Tag Archives: amazon prime

Amazon’s Delivery Drones Could Scan Your House to Sell You More Products

Amazon’s ambitions to build a fleet of self-flying delivery drones will have an interesting side-effect: They will create unimaginable quantities of data.

Aerial footage, mapping data, flight patterns, number-crunching analysis, and more — autonomous vehicles produce vast reams of data, and drones are no different. And Amazon is already thinking about how it can turn that to its advantage.

In a filing for a patent granted on Tuesday, the Seattle-based online retail giant lays out how “captured data may be received by a computer system and properties about a destination for the delivery may be identified by analyzing the data. A recommendation may be generated based at least in part on the identified properties.”

In plain English? Amazon’s drones could analyse customers’ homes as they make deliveries, and then try and sell them products and services based on what they “see.”

One example Amazon gives is that it could recommend a roof-repair service if a customer’s roof looks faulty:

“For example, the one or more service provider computers may analyze the data and identify that the roof of the location is in disrepair and in need of service. Subsequently, the one or more service provider computers may generate and provide a recommendation to the customer informing them of the identified property and offering an item or service that is appropriate for the identified property (e.g., a roof repair service recommendation).”

In another, it suggests it could recognise if a customers’ trees are dying, and then recommend them an arborist or fertiliser:

“The unmanned aerial vehicle may capture video data that includes brown and dying trees located near the user’s home. The service provider computers may utilize image and/or video recognition techniques and software to identify that the trees require service (e.g., services that can be provided by an arborist). The service provider computers may, in response to identifying that the trees near the user’s home are dying, generate and provide a recommendation to the user that includes information about arborist services or items such as fertilizers that can help the user’s trees.”

These recommendations — or adverts, depending on how you look at them — could be delivered by email, text message, or a notification on Amazon, the patent suggests.

There are clear privacy concerns about Amazon analyzing your backyard for potential retail opportunities — though the patent suggests it would be opt-in, and only capture and analyse this data with the consent of the customer. “It may capture data such as video data or audio data as requested by the property owner associated with the delivery location,” it says.

Amazon’s plans for drone deliveries are still a long way from commercial reality. It is testing the tech in the UK, and has conducted some very early trials, but it will be years until ordinary people can order a product and get it delivered by drone.

But the patent serves as a reminder that convenience sometimes comes at the expense of privacy, and drone-powered future may offer unprecedented opportunities for surveillance.




Amazon’s unlimited subscription service for avid readers is $40 cheaper this week

Amazon is having a Prime Day sale on Kindle Unlimited, it’s all-you-can-read digital book service.

You don’t need a Kindle to use Kindle Unlimited — it’s not about the device, it’s all about the books. 

If you’ve never heard of Kindle Unlimited before, it has three major components: digital books, audiobooks, and a technology called whispersync. 

The first two are pretty self explanatory. Kindle Unlimited subscribers will have access to thousands of digital books and audiobooks through the Kindle Store. Think of it as having a Spotify subscription, but for books. The Audiobooks come courtesy of Audible.com, who Amazon acquired a few years ago.

This is important to note because the quality of Audible’s audiobooks is phenomenal. I’ve been an on-again, off-again subscriber for years and have yet to find a bad-sounding book.

Not all books sold through the Kindle store are accessible for free with Kindle Unlimited, but hundreds of thousands are. The same is true for audiobooks; only Kindle Unlimited-eligible books with an audible version come free with your subscription. 

Whispersync is the technology that makes this subscription really cool. Because the free apps for Kindle and Audible are available on multiple platforms, you’re likely to pick up and leave off books in different places.

You might read a book through the Kindle app before going to bed, and pick up where you left off on your phone during your commute. Or, you might listen to the audible version of a book during your commute, and look to keep reading the Kindle version after dinner. 

What whispersync does is keep track of where you leave off, so you can pick up exactly at that place later on. It doesn’t matter how you consume the book, or through what device. It’d be a hassle to keep track of that on your own, so this technology is a major value add for subscribers.

Of course, it’s also available for any Kindle book and Audible audiobook, so if you already own multiple copies of the same book in multiple formats, you can take advantage of whispersync now. 

If you know someone who’s always searching for something to read, I can’t think of a better gift to give them. They’ll have more options of what to read than ever before and won’t be penalized for reading whenever and however fits their lifestyle.


Suppliers Predict Benefits for New Brands in WFM/Amazon Combo

In the face of the recent tidal wave of headlines surrounding Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market, that’s one supplier’s immediate message to those fretting over the deal.

Other conclusions have come more slowly: At first, few suppliers were sure what to make of the deal, with numerous food and beverage companies reserving their comments. Now, after more than a week’s reflection, many have told NOSH they are excited about the potential sales opportunities the partnership could provide, expressing enthusiasm for how it will maintain or even enhance Whole Foods’ reputation as a launching pad for small brands.

“I’ve heard so much chatter in the last week,” Tim Fiorino, national sales manager of seafood company Wild Planet, told NOSH. “All of this is just opening new doors for the entire industry to continue to grow with the progression of how we go to market. It’s good for the industry to always be pushing the buttons of how we can improve, not only with the products we bring to the industry, but also by improving the value… [So] my message to the industry is quite simple: Please don’t freak out.”

Broadening the Basket

In recent years, grocery has looked to e-commerce as a channel that can add sales revenue and reach consumers, especially millennials. The market has not only been responding to this, but growing–and fast. A much-cited survey by Neilsen and FMI predicted that about 20 percent of grocery sales will take place online by 2025. In 2016, Amazon alone crossed the $1 billion grocery threshold, and in its first quarter in 2017, Amazon saw $350 million in grocery sales.

