Tag Archives: Amazon

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of August 2022

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of August 2022Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. We also publish a weekly Top 5 as part of our FREE email newsletter. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are August’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Why Amazon Wants to Sell You Robots — by Shep Hyken
  2. Now is the Time to Design Cost Out of Our Products — by Mike Shipulski
  3. How Consensus Kills Innovation — by Greg Satell
  4. The Four Secrets of Innovation Implementation — by Shilpi Kumar
  5. Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World — by Janet Sernack
  6. This 9-Box Grid Can Help Grow Your Best Future Talent — by Soren Kaplan
  7. ‘Fail Fast’ is BS. Do This Instead — by Robyn Bolton
  8. The Power of Stopping — by Mike Shipulski
  9. The Battle Against the Half-Life of Learning — by Douglas Ferguson
  10. The Phoenix Checklist – Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration — by Teresa Spangler

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in July that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last two years:

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Why Amazon Wants to Sell You Robots

Why Amazon Wants to Sell You Robots

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

It was recently announced that Amazon.com would be acquiring iRobot, the maker of the Roomba vacuum cleaner. There are still some “hoops” to jump through, such as shareholder and regulatory approval, but the deal looks promising. So, why does Amazon want to get into the vacuum cleaner business?

It doesn’t!

At least not for the purpose of simply selling vacuum cleaners. What it wants to do is to get further entrenched into the daily lives of its customers, and Amazon has done an excellent job of just that. There are more than 200 million Amazon Prime members, and 157.4 million of them are in the United States. According to an article in USA Today, written by David Chang of the Motley Fool, Amazon Prime members spend an average of $1,400 per year. Non-Amazon Prime members spend about $600 per year.

Want more numbers? According to a 2022 Feedvisor survey of 2,000-plus U.S. consumers, 56% visit Amazon daily or at least a few times a week, which is up from 47% in 2019. But visiting isn’t enough. Forty-seven percent of consumers make a purchase on Amazon at least once a week. Eight percent make purchases almost every day.

Amazon has become a major part of our lives. And does a vacuum cleaner company do this? Not really, unless it’s iRobot’s vacuum cleaner. A little history about iRobot might shed light on why Amazon is interested in this acquisition.

iRobot was founded in 1990 by three members of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. Originally their robots were used for space exploration and military defense. About ten years later, they moved into the consumer world with the Roomba vacuum cleaners. In 2016 they spun off the defense business and turned their focus to consumer products.

The iRobot Roomba is a smart vacuum cleaner that does the cleaning while the customer is away. The robotic vacuum cleaner moves around the home, working around obstacles such as couches, chairs, tables, etc. Over time, the Roomba, which has a computer with memory fueled by AI (artificial intelligence) learns about your home. And that means Amazon has the capability of learning about your home.

This is not all that different from how Alexa, Amazon’s smart device, learns about customers’ wants and needs. Just as Alexa remembers birthdays, shopping habits, favorite toppings on pizza, when to take medicine, what time to wake up and much more, the “smart vacuum cleaner” learns about a customer’s home. This is a natural extension of the capabilities found in Alexa, thereby giving Amazon the ability to offer better and more relevant services to its customers.

To make this work, Amazon will gain access to customers’ homes. No doubt, some customers may be uncomfortable with Amazon having that type of information, but let’s look at this realistically. If you are (or have been) one of the hundreds of millions of Amazon customers, it already has plenty of information about you. And if privacy is an issue, there will assuredly be regulations for Amazon to comply with. They already understand their customers almost better than anyone. This is just a small addition to what they already know and provides greater capability to deliver a very personalized experience.

And that is exactly what Amazon plans to do. Just as it has incorporated Alexa, Ring and eero Wi-Fi routers, the Roomba will add to the suite of connected capabilities from Amazon that makes life easier and more convenient for its customers.

If you take a look at the way Amazon has moved from selling books to practically everything else in the retail world, and you recognize its strategy to become part of the fabric of its customers’ lives, you’ll understand why vacuum cleaners, specifically iRobot’s machines, make sense.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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Good Design Makes Technology Disappear

Good Design Makes Technology Disappear

The late Clayton Christensen wrote a little book called The Innovator’s Dilemma that many of you I’m sure have read. Many people think of it as a book about disruptive innovation, but it can be much more than that if you shift your perspective.

