$2 billion day of the season” and today is on track to hit $2.1B.

The free shipping wars heated up earlier in the month with Amazon waving the $25 minimum for non-Prime members and Target offering free two-day shipping on select items through December 22.

Adobe reaffirms its full-season forecast of $124.1B spent online in November and December combined.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

KDP Books Unavailable To International Readers

18 November 2018

From David Gaughran:

A situation blew up at Amazon over the weekend which has made most KDP ebooks unavailable to purchase for international readers who use the US Kindle Store — one which has also exposed a glaring security problem.

This issue — which is either a bug or a badly bungled roll-out — is causing great confusion as its effects are only visible to those outside the USA, which might explain why Amazon has been so slow to address it, or even understand the problem, it seems.

The first reports were from a few weeks ago, when Australian readers who use the US Kindle Store were unable to see a handful of new releases. It seems to have spread significantly since then. This weekend I noticed the issue myself for the first time. Buy buttons had disappeared from a couple of my ebooks and they were no longer appearing in Search results or on my Author Page. It was as if they had been ghosted. Readers around the world confirmed the same thing — except those in the USA, where all these books continue to be visible in search and purchasable by readers there.

Looking around the Kindle Store this weekend, it seemed like half of the KDP books I checked were unavailable for purchase to international readers, and similarly missing from search results (and, in some cases, author pages). They were undiscoverable by international readers, in other words, and even if those readers navigated to the pages of those Kindle editions directly, price tags were gone and Buy buttons had been removed.

. . . .

So the system seems to think that I shouldn’t be using the US Kindle Store — even though, like many Irish people, I’ve been using the US Kindle Store exclusively since 2011 — and it is blocking me not just from purchasing this title and many other titles, but is also rendering them invisible in search too, so customers don’t even know there is an issue unless they somehow go directly to the book’s page on Amazon. New-to-you readers internationally who use the US Kindle Store won’t even know the problem exists otherwise, or that your book does, I guess.

It gets weirder because this bug or glitch or whatever it is seems to be very inconsistent. All of my non-fiction is unavailable to international readers. Some of my fiction is gone too, but not all of it. If I Iook at someone random from the charts like Bella Forrest, all of the books of hers I checked are gone.

. . . .

I spoke to Amazon customer service yesterday and tried to explain the issue. Amazon didn’t seem to understand it, and just inserted a US postal address in my account instead, which “fixed” the problem as far as they were concerned. And, yes, I can now see my books and all the others which were invisible to me beforehand, but everyone else internationally still can’t see them or purchase them in the US Kindle Store – which is the only place that millions of international readers are able to purchase ebooks (this point must be repeated again and again as misunderstanding abounds — not everywhere has a local Kindle Store and such readers are supposed to use the US store).

Amazon’s “fix” had a number of unintended side-effects. As Amazon now seems to think I’m based in America, I no longer get charged VAT on ebooks. Instead, a test purchase I made applied Washington state sales tax of 6.5% — the customer service person put in Amazon’s Seattle HQ as my address — instead of the 23% rate of Irish VAT that Amazon is legally required to apply to ebook sales to me.

. . . .

Related issues aside, I hope Amazon starts making an effort to understand what is happening here as this is a particularly bad situation for international self-publishers whose readers will naturally trend international too, and who will be disproportionately affected. It also prevents self-publishers around the world from checking their books on Amazon.com — which they need to do for innumerable reasons.

Whether all this is a (bungled) feature or a bug, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Amazon is taking its eye off the ball in so many aspects of its business right now, at least pertaining to books. Amazon’s greatest strength is that it still has the scrappiness and innovative outlook of a start-up — which seems to be achieved by essentially having 1000s of start-ups incubating under one big Amazon tent, who seem to compete with each other for resources and attention and site real-estate.

. . . .

At times like these, Amazon feels incredibly atomized, made up of 1000s of departments who don’t (and won’t) communicate with each other, For example, if you have decided to make hundreds of thousands of ebooks suddenly invisible and unavailable to millions of readers unless they switch to a different Kindle Store maybe — I dunno, radical idea here — email people about it? And if it is just some horrible bug, which has been growing for several weeks to the point where most self-published books are now ghosted to international readers, maybe start working on fixing it? Just a thought.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

PG notes that David’s post is from November 12. This is the most recent post on David’s blog, so PG assumes the problem he describes may be continuing.

Jeff Bezos Says ‘Amazon Is Not Too Big To Fail.’ He’s Right

17 November 2018

From Forbes:

Yesterday, CNBC reported that Jeff Bezos, in an all-hands meeting earlier this month, said: “Amazon is not too big to fail…In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years.” He was responding to an employee asking if the CEO had learned any lessons after Sears and other big retailers recently filed for bankruptcy.

There are a few reasons why Bezos right. As one retail investor said to me, “the nature of all retailers is to eventually go bankrupt.” It’s a cynical point of view but it reflects reality: Retail goes through cycles. Certain kinds of retailers become popular, but then they fail to adapt and their businesses decline and eventually vanish. We see that over and over again. The retailers who can change are the exceptions, not the rule.

But Amazon is now the second-largest retailer in the United States. How is it possible that a thing that big could vanish?

It’s possible that the company could lose touch with its customer, but that seems highly unlikely for Amazon. That’s the one thing it’s known for being hyperfocused on.

. . . .