Despite the growth, Amazon’s grocery progress has been hampered by consumers’ hesitancy to “fill their carts” with fresh or cold-chain groceries, especially when products are shipped across the country during the warmer months. Chris Campbell, co-founder and CEO of Chameleon Cold-Brew, said he thinks the deal could be a game-changer in that regard.

“Whether you’re getting Chameleon or you’re getting a gallon of milk, along with air filters and a board game, it’s not going to be anything but good for us,” Campbell said. “So you could get an entire breakfast kit delivered to your house, forks, knives and napkins, too, if you need them, and we’d like to see Chameleon as part of that order.”

Though Whole Foods has been slower in integrating digital platforms, the retailer has long been considered a crown jewel for emerging natural brands. Historically, suppliers have wanted to align with the retailer because of its commitment to quality, its attention to customer experience, and its willingness to help launch innovative products and categories. From Annie’s and RX Bar to Suja and Health-Ade, all have used Whole Foods, at least in part, as a launch pad.

The crown jewel of emerging brands

It’s no secret Whole Foods has sailed choppy waters as of late. The company has seen some of its share of organic, natural and cutting-edge offerings move into more conventional accounts like Kroger and Costco in recent years, battering its revenue growth and share price. Through it all, however, Whole Foods has managed to keep its reputation as a discovery platform for consumers looking for new and natural products. Post-acquisition, many suppliers believe this merger will only help consumers find even more innovative brands.

“A strong partner like Amazon should help Whole Foods improve efficiency in a number of areas, [and] hopefully this will allow Whole Foods to continue its position as a leader, incubating concepts and ideas within the natural and organic industry,” David Koretz, CEO and COO of SlantShack Jerky, said. “SlantShack is a brand that benefited from Whole Food’s local forager program, many fellow Brooklyn companies were developed through similar a process, that early innovation has its footprint across the natural and organic industry.”

The synergies of the two platforms may be especially beneficial to brands that are still looking to use online as a testing ground before making their way to shelves. Shauna Martin, founder and CEO of Daily Greens, thinks Whole Foods will stick to their core values on this– and that straying from those values is not something Amazon would want either.

“They’re buying Whole Foods for the very essence of what [it] is, which is a place where they’re at the forefront of figuring out the next great category and the next new thing that everybody needs in their lives to stay healthy,” she said.

The tried-and-true strategy that has in the past worked for brands like whole food-focused RX Bar and HPP baby food company Once Upon A Farm (OUAF), helping them break into and evolve their respective categories.

“There are a lot of small innovative brands on Amazon and I think both places could be a discovery platform for the other,” Cassandra Curtis, CEO of OUAF, said. “So if you are doing well on Amazon and Whole Foods sees that, I think that would even increase your opportunity to get shelf space in Whole Foods. And vice versa, is you’re in Whole Foods, but not on Amazon and are doing really well, I think Whole Foods would also serve as a discovery platform for getting on Amazon. So I think if anything it will actually improve the chance of local smaller brands getting into the store.”

Amazon is considered a discovery platform of its own. During a presentation at BevNET Live Summer 2017, Keith Anderson, senior vice president of strategy and insights for Profitero, said more product searches happen on Amazon than on Google, and called the website “one of the most overlooked” influencers in consumer decision making. Still, if brands are not on the first page of a search, their chances of being discovered and purchased drop drastically. This is where the Whole Foods model becomes enticing.

“We always think about it consumer-first. Our experience is that Amazon and Whole Foods pretty much do the same,” Sam McBride, RX Bar’s Chief Sales Officer, said. “So anytime two parts of the industry get together we think long term it is a good thing for the consumer, which is good for everybody.”

McBride added that the bulked up online forum will provide new brands with even more of the much needed data they need to grow their sales, build a community around their core consumers, and improve their branding before bringing products to brick and mortar retail. Because of this, he thinks the partnership could potentially have a powerful impact on exposing even more, and potentially younger, new brands to more consumers — and at a faster pace than ever before.

But that’s only if the retailers actually have a channel strategy that embraces both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce, according to Adam Hertel, ‎Senior Vice President of Sales – Grocery & Alternate Channels at tea maker ITO EN Inc. Hertel said the massive tech implementation that Amazon will likely pursue at Whole Foods seems likely to further move the chain toward a centralized top-down context. Hertel said Whole Foods’ recent move toward centralization, making the global grocery team in Austin the driving force on assortments, is already getting some regional backlash “from the regions that used to be able to call their own shots.”

Otherwise, the brands caught in the transition will continue to wait for the retailers to sort out their relationship.



Amazon’s 2017 Prime Day sale will be July 11th

Amazon just announced its third annual Prime Day, the retailer’s answer to Black Friday that originally started to celebrate its 20th anniversary. While Amazon had previously said they would be doing a third year of Prime Day, this is the first time we’re getting the actual date and previews of some of the sales.

Amazon is tempting Prime customers by saying there will be “hundreds of thousands of deals”, with new ones coming as often as every five minutes. As a refresher, you have to be a Prime member to access these deals, although you can technically sign up for the free trial option.

This year there will be 30 hours of sales, starting at 6pm PT / 9pm ET on Monday July 10th and continuing through all of Tuesday July 11th. Also, Prime Day sales will now be available in China, India and Mexico – bringing the total amount of countries with deals to 13.