The Classic Disruptive Innovation Example

One of the case study examples is that of mini-mills disrupting the rolled steel producers in the steel industry by starting at the bottom of the food chain with the production of low margin re-bar and then moving upwards into higher margin steel products. This is seen as the blueprint for how you disrupt an industry. You go first where the incumbents are least likely to be concerned about new entrants – low margin products – a market that incumbents might actually be happy to lose, because their average margins will actually increase and wall street will potentially reward them in the short-term with higher stock prices.

But if you shift your perspective on this case study and apply it to emerging technology, something new emerges.

Learning and Adoption Require a Compelling Use Case BEFORE They Can Occur

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts while I work lately. Podcasts with leading scientists from around the world. One of the core themes that continuously emerges is that innovation is really hard and takes a long time. I was really struck by iRobot co-Founder Rodney Allen Brooks speaking about how they had a target of launching the Roomba at $200 and this meant that he had FIFTY CENTS per unit to spend on a piece of silicon to power their invention. He told the story of running around Taiwan looking for a chip that was cheap enough and was handicapped in ways that wouldn’t matter for their particular application – as ALL chips in that price range are going to have severe limitations. This is a great story for highlighting some of the unexpected challenges in turning an invention into an innovation.

Another interesting innovation case study – on the failure side – is that of Google Glass. The smart glasses arrived as an overhyped and underwhelming product and died on the vine in a very short period of time. One of the key reasons for their failure was the lack of a compelling use case, and another was that technology was too front and center – so much so that Google Glass seemed like a creepy invention.

“Making access to information just instant and intuitive. By doing that, technology fades into the background, and we’re more connected with the people and things around us.”

This quote is pulled directly from the video below about Google’s reboot of their smart glasses initiative:

Google’s Live Translation Glasses arrive this time without a product page, without a formal product name and promising much less.

One of the things that really struck me in this short video is that while it is super easy to anchor on the value of the translation piece – displaying Mandarin on screen from an English voice for example – they have several other powerful uses cases, including:

  • People who have single-sided deafness
  • People who don’t want to wear hearing aids, or for whom hearing aids don’t work
  • People who are fully deaf
  • People who are trying to learn a new language

Do One Thing Really Well and Build From There

Google’s Live Translation Glasses remind me of another pair of smart glasses launched a little while back in the glow of the Google Glass failure – Amazon’s Echo Frames.

Amazon’s Echo Frames build themselves around the compelling use case of hands-free searching and calling. They have speakers and a microphone, connect to your iOS or Android smartphone, and can even be fitted with prescription lenses.

Amazon Echo Frames

Don’t Strip the Gears on Your Innovation Machine

Our ability to imagine usually outpaces our ability to execute and it can be a challenge to rein in our imagination to match our ability to not just execute, but to do so profitably and at a pace that our customers can see their way to adopt it.

When we look at my Innovation is All About Value methodology, we can also see that companies fail less often at value creation, and more frequently at value access and value translation.

When your start small and build around a compelling use case it is easier to get the value translation right and it is easier to build the key value access components to support your value creation.

Timing matters…

Price matters…

Compelling use cases matter…

What’s yours?

Keeping the end in mind and the future in sight – is important – but it is more valuable to identify where to start and add value as you go.

Don’t strip the gears on your innovation machine and keep innovating!

Image credit: The Verge, Amazon

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Innovation or Not – Amazon Echo Frames

Amazon Echo Frames

Amazon announced yesterday that they were making their Amazon Echo Frames available to the general public. Amazon previously announced Echo Frames over a year ago. But, after extensive testing with a limited group of users over this past year, Amazon has decided that Echo Frames are ready for prime time and is making them available to anyone who wants a pair.

Amazon doesn’t green light every experiment that they invest in, as they simultaneously announced an unceremonious end to the Amazon Echo Loop Ring.

Amazon Echo Frames are very much what they sound like, a pair of $249.99 eyeglass frames that pair with your Android 9.0+ or iOS 13.6+ smartphone to allow you to give voice commands to that supercomputer you carry around in your pocket every day. Here is the demo video from last year:

You might be asking yourself – Why is Amazon making an iOS version?

It is kind of surprising given the rumors indicating that Apple will be launching their own Siri glasses at some point, but Amazon has decided to instead allow Echo Frames to tap into Google Assistant or Siri if people so choose.

It is important to note that Echo Frames are NOT smartglasses or even augmented reality glasses, but instead a Zero UI extension of your smartphone and an audio system for text messages and the occasional phone call, allowing you to cut down on your screen time and keep your smartphone tucked away more of the day.

It will be interesting to see whether these catch on or whether people opt for in ear solutions like Google Pixelbuds or Apple’s Airpods Pro. I guess only time will tell.

So, what do you think? Innovation or not?


