Amazon News – March 2020

Digital Transformation may be a buzzword, but it really is one of the things that changed immensely in the last decade.

The world is going through a crazy time, but there is no doubt that Amazon, thanks to its advanced technology, efficient fulfilling and shipping abilities, the wide selection of products, and amazing ability to respond quickly to change has become one of the central players on the world stage.

Even Amazon took some time to adjust to the current situation. Especially in terms of keeping warehouse workers healthy and safe. This issue is getting a lot of criticism from the press and media. 

Since something new seems to happen every moment, I’ve tried to pinpoint the most interesting things that show how Amazon is handling the situation

Here are the most interesting 15 things that happened on Amazon this month:

1. What are clients looking for on Amazon? Airpods were first on the list for months but were replaced by toilet paper, hand sanitizer, face masks etc.

Categories catering to people at home such as food, cleaning supplies, home entertainment, sports, and toys have seen a spike in sales.

Amazon Brand Analytics, March 2020

2. As a result of the situation and the high demand, sellers have started to take advantage and raise prices for necessary products. Amazon has activated its price gouging policy and closed more than half a million products that did not meet the policy. Thousands of sellers were suspended for raising prices and unfair trade with prices reaching $400 for a bottle of hand sanitizer. You can read more about this issue in my February article.

3.  On March 17th Amazon announced to US sellers that it’s canceling the option to send nonessential items to its warehouses. Products were supposed to be prioritized till April 5th, but as of now, they are selected according to demand and Amazon’s ability to carry out shipping. It’s still impossible to send all products to warehouses. Amazon encourages sellers to choose FBM and not FBA – avoid Amazon’s warehouses in order to ease the pressure on the system and prioritize food and drugs.

4.  Amazon quickly responds to demand and begins hiring 100K more employees. It also raised hourly pay by $2, adds mandatory overtime and provides sick workers with 2 weeks of paid leave.

Amazon is not the only one hiring – Walmart hires 150K new employees, Rite Aid adds 5K jobs, Kroger hires 32,700 workers, Instacard 300K workers, Pepsi Co hires 6K and Walgreens ads 9500 jobs.

>> CVS, Walmart, and 17 other ‘essential’ businesses that are desperate for workers right now

5. The workers – It seems that those that work the hardest right now are warehouse workers and drivers. They report an insane spike in the amount of work and everyone is required to work more hours for more pay. It’s a real dilemma for many whether go to work and risk getting sick or stay home and face not being able to pay their bills.


One warehouse worker who tried to organize a protest of the working conditions and particularly lack of protective gear was fired. And there were (rather dubious) claims in the press that Amazon was planning a personal campaign against him.

As a possible response, Amazon released this video of Jeff Bezos walking around a Whole Foods facility and checking the Social Distancing conditions of workers:

This video stressing the importance of employee safety was also released:

6. The stores: Amazon’s physical stores are changing in order to keep shoppers safe. Whole Foods announced that stores will open an hour early for exclusively for shoppers over 60.

>> https://media.wholefoodsmarket.com/news/whole-foods-market-adjusts-store-hours-to-better-serve-our-communities

7.  An interesting cooperation with the Bill and Milanda Gates Foundation and Amazon Care (Amazon’s healthcare branch) to facilitate Covid testing at home and using Amazon’s logistical abilities to gather tests in the Seattle area.

>> Amazon and Gates Foundation may team up to deliver coronavirus test kits to Seattle homes, CNBC

And more initiatives from Amazon:
Amazon is working behind the scenes with the WHO, providing it with IT support and AI tools to help map the spread of the virus in the US. Together with Microsoft they have given $1M to the Covid fund in Seattle. Amazon has also established a $25M fund to help drivers and part-time workers. It sends Covid tests to homes in the US and UK and has pledged $7M more to nonprofits that support affected communities.

Amazon also offers $20M worth of cloud services for free to companies working on solutions for the Covid virus.

ובנוסף תרם ג’ף בזוס 100M$לארגון ללא מטרות רווח – Feeding America לסיוע להאכיל משפחות נזקקות בארה”ב בעקבות וירוס הקורונה. הוא פרסם את התרומה בעמוד האינסטגרם שלו –

On top of all this, Jeff Bezos has donated $100M to Feeding America in order to provide food to needy families. The donation was publicized on his Instagram page:

>> Here’s what major retailers and beauty brands are doing to support the fight against coronavirus

>> Jeff Bezos will donate $100 million to help food banks that are facing shortages due to the coronavirus outbreak

8. Amazon Lending – Yes, Amazon also has a loan service. The Amazon Lending company offers $1000-$75000 loans to sellers who need cash on order to buy supplies, expand their stores or advertise on Amazon.