Last year Prime Day was Amazon’s biggest day ever, even with the checkout glitches the site suffered from during peak shopping times.

This year Amazon will be organizing deals by themes – i.e pet lovers, techies and gardeners. This is a big deal because one complaint during past Prime Days have been that it’s really hard to find deals you actually want to take advantage of. What good is a hundred thousand deals if you can’t find one for something you actually want to buy?

Another complaint in past years was that some deals were low-quality and for items no one really wanted. While this was most likely the result of algorithms and not human curation, it was still disappointing to some customers.


While there are still bound to be some duds among the hundreds of thousands of deals this year, Amazon is emphasizing that this year’s sale will have great TV deals, which is something all customers love and traditional Black Friday sales are known for. The retailer is specifically touting (still unspecified) discounts on the Element 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV – Amazon Fire TV Edition, which will help make it “one of the largest volume TV deals in history”.


While Amazons says they will have a record amount of inventory, they probably will still sell out of their most discounted TVs (and other electronics), so it’s best to monitor the site as often as possible to make sure you can score one.

While Amazon isn’t yet mentioning any deals on its own devices, it’s a safe bet that you’ll find discounted prices on Kindles, Fire Tablets, Fire TV, Echo Speakers and more. Last year Amazon said it sold “hundreds of thousands of kindles” and over 2.5 times more Fire TV devices than during the prior year’s Prime Day.

Prime Day will also benefit entrepreneurs that sell on Amazon, with 40% of Lightning Deals will come from small businesses.


Amazon’s 2017 Prime Day sale will be July 11th

And Then IKEA’s Suddenly Like, ‘Wait. What If We Just Sell All Our Stuff on Amazon?’

Humans of Earth, I give you: Ikea and Amazon.

Some things are just meant to go together–so obviously that once they’re joined, it’s hard to imagine a time before. I’m thinking here of Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Cheap wine and bad decisions. Avocado and toast. My wife and me (awwww ). Now: Billy bookcases and free two-day delivery.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, this isn’t official yet (although you can suddenly find a bunch of Ikea products on Amazon’s site). Moreover, the Swedish company is being a bit coy (as we’ll see below).

But Ikea’s chief executive told Reuters recently that after spending the first few decades of the internet walled off in brick-and-mortar stores and on its own website, Ikea has now realized that “on digital platforms … the competitive landscape is changing.”

And, c’mon, we know what that almost certainly means, right? It means that in the near future, when you ask Alexa for Swedish meatballs, she (sorry, it) will know exactly what you want.


Amazon, oh, will it be Amazon?

A bit of background. Ikea, as you know, is the Swedish furniture brand Americans both love and love to hate.


  1. Assembling everything using an instruction book that looks it was written by Marcel Marceau, and
  2. Fighting every other bargain-hunting human in your area on a Saturday morning as you navigate the blue-and-gold labyrinths

Set aside the instructions; we can’t help you there. But while Ikea’s website looks like someone took a paper catalog and tried to squish it onto a screen, there may soon be help for people who would rather shop online.

Here’s where we get to the coy part. Because even though you’d probably think this likely means Ikea is coming to Amazon, and just about everyone else probably also thinks this means Amazon, Ikea isn’t actually saying “Amazon.”

Not yet, anyway. One might expect there could be some förhandlingar to take place first.

“I leave unsaid on which (platforms),” Inter Ikea Group chief executive Torbjörn Lööf told Reuters, “but we will test and pilot, to see ‘what does this mean, what does digital shopping look like in the future, and what do digital shopping centers mean?'”

And if it’s Amazon, will it be Prime?

Way back in the beginning of the internet, people like me remember the original Pets.com, which was an online pet store (of course) that sold giant bags of dog food and cat litter–and promised free shipping on every order. In retrospect, this was kind of an insane business model, and it explains why Ikea might have a real issue in moving to a place like Amazon.

Part of the allure of Amazon–and smaller competitors, like Jet and Walmart’s digital store–is that the cost of shipping often winds up folded into the shopping cart. It’s not exactly free shipping; you’ve already paid for Amazon Prime, for example. But it does look like it to most people who don’t read fine print.

So can Ikea sell its products on third-party sites, without undercutting its direct digital and in-store sales–and on terms that could even make it eligible for programs like Amazon Prime?

I’m not sure how it will work. But if sellers can figure out how to ship a 300-pound Olympic barbell set for free, you’d have to imagine there’s a way to send an eight-pound Lack table without breaking the bank. We’ll all find out for sure next year, according to the Reuters interview–this all starts in 2018.



Amazon launches Prime Reload, offering 2% back on purchases funded through debit cards

Amazon today is launching a new perk for Prime members that will give them cash back on purchases – even if they’re not paying for items using an Amazon cashback credit card. Through a new rewards program called Amazon Prime Reload, Prime members can receive 2 percent back on purchases when they first load funds into their Amazon Balance using a debit card attached to their bank’s checking account.

Amazon Prime Reload is meant to encourage more people to sign up for Prime, the $99 per year membership program that includes free, 2-day shipping on millions of products, plus same-day shipping in select markets, along with a host of other features like access to Amazon’s Netflix-like service Prime Video, music streaming via Prime Music, free e-books and magazines through Prime Reading, Audible Channels, unlimited photo backup and storage via Prime Photos, Twitch Prime, early access to deals and much more.

However, Amazon Prime Reload has another advantage for the retailer, as well – it may encourage people to load large lump sums into their Amazon Balance, in order to ensure they never accidentally pay for an item through their debit or credit card directly, therefore missing out on the cash back option.