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Innovation or Not – Amazon One

Amazon One Biometric Payments

I came across another payments-related invention that Amazon is releasing into the wild. Yes, it is based around biometrics, but before you start getting all freaked out, it doesn’t use an implanted RFID chip or even facial recognition. No, Amazon One as it is referred to, connects a scan of your palm to your phone number and your credit card.

Once you’ve set this up at one of the Amazon Go stores currently piloting the technology, you’re all ready to go. From that point forward you can enter the Amazon Go store by hovering your palm above the reader and then use your palm on the way out to pay (and receive your receipt by text message I assume).

While you can connect your palm to your Amazon account so you can track purchase history, you don’t have to. Your palm scan is encrypted and stored in the cloud for future use.

Still not sure how it works?

Check out this explainer video:

The tagline for the service gives you an idea of the third party applications that Amazon hopes to pursue with this technology:

“Enter, identify and pay with Amazon One.”

So, what do you think? Innovation or not?


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Innovation or Not – Amazon Alexa Pay for Gas

Amazon Alexa Pay for Gas

You can now use the Alexa app on your phone or Alexa-enabled device in your car for an easy way to pay for gas at Exxon and Mobil stations nationwide.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

  1. Drive your vehicle up to the pump at your Exxon or Mobil station.
  2. Use the Alexa-enabled device in your car or Alexa app on your phone and say “Alexa, pay for gas.”
  3. Follow Alexa’s prompts to activate the pump.
  4. Fuel up and drive away. Payment is handled automatically.

I’m not sure whether they’re using Near Field Communications (NFC) or cellular data to communicate, but basically what’s happening is that in the same way a card swipe or tap to pay reader on the pump receives payment method information and validates payment, the pumps at select Exxon Mobil stations can now receive Amazon Pay default payment information, validate it and unlock the pump in the same way.

It’s a nice convenience and a clever way of trying to increase the adoption of Amazon Pay, but is it an innovation?

What do you think?


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Just Walk Out Groceries — by Amazon

Just Walk Out Groceries -- by Amazon

Amazon Go is going big – grocery store big. Today it was revealed that Amazon has opened up a new Amazon Go that is four times (4x) bigger than previous Amazon Go stores. What’s new?

Well, this new Amazon Go store has produce, packaged meats, an expanded frozen food section, sundries like paper towels, and more!

This is a big step forward for Amazon and will be stretching its technology to the breaking point as Amazon looks not only to explore what’s possible, but to prove its technology to the point where its collection of technology could become another revenue pillar that it can build by licensing its technology to other convenience store and grocery store chains.

The Amazon Go approach, should it expand, also puts even more of the 3 million grocery store jobs in the United States at risk. This 3 million jobs number is already declining because of self checkout and Walmart’s robotic inventory systems, among other pressures.

Is the Amazon Go approach a good thing?

Do we really all want to live in a world where packages show up at the door or food can be obtained in a grocery store without talking to anyone?

Americans are becoming increasingly lonely and isolated. I could include dozens of supporting links to back this up, but here is a good one:

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/lonely-you-re-not-alone-america-s-young-people-are-ncna945446

The grocery store has become one of the last remaining places where someone will actually speak to you, but self checkout and technologies like Amazon Go look to stamp out this human interaction too!

But even though there are still humans in the grocery store, the level of human interaction seems to be fading there too as younger, non-unionized workers replace older unionized workers in grocery stores. Has this been your experience?

What’s next the barbershop and the hairdresser?

And can our society survive any more isolation?


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Inside the Mind of Jeff Bezos

Amazon's Innovation PhilosophyIt is not too often that the leader of a Fortune 500 gives you an insight into how their company achieves competitive advantage in the marketplace in a letter to shareholders, instead of launching into a page or two of flowery prose written by the Public Relations (PR) team that works for them. The former is what Jeff Bezos tends to deliver year after year. This year’s letter is particularly interesting.

The two key insights in this year’s letter were that:

#1 – Amazon strives to view itself as a startup champion riding to the rescue of customers
#2 – Amazon chooses to be customer-obsessed, not customer-focused or customer-centric, but customer-obsessed

Both of these are crucial to sustaining innovation, and are supported by Jeff’s other main pieces of advice:

– Resisting proxies
– Embracing external trends
– Practicing high velocity decision making

But, I won’t steal Jeff’s thunder. I encourage you to read Jeff’s letter to shareholders in its entirety, check out the bonus video interview at the end, and add comments to share what you find particularly interesting in the letter.

Keep innovating!

