Tech giant Amazon has dominated e-commerce and set the standard for retailers in the 21st century. Starting in 1994 as an online bookselling platform, the company quickly grew and developed as a multinational force, pioneering the online retail space and flattening competition with aggressive acquisitions.
Coming into the new millennium, 2005 saw the introduction of the Amazon Prime membership programme: encouraging customer loyalty by charging a yearly premium for two-day delivery. From here, Amazon kept its already significant customer base and continued to add to it relentlessly. With Jeff Bezos’ worldwide ambitions, the company has reached every corner of the globe as an award-winning media disseminator, cloud computing provider, and most fundamentally as the ‘everything store’.
They’ve uprooted and thrown out the old way of shopping, so now online retailers follow the Amazon way. But what does this look like?
Next-day or nothing
Whittling down wait times from two days, to one day, to same-day delivery, Amazon has made us the customer base quite impatient. Creating a culture of near-instant gratification has forever changed our expectations of good delivery, meaning that we avoid buying from shops that don’t offer a similar turnaround time. As a result, large online retailers like Asos, Boohoo and Very have been forced to provide a next-day delivery option as standard practice, just to match what Amazon has offered for years.
However, never satisfied with the market standard, Amazon pushed further and launched same-day delivery in the UK in 2014. Though initially trialled as a pickup service for select locations, Prime members are now able to place an order on a wide range of goods before noon and have it delivered to their door later in the day. As a result, consumer demand for high-speed shipping has risen further still, and opened the door for other business ventures, with couriers like CitySprint now offering same-day delivery services. These are essential for small businesses and organisations that don’t have the infrastructure of titans like Amazon, now that they’ve set the standard we expect all online sellers to meet, regardless of their size.
Going forward, Amazon seem keen to continue streamlining their process and achieve even faster turnaround. Recent developments have seen their network expand by introducing locker pick-up and trialling new technologies, such as drone delivery.
In the age of the easy purchase, consumers will happily pay extra if it means not paying extra. Confusing though that may sound, there are plenty of small costs we incur for benefits like free delivery, arguably defeating the purpose of said benefits.
Current Prime memberships offer a host of perks, but at their inception emphasised delivery that was free and fast. For those that subscribe, an annual fee primarily ensures free next-day delivery on their Amazon-fulfilled purchases. For those that aren’t Prime members, Amazon asks for a spending threshold of £20. Considering how customers use Amazon for convenient, often small-cost purchases, many will make further spends that weren’t originally intended just to get free delivery on their order.
Demonstrating the legacy of this model, research by UPS has shown that up to 80% of shoppers will abandon their purchase at checkout if free shipping or an appropriate threshold isn’t offered. Subsequently, many retailers have followed suit and introduced delivery spending thresholds.
Amazon are no one-trick pony, though — always keen to innovate, they give customers an A to Z of ways to spend more money. From the simplicity of Alexa shopping lists to the novelty of one-press subscription buttons, Amazon will stop at nothing to streamline the buying process and encourage you to shop.
Subscribe and save
In the past 10 years, paid subscriptions have started to crowd our bank statements. Gone are the days of paying to own individual films or albums, as streaming continues to dominate modern media consumption. However, Amazon paved the way for these never-ending fees, with its Prime subscription first emerging in 2005.
Beginning solely as a delivery service, Prime has since developed as a separate branch of the tech superpower, and built a media library to compete with the likes of Netflix and Spotify. Each year, more and more streaming platforms are vying for our loyalty — and with viewing records being constantly broken, it looks like streaming is here to stay. As an early adopter of the subscription model, Prime introduced the public to the very same way of shopping that its competitors have come to thrive upon.
Up for review
Amazon’s approach to ratings and reviews was another trendsetting introduction to the e-commerce market. Through product listing pages featuring customer opinions and amateur product photos, the company promote transparency and feedback between seller and customer, with an accessibility that physical retail is unable to replicate.
This is incredibly important considering how much we take into account other people’s opinions. In a report for PowerReviews, researchers found that more than 99% of consumers rely on reviews to inform online purchasing decisions. Survey respondents cited ratings and reviews as the most crucial factor influencing their choice to buy, above product price and brand.
Given their importance, the majority of online retailers now offer review systems, building trust in sellers and keeping buyers in the know — which should lead to informed purchases and fewer regrets. That said, a number of sellers use tactics to unfairly incentivise positive reviews, skewing product ratings and misleading customers.
With over 12 million product listings, it’s hard to imagine a bigger department store than Amazon. Taking just a few taps, purchasing anything on the go is a convenience that has raised a generation of consumers to demand ease of access. As a result, our expectation becomes that any shop we step foot into should be able to facilitate all of our purchasing needs.
Inevitably, this is impossible for physical stores. Walking around with Amazon in our pockets, many of us no longer feel obliged to head out to brick and mortar shops, and so e-commerce has accelerated the death of the high street. The depth of niche products available in specialist outlets has been swapped out for the breadth of different products available online, and consumers feel there is little reason to travel to shop.
This has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, which saw non-essential retail close and many businesses struggle to move across to digital sales. Amazon, by contrast, saw profits soar — and achieved record sales as the last few e-commerce naysayers were forced to make the switch. Ultimately, this means we will continue to rely less on specialist and physical shopping, preferring to get all of our wares from one convenient source.