And with additional funds just sitting around in their Amazon account, that could prompt users to make more impromptu purchases, as they won’t have to do the math as to whether the item is something they can afford. Effectively, it feels the same as having a Gift Card balance ready to be used.

In fact, Amazon Prime Reload is built on top of the Gift Card infrastructure that’s already in place, according to the page detailing how the new service works.

Here, Amazon explains how to get started earning rewards.

First, you’ll need a Prime membership if you haven’t yet signed up. Next, you’ll need to provide both your debit card number and U.S. bank account information (account number and routing number) to Amazon, along with your U.S. driver’s license number. You then continue to reload your Gift Card Balance – aka your Amazon Balance – so you have funds available for use when shopping.

Your 2 percent rewards will be added to your Gift Card Balance every time you reload, Amazon explains, instead of being calculated on a per transaction basis.

Amazon says it asks for both your debit card number and bank information because it will sometimes route orders through your debit card to fulfill your reload requests faster. (It doesn’t say when or why that would be the case, however.)

Reloads will make funds available within 5 minutes, in most cases. However some reloads may be delayed up to 4 hours if a closer review is necessary, says Amazon.


Amazon launches Prime Reload, offering 2% back on purchases funded through debit cards

Amazon launches ‘My Mix,’ a personalized shop filled with your favorite things

Amazon has quietly launched a new feature offering shoppers personalized suggestions of products they might like to buy. Called “My Mix,” the addition is tied to Amazon’s “Interesting Finds” — the curated gift shop introduced last year that provides a Pinterest-like experience for discovering products across Amazon’s vast website.

“Interesting Finds,” which evolved out of an earlier product called “Amazon Stream,” is the latest in Amazon’s efforts to become a place where shoppers browse and get inspired, instead of a place where you search for products you know you already need or want.

Similar to startups like the shopping service Canopy, this section of Amazon’s website has evolved in recent months from a simple page with just a few categories (Women, Men and Fun) to one that now organizes products into more than two dozen different sections.

It also is no longer tucked away under hidden menus, but prominently featured at the top of Amazon.com via a big banner ad.

On the site, you browse through products within its category pages, which can be as broad as “Women,” as popular as “Bikes,” or as niche as “Mid-Century.” There also are collections on each page that are like mini-shops with a grouping of themed items — like “Travel in Style,” “Fun with Photos” or “Green Thumb,” for example.

You can favorite both the items and the shops, then return to them later under the “My Hearts” section. Or you can purchase items immediately by clicking through to the product detail page and checking out.



Amazon reportedly working on proper Android ‘Ice’ smartphones with Google’s apps

Amazon might be taking another shot at building its own smartphones, according to a new report from NDTV’s Gadget 360. And unlike the company’s failed Fire Phone, the new smartphones — allegedly branded “Ice” — would have access to the full line of Google services and apps, including the Play Store.


The report notes that the Ice line would be targeted at emerging markets like India, instead of the more US-facing focus of the original Fire Phone. As such, the rumored specs for one of the Ice phones fall in line with that goal: a screen between 5.2 and 5.5 inches, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a Snapdragon 435 processor. Gadget 360 claims that this specific model would retail for roughly $93 at launch, although that price could change before launch.

Per Gadget 360’s source, the Ice phone doesn’t have Alexa support, but, like the price, details aren’t finalized which means software, too, could change in the future.

The original Fire Phone was a failure for a multitude of reasons, including a focus on gimmicky features, an expensive price tag, exclusivity to AT&T, and a bizarre operating system. It sold extremely poorly, even with Amazon slashing prices only weeks after launch. But perhaps the biggest failure was the dearth of apps by not using Google Mobile Services, in essence leaving customers with a confusingly skinned Android phone that didn’t really run any Android apps. It sounds like Amazon is taking a different approach with the Ice line, by embracing Google’s services and targeting a different slice of the smartphone market than the Apple-and-Samsung-dominated high-end segment.


If the Ice rumors are true, Amazon could have a big opportunity in emerging market places. Google has made no secret of its desire to put Android phones in the hands of “the next billion users” with initiatives like Android Go and Android One; an Amazon hardware push would certainly go a long way toward getting Google there, while also boosting Amazon’s own user base of its own products.



Amazon is going after Walmart with a 45-percent discount on Prime for lower-income shoppers

Amazon already owns the high-income shopper segment in the U.S. Now it’s making a bid to court those who have less income at their disposal.


On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it is offering a 45 percent discount on Prime memberships — $5.99 a month instead of $10.99 month — to U.S. residents receiving government assistance.

Shoppers with an Electronic Benefits Transfer card — used for benefits like the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program — are eligible to sign up four years in a row for this promotion.

The move comes a little over a year after Amazon first introduced the $10.99 monthly payment option for Prime, which was previously only available for an annual fee of $99.


The monthly option comes with the same perks like free two-day shipping on tens of millions of items and access to to a large selection of online movies and TV shows for no extra charge.

 Mark Oldenburg

The monthly payment option was seen as a way to attract lower-income customers — the type of shopper who might otherwise prefer, say, Walmart — who could not cough up $99 at one time. Since then, Prime membership growth has been the strongest among households making less than $50,000 annually, a R.W. Baird study found.

The offer follows an announcement Amazon made earlier this year that it would start accepting food stamps for its grocery items beginning this summer. Amazon’s grocery service costs an additional monthly fee on top of the Prime membership. It’s unclear if lower-income customers taking advantage of Amazon’s new Prime offer would also get a discount on the grocery delivery fee.



