How 19 years of Amazon Prime has satisfied our need for speed

As Engadget began publishing in its early posts, I was putting my freshly minted English degree to work at an indie bookstore in Los Angeles. In apparently unrelated news, Amazon was the first to report profitable year after switching from selling books to selling “everything” four years ago. (Many books were still sold.)

Our bookstore has done a good job of stocking the shelves with a balance of more worthy popular hits and smaller, better prices. But we couldn’t have every book a customer wanted, so we offered to order any print title. It would take about a week to get in if it was on a distributor, longer if we had to go through a publisher. This seemed fine to most customers.

But sometimes “about a week” was too long. A few people immediately came out and said, “No, I’ll order it on Amazon.” In 2005, Amazon launched Prime, a membership program that gave customers unlimited two-day shipping on most orders for $79 a year. CEO Jeff Bezos at the start he called “All you can eat” fast delivery.” At the time, no one knew how hungry the world was for the convenience of the Amazon brand. Now, nearly two decades later, we’ve seen the shifts that put that buffet in place—in labor, retail, and the entire customer experience.

Prime was not an overnight success. this is estimated Six years after launch, only four million households paid for the service. But 10 years later, in 2021, Bezos he claimed it had 200 million members worldwide. Outside of this phase, Amazon wouldn’t disclose membership numbers, but it’s likely that the number is now much higher.

Shipping is both free and fast has become an expectation, and no company has done more to change the landscape of logistics than Amazon. On its own, the company operates more than a hundred warehouses In the US, from 600,000 each four million square meters. Each has 1000-1500 employees nationand an army of about 750,000 men robots works alongside people in many places.

The company operates a fleet experiments with cargo planes drone delivers and deploys thousands of delivery vans None These Amazon-branded vans are driven by actual employees. Rather, they are known as separate companies delivery service partners (DSP), subcontracted drivers to drive those vans. Amazon provides employment 1.5 million people either full-time or part-time (with one million in the United States), but these numbers do not include independent contractors and temporary workers. In addition to DSP software, Amazon Flex allowing individuals to use their cars to deliver smiley-adorned packages to porches. The company relies on both UPS and the US Postal Service to deliver to traditional providers, the latter of which is obligated to deliver packages. on Sundays since 2013.

Such a vast orchestra to deliver Stanley Quenchers and pimple patches faster than anyone else. However, it is difficult to look at growth and revenue figures without considering the human cost. Contract drivers pee on bottles because meeting quotas leaves no time for bathroom breaks. Employees suffers serious injuries in automated warehouses. The company was sued in retaliation fireinterfering employee observation practices and non-compliance COVID safety guidelines. Amazon is back on the Dirty Dozen list for workplace safety in 2023. According to the national COSH advocacy group. And took steps to improve with a better year compensationthe company buys against the union events typical member of a giant corporation joins others in calling the National Labor Relations Board.unconstitutional.”

Aside from labor issues, Amazon’s dominance has made life difficult for retail businesses in general, and the big chains in particular. The The Amazon effect has become shorthand for e-commerce’s mall-emptying squeeze on traditional retail. Even companies that merge with Amazon don’t do well. Subject to third party vendors on the site punitive measures and sometimes has to contend with the increased fees that impose them off duty. Who are the sellers? do we saw that they did well copied products and sold under Amazon’s private label. Notable partnerships, such as during Borders, had unfortunate consequences outsourced its initial internet sales or exclusive contract With Toys ‘R’ Us. Of course, Borders no longer exists, and Toys ‘R’ Us filed for bankruptcy in 2017.

Trying to beat Amazon in terms of speed and price is pointless. Joining them is unwise. So retailers compete in other ways. At the bookstore, we’ve focused on our strengths: a diverse, multidisciplinary staff who can gauge a customer’s reading tastes and hold a good book in their hands. If someone came into our store in 2005 and said they were into fantasy, there’s a good chance our bookseller would have passed them the latest copy of George RR Martin years before HBO had anything to do with it.

We had a curated ‘zine section and hosted live events with bestselling authors, founders of the cult magazine and local writers. But mostly, we’ve tapped into people who want more of a shopping experience than speed and convenience, people who don’t care if it takes a week to get a book. Some just wanted to sit under the tree (there’s a tree in the middle of the store), pet the cat (that’s how it was in my day) and look at the books. Lucy) and listening to what we felt were pretty badass playlists.

Today, Skylight Books is still a force of creativity and enthusiasm in the Los Feliz neighborhood and has even become a neighborhood addition. In general, independent bookstores after the retail apocalypse and initial losses from COVID they do well, certain names remain in place and new stores are opened. Elsewhere in the retail industry, large chains continue to close locations, but independent retailers are appearing increasing. Personally, I’m enjoying the new bakeries, brewpubs, and thrift stores popping up around my neighborhoods right now.

I can’t ignore that a decent portion of my job as a trade writer is directing readers to Amazon’s website. Because Engadget’s site is facilitated by Amazon Web Services (AWS) through Yahoo’s cloud partnership, the company plays a role in displaying the words you read. The company is one of the largest companies on the planet, the second largest employer in the United States, and a good portion of every retail dollar spent in the United States goes into Amazon’s coffers.

With the acquisition of Whole Foods’ 500+ stores, Amazon is doing well in the physical retail sector. However, the company doesn’t tend to win when it tries to create other retail experiences. Amazon Books, Amazon style and Amazon 4-Star were small-scale retailers trying to capitalize on the Amazon brand, great customer data, and advanced retail technology. At its peak, these stores consisted of about 70 brick-and-mortar locations, all of which are now closed. Cashierless Amazon Go still has more than 20 locations in the US, but Amazon closed nine It has not announced plans to open in 2023 or beyond.

These errors may be statistically unavoidable; more than half of new businesses fail before hitting the 10-year mark. But perhaps these stores failed because, as physical locations, they failed to leverage Amazon’s core strength: zero-effort shopping. Shopping on isn’t all that fun. The website is messy and confusing. Questionable products and fake reviews undermines the trust of buyers. It’s not even the cheapest place to shop. But this 1-Click™ buy button and turbo delivery make items appear at our doorstep like they’re sliding on greased rails.

However, when people muster the energy to leave their homes, they can hope for something more: the human experience of people passionately doing what the people in their neighborhood are doing, not because market data suggests there should be dollars in a particular sector. With its trillion-dollar valuation, Amazon isn’t going anywhere, but there’s still room under its large shadow for businesses that focus on the human element of commercial operations, where people might want to spend time with the speed and convenience of Amazon. could save them.

Note Engadget’s 20th Anniversarywe’ve been revisiting products and services that have changed the industry since March 2, 2004.

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