It’s well known that Amazon is not judged on its profitability. If it were, its stock price would be a small fraction of what it is now. Amazon has done an incredible job at many different things, and one of them is getting the financial markets to value the company based on its revenue growth, with the assumption that profitability will come later. Amazon explains away its low profits by saying that it uses what profit it makes to invest in new ideas and experimentation to stay ahead. So far, the market has accepted Amazon’s explanation. People I talk to say that as long as Amazon keeps growing its revenue by 20-25% per year, the market will impute future profitability to the company and the stock price will continue to rise.

For over 100 years before it went bankrupt, Sears had everything for everybody and successfully adapted to what its customers wanted.

. . . .

But as Amazon blows past the $200 billion revenue threshold, it gets harder to find sources of revenue that will have the impact it needs on revenue growth. You can’t, for example, double the number of Prime subscribers in the country; there aren’t enough households left to do that and the saturation is already too high. It needs to find new sectors to bring online, like it first did with books. It needs new industries, like grocery, health care, banking or automobiles, that have relatively low online penetration and the potential for conversion to online sales to sustain its revenue growth. But the thing about that is, it’s hard and it’s uncertain. Amazon has owned Whole Foods for well over a year and the conversion to online doesn’t appear to be happening, at least so far.

If Amazon doesn’t find new sources of revenue growth in other industries, its expansion will slow. And because its stock price has been so influenced by revenue growth, it won’t continue to rise. That’s key for Amazon more than for most companies because so many of its middle- and upper-level employees are incentivized by company stock. An important part of their compensation, more than for most other companies, is based on the stock price continuing to rise. If that stops happening, Amazon employees, who are already very sought after by other companies, will be more susceptible to other offers than ever before. When they start to leave, the stock price stagnation will make it hard for Amazon to replace them and the whole wheel can stop spinning in a hurry.

You may say that Amazon is too much a part of people’s daily habits for it to vanish. That’s true for a while, but when a company loses its best people, the ability to innovate goes away, too. It isn’t long before it’s overtaken.

Link to the rest at Forbes

PG suggests that one of the characteristics of business organizations in a capitalist economy is a very high likelihood they will not last forever.

That’s a feature, not a bug.

If a business organization fails, quickly or slowly, to be responsive to customer’s needs, whatever they may be, it will start to decline. If the organization doesn’t turn its focus back to what its customers and prospective customers want and will pay for, that organization will decline and eventually disappear.

Unlike other organizations (dictatorships, for example, or government-owned businesses), business organizations in free economies must continue to please their customers upon pain of corporate death. The opportunity for new companies to start and grow into competitors to established businesses (see, for example, as Exhibit A: Amazon) is an important part of this model.

Without the threat of failure tied to customer dissatisfaction, organizations will almost inevitably turn inward and focus on internal organizational issues as key players compete to succeed under the rules that evolve for internal organizational standards and practices. That can and has happened even in the face of failure.

Welcome to the East Coast, Amazon

13 November 2018

From Fast Company:

Earlier this month New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joked (?) that he would change his name to “Amazon Cuomo, if that’s what it takes” to get the ecommerce giant to set up shop in the Empire State. Cuomo got his wish, but instead of merely debasing himself and his name, he embarrassed the state and city of New York.

Today Amazon announced it was opening two new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, and Arlington, Virginia–along with a third, smaller one in Nashville. Amazon loves to brag about the power it has over everything around it, so we delved into the details. It turns out these cities are paying a pretty penny for the privilege of Amazon serfdom.

Let’s look at the numbers:

  • New York is giving Amazon $1.525 billion in “performance-based direct incentives” for creating 25,000 new jobs. This includes a $325 million cash grant, along with $48,000 for each of the 25,000 jobs.
  • Arlington is giving the company a total of $573 million. This includes $22,000 for each of the 25,000 jobs Amazon will supposedly make, along with another $23 million cash grant. (A disturbing footnote that every journalist should note is that Virginia also agreed to give Amazon advanced warning about any FOIA requests for information.)
  • Nashville is giving the ecommerce giant $102 million in total, which includes cash grants ranging from $4,500 to $13,000 for each of the 5,000 new jobs it creates.

Essentially, each area is paying a premium for the supposed economic boost that Amazon will provide. And New York is by far paying the most.

New York’s infrastructure has been pressed to its limits for years. The subways are in a constant state of disrepair, rents have been skyrocketing, and affordable housing has been in a state of crisis. Many of New York’s more than 8.6 million residents are looking toward city and state leaders to address the systemic problems plaguing the city.

A company like Amazon could present an opportunity to collect more taxes to fix the crumbling foundation. Instead, Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio made a deal with Jeff Bezos that cost the city more than twice what the other supposed headquarters are paying.

. . . .

And at what cost? Will Amazon’s presence help fix the rot? On the contrary, crowding into an already-densely packed area will lead to more–and potentially worse–problems down the line. Long Island City’s Court Square subway stop saw about 23,672 average weekday riders in 2017. That will more than double with HQ2. Jeff Bezos, however, will probably not be one of them, as the city has agreed to give the company access to a helipad.

Soon we’ll begin to see the reality of a company planting itself in a neighborhood where the rent was already rising, smack dab next to the country’s largest affordable housing project. And while this happens, politicians like Cuomo will undoubtedly tout this new chapter as good development in the annals of New York–one that he spearheaded. Expect to hear Amazon’s name invoked along with rumors of a presidential run.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

And a member of Congress from New York also weighed in:

New York’s newly minted Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who took to Twitter last night to point out that tax breaks will funnel much-needed money away from the city’s crumbling infrastructure.

Starting in January, Ocasio-Cortez will represent New York’s 14th congressional district, which includes parts of Queens.

She noted that the community’s response so far has been outrage. “Amazon is a billion-dollar company,” she wrote. “The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”

Link to the rest at Fast Company

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