Amazon Prime is the most crucial piece of the Amazon shopping machine, since those customers spend more and buy more frequently than non-Prime members do. CEO Jeff Bezos has said he wants to add so much value to Prime that it becomes irresponsible to not use it.

Amazon’s discount offering is just the latest salvo in a renewed rivalry between Walmart and Amazon since Walmart last year acquired Jet.com, started by former Amazon employee Marc Lore.

The two sides are currently engaged in a price war in packaged goods that is terrifying some of America’s biggest grocery brands. Amazon has also recently taken Walmart’s lead more often than in recent years. Amazon followed Walmart’s 500-store expansion of a grocery pick-up model with two Amazon locations of its own and has also lowered its free-shipping threshold to $25 in what looks like a way to combat Walmart’s free, speedy delivery offering.



Amazon May Be Looking To Fill Your Prescriptions

Amazon is hiring a business lead to figure out how the company can break into the multi-billion-dollar pharmacy market.

For the last few years, Amazon has held at least one annual meeting at its Seattle headquarters to discuss whether it should enter the pharmacy business, says two people familiar with the company’s plans.

But this year, with the rise of high-deductible plans and the trend toward consumers paying for health care, it is ready to get more serious.


Two people said that it’s not a done deal that Amazon will move into this space, given the complex web of established players. But it is bringing on a new general manager to lead the team and formulate a strategy, and is deep in discussions with industry experts. That hire would sit under the consumables business, the source said.

Another person said Amazon has started to recruit more broadly from the pharmacy space.

The company recently started selling medical supplies and equipment in the U.S., and is hiring for its “professional health care program” to ensure that the company is meeting regulatory requirements. It also hired Mark Lyons two months ago from Premera Blue Cross. A source said that Lyons is tasked with building an internal pharmacy benefits manager for Amazon employees, which might be later scaled out.

Amazon declined to comment.

Japan Times reported in April that the company expanded its Prime Now delivery service to include drug and cosmetic sales, with the support of local partners. Amazon’s category page on its Japanese site now includes “pharmaceuticals,” and sells drugs to patients with approval from a pharmacist.




Amazon’s delivery drones may drop packages via parachute

Amazon has said its drones are coming soon — but don’t necessarily expect them to land in your yard.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Amazon a patent for a method to guide packages released from drones safely to the ground.


Previously the e-commerce giant had publicly released demo videos of its drones landing in yards to drop off packages. The company has testing for several years to determine the best method to deliver to customers in the future.

The patent suggests Amazon is considering keeping its drones high above customers’ homes, an approach that could be more efficient and safe. In the document, Amazon said that landing a drone takes more time and energy than releasing a package from high in the sky. If Amazon’s drones don’t land in yards, this prevents potentially dangerous collisions between the drones and any people, pets or objects in a customer’s yard.

The patent also describes how Amazon’s drones would use magnets, parachutes or spring coils to release the delivery while in mid-flight. Once the package is released, the drone would then monitor the descending box to make sure it’s dropping properly onto the desired landing patch.

It’s unclear when Amazon will launch drone delivery in the United States. Its current plan, which calls for automated drones flying without the direct supervision of a human, isn’t legal today.

Amazon featured Prime Air in a light-hearted Super Bowl ad, in which Alexa told a customer she could look for delivery of Doritos soon. But the ad wasn’t meant to be taken literally, and there is no launch date for the service in the United States.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the patent awarded Tuesday.

Competitors such as Google have shown off similar plans, in which a package is dropped from the sky. Late last year the drone delivery firm Flirtey completed an automated drone trial with 77 packages delivered from a 7-Eleven in Reno, Nevada. The flights were legal because Flirtey had a human supervise the flights, which were completed within a mile of the 7-Eleven. After extensive testing, Flirtey said it had found a way to drop a Slurpee without spilling a single sip.




Why Amazon’s use of self-driving technology would be a game changer

Self-driving vehicles have yet to hit the road in a major way, but Amazon already is exploring the technology’s potential to change how your packages are delivered.

Amazon is the nation’s largest online retailer, and its decisions not only turn heads but influence the entire retail and shipping industries, analysts say. That means any foray into the self-driving arena – whether as a developer or customer – could have a significant effect on the technology’s adoption.

Amazon has assigned a dozen employees to determine how it can use the technology as part of its business, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. It’s unclear what shape Amazon’s efforts will take or how far along they might be, although the company has no plans to create its own vehicles, according to the report.

Nevertheless, the Amazon group offers an early indication that big companies are preparing for the technology’s impact.

Transportation experts anticipate that self-driving cars will fundamentally alter the way people get around and the way companies ship goods, changes that stand to disrupt entire industries and leave millions of professional drivers without jobs. The forthcoming shift has attracted the money and attention of the biggest names in the technology and automotive industries, including Apple, Uber, Google, Ford, General Motors and Tesla, among others.


In particular, the technology could make long-haul shipping cheaper and faster because, unlike human drivers, machines do not command a salary or require down time. That would be important to Amazon, whose shipping costs continue to climb as the company sells more products and ships them faster, according to its annual report. Amazon even invested in its own fleet of trucks in December 2015 to give the company greater control over distribution.

If Amazon adopts self-driving technology, it may push others to do the same.

“When Amazon sneezes, everyone wakes up,” said Satish Jindel, president of SJ Consulting Group, a transportation and logistics advisory firm.

The company said it shipped more than 1 billion items during the 2016 holiday season.