—————————————————————-
2016 Letter to Amazon Shareholders
April 12, 2017

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.

I’m interested in the question, how do you fend off Day 2? What are the techniques and tactics? How do you keep the vitality of Day 1, even inside a large organization?

Such a question can’t have a simple answer. There will be many elements, multiple paths, and many traps. I don’t know the whole answer, but I may know bits of it. Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making.

True Customer Obsession

There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.

Why? There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.

Staying in Day 1 requires you to experiment patiently, accept failures, plant seeds, protect saplings, and double down when you see customer delight. A customer-obsessed culture best creates the conditions where all of that can happen.

Resist Proxies

As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2.

A common example is process as proxy. Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. Gulp. It’s not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, “Well, we followed the process.” A more experienced leader will use it as an opportunity to investigate and improve the process. The process is not the thing. It’s always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us? In a Day 2 company, you might find it’s the second.

Another example: market research and customer surveys can become proxies for customers – something that’s especially dangerous when you’re inventing and designing products. “Fifty-five percent of beta testers report being satisfied with this feature. That is up from 47% in the first survey.” That’s hard to interpret and could unintentionally mislead.

Good inventors and designers deeply understand their customer. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design.

I’m not against beta testing or surveys. But you, the product or service owner, must understand the customer, have a vision, and love the offering. Then, beta testing and research can help you find your blind spots. A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.

Embrace External Trends

The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind.
These big trends are not that hard to spot (they get talked and written about a lot), but they can be strangely hard for large organizations to embrace. We’re in the middle of an obvious one right now: machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Over the past decades computers have broadly automated tasks that programmers could describe with clear rules and algorithms. Modern machine learning techniques now allow us to do the same for tasks where describing the precise rules is much harder.

At Amazon, we’ve been engaged in the practical application of machine learning for many years now. Some of this work is highly visible: our autonomous Prime Air delivery drones; the Amazon Go convenience store that uses machine vision to eliminate checkout lines; and Alexa, our cloud-based AI assistant. (We still struggle to keep Echo in stock, despite our best efforts. A high-quality problem, but a problem. We’re working on it.)

But much of what we do with machine learning happens beneath the surface. Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations, and much more. Though less visible, much of the impact of machine learning will be of this type – quietly but meaningfully improving core operations.

Inside AWS, we’re excited to lower the costs and barriers to machine learning and AI so organizations of all sizes can take advantage of these advanced techniques.

Using our pre-packaged versions of popular deep learning frameworks running on P2 compute instances (optimized for this workload), customers are already developing powerful systems ranging everywhere from early disease detection to increasing crop yields. And we’ve also made Amazon’s higher level services available in a convenient form. Amazon Lex (what’s inside Alexa), Amazon Polly, and Amazon Rekognition remove the heavy lifting from natural language understanding, speech generation, and image analysis. They can be accessed with simple API calls – no machine learning expertise required. Watch this space. Much more to come.

High-Velocity Decision Making

Day 2 companies make high-quality decisions, but they make high-quality decisions slowly. To keep the energy and dynamism of Day 1, you have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. Easy for start-ups and very challenging for large organizations. The senior team at Amazon is determined to keep our decision-making velocity high. Speed matters in business – plus a high-velocity decision making environment is more fun too. We don’t know all the answers, but here are some thoughts.

First, never use a one-size-fits-all decision-making process. Many decisions are reversible, two-way doors. Those decisions can use a light-weight process. For those, so what if you’re wrong? I wrote about this in more detail in last year’s letter.

Second, most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow. Plus, either way, you need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure.

Third, use the phrase “disagree and commit.” This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes.

This isn’t one way. If you’re the boss, you should do this too. I disagree and commit all the time. We recently greenlit a particular Amazon Studios original. I told the team my view: debatable whether it would be interesting enough, complicated to produce, the business terms aren’t that good, and we have lots of other opportunities. They had a completely different opinion and wanted to go ahead. I wrote back right away with “I disagree and commit and hope it becomes the most watched thing we’ve ever made.” Consider how much slower this decision cycle would have been if the team had actually had to convince me rather than simply get my commitment.

Note what this example is not: it’s not me thinking to myself “well, these guys are wrong and missing the point, but this isn’t worth me chasing.” It’s a genuine disagreement of opinion, a candid expression of my view, a chance for the team to weigh my view, and a quick, sincere commitment to go their way. And given that this team has already brought home 11 Emmys, 6 Golden Globes, and 3 Oscars, I’m just glad they let me in the room at all!