In view of the situation and the decrease in sales for most sellers, Amazon announced that it is halting the Lending program and postponing all payments on existing loans until May 2020.

>> Amazon pauses sellers’ loan repayments amid coronavirus

9. Amazon added a new area of the platform meant for hospitals and government organizations in order to sell Covid related equipment, such as disposable gloves, face masks, hand sanitizer, and thermometers. Customers who are not hospitals or government organizations can’t use this are and it works on a first come first served basis.

Sellers interested to offer these items are required to fill in a request. At the same time, Amazon has removed over 1 million products that were suspected of making false claims regarding the virus.

>> Amazon blocks sale of N95 masks to the public, begins offering supplies to hospitals. CNBC

10. Amazon Audible Kids Activities – Amazon is releasing free audible books for kids. The platform is available through this link – no registration or credit card needed. The nice selection includes Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, and more books available in 6 languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Japanese.

>> Hundreds of audiobooks released free on Audible to ease cabin fever

11. Amazon suspends its famous Prime Day, which usually occurs in July. This is obviously due to the situation, struggling to meet demands, and being unable to properly care for warehouse workers, drivers, and other employees.

>> Amazon plans to delay Prime Day until at least August, Business Insider

And in Covid non-related news:

12. Amazon Go – If it wasn’t for Covid, Amazon’s Cashierless technology would probably make headlines. It is now available to retail stores in a licensing model. Unlike Amazon Go stores, other chains will require customers to swipe their credit cards when they enter the store and charged when they leave.

The first businesses to use the technology are the New York airport and the OTG chain that operates convenience store across many airports.  It’s unclear how this cooperation will proceed in view of the situation. We will have to wait and see.

>> Amazon Officially Selling Cashierless Store Technology To Retailers, Forbes

13. Just before the chaos started it was announced that the first Amazon Go store outside the US will open in Notting Hill, London.

>> Amazon to compete with Aldi and Lidl with new check-out free London food store, The Sun

14. Amazon officially launched in the Netherlands. Until recently, Amazon only sold books in the Netherlands. An official platform was now launched, offering more than 100M products (more than 4 times than its biggest competitor Bol.com) and a Prime club with free delivery.

>> AMAZON LAUNCHES FULL ONLINE STORE IN NETHERLANDS, NL Times

15. Amazon Video Games – In the last years, Amazon invested millions of dollars in developing video games in order to enter the field. This May (after many delays) Amazon is planning to launch 2 original video games: a fantasy game called Crucible and a multi-player called New World.

The gaming industry is expected to make over $160B in 2020 in the US alone. The situation may even increase it. Entering the gaming industry expands the value Amazon provides its customers and attracts a whole new world of clients.

>> Amazon Pushes Into Making Video Games, Not Just Streaming Their Play

A little bit about the games: Amazon Games

Crucible – Each match in Crucible is a fight for survival and control. Not only will you be going toe-to-toe with your fellow competitors, but you’ll have to adapt and overcome all the challenges the planet itself throws your way. You and your teammates will need to work together to take down alien creatures, capture objectives, and pursue your opponents in search of victory.

New World – Fate has summoned you to the shores of Aeternum, the Eternal Isle. Overcome the brutal legions of The Corrupted and draw battle lines with competing players in this land of danger and opportunity. In a land hell-bent on your destruction, what will you do to survive? Strike out alone to forge your own heroic path, or band together, fortify, and fight.

“New World” / Amazon Games

In conclusion – In view of the situation, Amazon stopped free delivery to Israel on purchases over $49 and introduced a new sale, that promotes Israeli sellers: 10% off on purchases over $20. Many Israeli companies and sellers have uploaded products to Amazon and you can now find many local businesses on the platform.

It can be said for certain that during the free delivery campaign Israelis have done a lot of shopping and provided Amazon with a lot of data about the local demand. It will be interesting what will happen after Covid. How Amazon will use all this information to enter the local market.

If you also want to receive the Amazon News monthly summary by email (coming out once a month), feel free to sign up here at the bottom of the post, and the next monthly summary will reach you directly by email.

Wishing all of us to stay healthy and safe and come out of this stronger,

Meirav

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