An Amazon spokeswoman declined a request for an interview, citing a “long-standing practice of not commenting on rumors and speculation.” The company’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.

Amazon has become something of a pioneer in home delivery, in part by setting the standard for how quickly purchases arrive on your doorstep. The company has begun using aerial drones in an effort to deliver goods more quickly, completing its first successful flight to a customer in the United Kingdom in December. Like self-driving vehicles, drones will need to overcome regulatory hurdles before they’re widely deployed.

In its warehouses, Amazon has used thousands of robots that pull items from shelves and pack them. Last summer, Deutsche Bank analysts found the robots reduced the time to fulfill an order from more than an hour to 15 minutes, according to business news site Quartz. They also saved Amazon about $22 million per warehouse. Amazon acquired Kiva, the company that makes the robots, in 2012 for $775 million.




Amazon launches ‘Subscribe with Amazon,’ a marketplace for digital subscriptions

Amazon has made headway in the subscription business with its Subscribe & Save feature for consumers, which offers discounted pricing on products if you agree to buy on a recurring basis. Now, the retailer is looking to expand its subscription footprint with a new program called Subscribe with Amazon, which aims to make Amazon the place to discover, subscribe to and manage a range of digital subscriptions — from streaming services to subscription-based apps, from meal planning services to online fitness classes, and much more.

The service has been in development since last year, and has been quietly live on Amazon’s site for some time. However, it has not been broadly promoted to consumers — something that changes today, with the announcement that it’s open for sign-ups.

Many of the digital subscriptions available on the marketplace were things Amazon was already selling — like news and magazine subscriptions, or access to its kids’ reading app Amazon Rapids or its toy-of-the-month club, STEM Club, for example. But the new portal for Subscribe with Amazon aggregates and organizes all the different types of subscriptions under one roof.

It also offers consumers a single destination where those subscriptions can be managed via an online dashboard.

A few of the more notable names available on the site include Disney Story Central, a subscription-based service for kids’ stories featuring popular Disney characters; Fitbit’s Fitstar personal training platform; Creativebug’s online art and craft classes; cloud storage service Dropbox Plus; streaming TV service Sling TV; meal planning and recipe subscription eMeals; concert membership service Jukely; and meditation service Headspace.


Amazon is also selling subscriptions to publications, like The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker and Consumer Reports. Others live at launch include Texture, LegalZoom, MileIQ and Tawkify.

Thought not yet available, we understand the subscription cocktail startup Hooch, which offers a free drink a day in bars and clubs in major U.S. metros, will soon be available on the site. Hooch is an interesting partnership, given that Amazon will have to age-verify subscribers as part of the sign-up process.

Hooch confirmed its involvement, and the company offered more insight as to why it would want to participate — beyond the obvious customer acquisition play, that is.

“Amazon customers will directly manage their subscriptions on the Amazon.com portal,” says Hooch CEO Lin Dai.

“We think it will be a positive for us because a lot of time our customers don’t mean to cancel, but their credit card expires or they move to a new apartment or different address, and they forget to update their address on Hooch,” he explains. “But people are more likely to have updated payment methods on Amazon, so we think there will be fewer interruptions.”


Anyone who has ever had to update their credit card information across the web can understand this struggle. It’s often difficult to remember the many services you’ve signed up for, and updating each one individually is a hassle.

Amazon won’t universally solve this problem, as it’s unlikely to offer subscriptions to its competitors like Netflix or Spotify, but it does have the potential to bring a number of other digital subscriptions together in a single interface for easier management.

This is an area a handful of startups have been addressing, as well, including Trim, TrueBill and Billy.


Amazon launches ‘Subscribe with Amazon,’ a marketplace for digital subscriptions

Amazon has patented an automated on-demand clothing factory

Standard operating procedure in the apparel industry goes like this: Make clothes, and then sell them. It can take weeks, if not months, to manufacture clothes, so that step has to come first. It can be a costly upfront investment, and items that don’t sell get discounted, eating into margins.

But Amazon, the ecommerce giant steadily growing into the largest apparel seller in the US, has another idea. Recode reports that the company, which has been building out its own apparel lines, has been granted a patent for an on-demand apparel-manufacturing system that would let it make clothes only once orders have been placed.

The system, which the company submitted its patent application for in December 2015, is founded on data and automation. A “computing device” would collect orders and organize them according to how they could be most efficiently produced. They could be grouped by geographic location, for instance, or by the type of fabric required, or by the assembly processes involved.

As Amazon explains it in the patent, “By aggregating orders from various geographic locations and coordinating apparel assembly processes on a large scale, the networked environment provides new ways to increase efficiency in apparel manufacturing.”

Based on the orders, an automated system at an Amazon facility would produce the clothes. A textile printer would create the various fabrics needed. The fabrics would then be automatically fed over to a textile cutter, which would cut out pattern pieces from the sheets of fabric to be assembled into the finished garments.

Cameras would monitor the process, and an “image analyzer” could spot if anything went wrong, such as the textiles bunching, stretching, or being cut incorrectly. The system would adjust itself to correct the issue, signal an attendant for assistance, or flag the panel as a misprint to be discarded. Eventually the finished products would be checked for quality, packed, and shipped.

It’s unclear whether Amazon is actively working on building the system, or if it’s intended to fulfill wholesale orders placed by businesses or individual customer orders. Amazon did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but it normally doesn’t discuss future plans.

If Amazon is able to get on-demand manufacturing up and running, it could be a powerful weapon in its bid to become an apparel powerhouse. Quick, agile supply chains have allowed fast-fashion labels such as Zara, and even speedier upstarts, to outperform their competition. They allow brands to respond quickly to changes in the market, and limit the amount of inventory that may not sell at full price.

On-demand manufacturing takes those advantages to a new level. And now Amazon, which is already winning at retail with its hyper-efficient Prime service, may be trying to make it a reality.


Amazon has patented an automated on-demand clothing factory

‘Alexa, order beer:’ Amazon adds Prime Now two-hour delivery voice ordering to digital assistant

Amazon has added Prime Now rapid delivery voice ordering to its Alexa-powered family of devices.

That means owners of any Alexa device — whether it is Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, Fire Tablet, or Fire TV — simply have to say, “Alexa, order (product) from Prime Now.” Alexa will respond with an exact product that matches the general ask. Orders can feature multiple items, and Alexa can recommend complementary items based on what is already in the order.

Prime Now products are available for free, two-hour delivery, and Alexa is in charge of picking the closest available delivery window.

Voice-activated rapid delivery is now available for Amazon Prime customers in more than 30 cities. In three cities — Seattle, Columbus and Cincinnati — Alexa-based Prime Now orders can include beer, wine and spirits as well.

Amazon points to a variety of scenarios where it thinks people will see the value voice-activated Prime Now ordering. Sick people who can’t make it to the store and need some cold medicine, parents who have their hands full with a baby and a host of a game night who doesn’t want to leave the party are all examples of potential users of the new feature, according to Amazon.

“We’re excited to offer the full Prime Now catalogue with Alexa, including tens of thousands of items, which allows you to refill everyday essentials you’ve just run out of like diapers or dish soap, or cater to unexpected guests with merlot and ice cream, all without ever leaving your house or even getting up from the couch,” Assaf Ronen, vice president of voice shopping, said in a statement.

There are a few limitations, however. Users can’t complete in order through Alexa that they began on the Prime Now app. And, Alexa can’t track delivery progress for you. Customers also can’t place an order that includes both Prime Now items, and regular Amazon items.

Amazon has an early lead in the voice assistant market, thanks to Alexa and her more than 10,000 skills. Amazon has been adding Alexa to more of its own devices, and the company is now going after the smartphone market. Last week, Amazon announced plans to bring Alexa to iPhones and eventually Android devices.

Analysts believe that Alexa’s skills will pay off for Amazon. A recent analysts from RBC Capital Markets estimated that sales of Alexa devices could hit $5 billion by 2020, with another $5 billion in annual revenue predicted to come from shopping done via the voice assistant.

Despite those skills, Alexa still has much to learn. Amazon senior principal scientist Nikko Strom spoke at the AI NEXT tech conference in Bellevue, Wash., last weekend, where he said the next step for the digital assistant is comprehending emotion and intonation so that it can understand what people mean, not just what they say.



Amazon.com now sells you stuff in Spanish

You can now browse Amazon’s main website and mobile app in Spanish — and, yes, we mean Amazon.com, not its .es counterpart. The e-commerce company has even added an easily accessible language settings option on the website’s interface, right next to the “Accounts & Lists” drop-down menu. As CNET noted, Amazon is most likely looking to attract more Spanish-speaking shoppers, especially since the US now has 41 millionnative speakers and 11 million bilingual residents. It even recently expanded Prime to cover Mexico, offering the same free unlimited shopping and streaming videos customers get in the US.

A spokesperson told the publication:

“Customers will be able to shop, browse and search for millions of products, view their shopping cart, and place orders in Spanish on Amazon.com and through the Amazon Mobile Shopping app.”

If you don’t see the option yet, you’ll get it soon enough. Amazon will continue rolling out the feature to more accounts over the next few weeks until everyone can access the new language option.



Some Kindle authors fearing the worst as Amazon starts paying by the page, not download

As Amazon tries to roll out a more fair way of compensating authors for their work, many are fearing that it will result in a pay cut. And, some might be right.

On July 1, Amazon changed the way it pays royalties, and is now paying authors for each page viewed by a reader instead of the previous model, which compensated authors for every book downloaded. The new formula only applies to books that are self-published and distributed through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which essentially lend books to Amazon Prime subscribers for free, or to those willing to pay $10 a month.

Amazon compensates authors by setting aside a pool of cash each month to be divided among all participants. In the past, Amazon distributed the money based on the number of downloads. Now, it’s doing it based on pages read.

For the month of July, Amazon is estimating that the pool of money going toward authors will be at least $11 million, and last month the pages read was almost 1.9 billion. Based on those two figures, you can roughly assume that authors will get half a cent ($0.0058) per page viewed.

Most authors, who are doing the math, suspect they’ll lose about 50 percent of their monthly income. For instance, if an author has a 100-page book that was read to completion 100 times, an author would make roughly $60 for the month, or 60 cents per 100-page book. Before, an author would make $1.35 a download, regardless of the book’s length. That pencils out to $135 a month for 100 downloads, which represents 55 percent more revenue. These calculations are based on what authors are reporting in Amazon’s forums, which have lit up over the past few days with complaints about the pay structure.

“To stop authors from leaving the program in droves, Amazon’s going to have to do something even more drastic than their recent change…and something a little more thought through,” one comment said. Another echoed the opinion: “I was really hoping that Amazon was going to really make this program benefit the authors, but I think this is just another way to screw us over.”

Besides a revenue cut, the authors are also claiming that the new system will favor longer, more suspenseful novels, like mysteries. As a result, other genres will suffer. They also assume authors will now pad their books with additional pages and chapters to increase their revenue.

But the worst-hit are authors in the crafting or children’s book genres, say these authors.

“It would seem pointless for me to stay in [Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner’s Lending Library] now,” said one author, who voiced her concerns on an online forum. “I do illustrated children’s books. The illustrations will count as one page the sum total for the book [and] will be about 5 cents….I don’t understand Amazon, length isn’t quality.”

An Amazon spokeswoman did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

Author Hugh Howey, who wrote the book series “WOOL” is not one of the authors to immediately jump to the conclusion this move hurts all authors. In a blog post, he writes: “[Kindle Unlimited] does not reward longer works: It rewards good works. It rewards gripping works.” But he totally understands why an author would be upset, saying it will result in a revenue cut. But he also doesn’t think it was right for an author of an 100-page book to get compensated the same as an author that wrote a much longer book.

“If you think the prior system was fair, then we just disagree. If you think what you made under an unfair system should equal what you make under a fairer system, then we again disagree,” he said.

Amazon tried to take into account how some authors could game the system, or be unfairly penalized for books with charts, or abnormally small print. To do so, it came up with what it calls the “Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC).” It calculates KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and will use that to measure the number of pages customers read.

Another author pointed out how KENPC doesn’t work for all genres. He wrote a book about getting library audio books onto your Kindle, which has a lot of illustrations. He said the real page count is 54 pages, but based on Amazon’s adjusted calculation, it is now only 45 pages. Now, he’ll make only 25 cents, even though he normally charges $2.99 in the Amazon book store.

What’s particularly got people upset, however, is the example that Amazon used during its announcement, which may have set people’s standards artificially high. Based on a set of fictitious scenario, using round numbers, Amazon implied that people would get 10 cents per page read. Now, with the real numbers readily available, people are finding out that it’s closer to half a cent.

Howey sums up is feelings by saying that the new system rewards one thing only: Reader enjoyment. “This is how it should be…It’s hearts that we should concentrate on pounding, not keyboards. Write well and write efficiently. Write what you want. There’s a good chance there are more readers out there just like you, looking for the same thing,” he said.

There’s likely many more chapters to be written about this new pay-per-page pricing scheme. Are you an author? Are you a reader? What do you think is more fair?



Why Amazon Has Launched A New Credit Card For Prime Users

Recently, Amazon launched a new Prime Rewards Visa Cardwhich will give its Prime customers a 5% discount on all their purchases on Amazon. Additionally, customers will also get rewards at other places where they shop using this card including restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. With no annual fee and other benefits such as no foreign transaction fees and travel protection, this card is likely to delight Amazon’s existing Prime customers and attract more Prime members.


While Amazon Prime members can already earn a 5% discount through its store card issued by Synchrony, the new card is a Visa card which can be used anywhere. According to a note published by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, customers owning Amazon credit cards spend the highest on its platform. Their average annual expenditure exceeds that of Amazon Prime members by 16%. We believe this new card is Amazon’s attempt to entice its Prime members to spend more on its platform and, with the lucrative rewards it offers, it could prove effective in meeting this goal.

Given that Amazon credit card holders spend the highest on its platform, the company is looking at ways to expand its credit card consumer base. CIRP estimates that approximately 15% of Amazon’s U.S. customers have any one of Amazon’s credit cards, representing approximately 21 million customers. However, growth of its card base has not kept pace with its growing Prime membership. In June 2016, it was estimated that Amazon has around 63 million Prime members.


Assuming that only Prime members have an Amazon credit card, it would mean that only a third of its Prime customers have one of its credit cards. According to a survey by Morgan Stanley, Amazon Prime members spend about 4.6 times more money on its platform than non-prime members. Its credit card holders spend even greater amounts than what Prime members spend. By enticing its prime customers to own its credit cards, Amazon will be encouraging them to spend more on its platform. Its latest card is aimed at attracting Prime customers by offering deals not only on Amazon.com but on other shopping destinations as well. This can lead to higher spending by existing Prime customers and help convert the fence sitters into Prime memberships.



The new Prime service offers a rotating selection of over a thousand e-books, as well as comics, kids’ books and magazines.

Amazon’s newest perk for Prime members goes back to its bookworm roots.

On Wednesday, the company came out with Prime Reading, which provides a rotating library of over a thousand books, with current titles including “The Hobbit,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Millionaire Next Door.” The free service, available only to Prime members in the US, also includes changing selections of comics, kids’ books and magazines, including National Geographic Traveler, People and Sports Illustrated.

The service is available on iOS and Android devices using the free Kindle app, as well as on any Amazon Kindle e-reader or Fire tablet.

Prime Reading adds to Amazon’s continually expanding list of Prime services, which the company uses to entice customers to keep forking over its $99 annual membership fee. Maintaining those millions of Prime members is important for the online retailer, since those buyers tend to spend roughly twice as much on its site as non-Prime shoppers.

While a useful addition, the new perk likely won’t bring in droves of new members the same way as other popular services, such as Prime’s unlimited, two-day shipping or the Prime Day shopping holiday.


However, all the additional reading sparked by Prime Reading could help drive more sales of e-books, a market Amazon helped birth and still dominates. Also, Prime Reading may serve as a gateway to get more of Amazon’s loyalest customers to sign up for Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s $10 monthly reading service that includes over 1 million books and thousands of audiobooks. Using a similar tactic, Amazon last month introduced a slimmed-down, free-for-Prime version of its paid audiobook services called Audible Channels. A full Audible membership costs $14.95 a month.

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