Fourth, recognize true misalignment issues early and escalate them immediately. Sometimes teams have different objectives and fundamentally different views. They are not aligned. No amount of discussion, no number of meetings will resolve that deep misalignment. Without escalation, the default dispute resolution mechanism for this scenario is exhaustion. Whoever has more stamina carries the decision.

I’ve seen many examples of sincere misalignment at Amazon over the years. When we decided to invite third party sellers to compete directly against us on our own product detail pages – that was a big one. Many smart, well-intentioned Amazonians were simply not at all aligned with the direction. The big decision set up hundreds of smaller decisions, many of which needed to be escalated to the senior team.

“You’ve worn me down” is an awful decision-making process. It’s slow and de-energizing. Go for quick escalation instead – it’s better.

So, have you settled only for decision quality, or are you mindful of decision velocity too? Are the world’s trends tailwinds for you? Are you falling prey to proxies, or do they serve you? And most important of all, are you delighting customers? We can have the scope and capabilities of a large company and the spirit and heart of a small one. But we have to choose it.

A huge thank you to each and every customer for allowing us to serve you, to our shareowners for your support, and to Amazonians everywhere for your hard work, your ingenuity, and your passion.

As always, I attach a copy of our original 1997 letter. It remains Day 1.

Sincerely,

Jeff

———————————

If you’d like dive deeper into the mind of Jeff Bezos, then check out this interview with him conducted by Walt Mossberg of The Verge last year at Code Conference 2016:

And here is another fascinating peek inside the mind of Jeff Bezos from 1997:


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Amazon Changes Everything in a New Way

Tide Dash Button

The arrival of the Internet began major disruption to decades old methods of consumer packaged goods (CPG) distribution. The tried and true method of manufactures selling to a collection of wholesalers, who then sold the product on a range of retailers began to be reexamined. We saw the arrival of online retailers like Amazon who sought to compete with brick and mortar retailers, trying to offer a wider selection while also offering potentially a more convenient (and possibly cheaper) shopping experience for a few (or possibly for many). We saw retailers experiment with selling on Amazon (adding an extra layer of intermediation) and grocery stores experiment with online ordering and local delivery.

But at the same, in 2010 we saw manufacturers like P&G start to experiment with selling direct to consumer over the Internet via sites like pgshop.com and then in 2013 P&G started selling their wares on Amazon. Below is a screenshot of a Pampers product listing on Amazon:

Pampers Amazon Screenshot

As you can imagine, when companies like P&G start selling direct to consumers and via Amazon, this makes traditional retailers nervous. And while maybe some day their nervousness will translate into major volume declines, we’re probably not quite there, yet. But for manufacturers, the possibility of selling direct to consumers or via Amazon changes everything. It changes everything because it requires companies selling consumer goods to build new marketing capabilities, and possibly even new manufacturing and distribution capabilities as well.

Frito Lay Amazon Box

Here we have an example of a Sweet and Salty Box being sold to consumers via Amazon by Frito Lay. Compare this with a P&G Pampers page on Amazon and you’ll see that Frito Lay is still learning how to market via the Amazon channel and hasn’t completely figured out how to optimize the experience they create for consumers or likely how to maximize their conversion. But, you may also notice that the Amazon channel offers Frito Lay the opportunity to sell something they probably couldn’t sell in a Krogers, or Whole Foods, or Tesco, or 7-11.

In both of these examples, Amazon is taking and selling the inventory much as a grocery store would, but the customer wants, needs and expectations in the Amazon channel are different, and the skills to effectively market in this channel are different too. These are the reasons that Amazon changes everything for CPG companies. As Amazon continues to grow in importance as a channel for nearly everything, and as other sites like Facebook make a stronger push into eCommerce, and as consumer preferences for where and how they want to buy things changes, it presents a great opportunity for the forward thinking among us to take existing products and create new offerings that resonate with consumers showing a preference for existing and emerging digital channels and to create entirely new solutions that may involve a new product or possibly move beyond a product. Companies in CPG must continue to ask themselves:

  1. What is possible online that isn’t possible in-store?
  2. What do online shoppers want that is different than in-store shoppers?
  3. If we were to move beyond the confines of the product (and how it is packaged and presented), what would resonate with this type of consumer?

You can see on the Pampers page on Amazon above they’ve done a number of different things without changing the product:

  • Offering a range of product quantities
  • Coupons
  • Amazon Dash buttons (push the button and it automatically orders for you)
  • Etc.

And Frito Lay took their existing products and re-packaged them in a different way to suit the capabilities and needs of the channel because selling one individual bag of Doritos doesn’t make economic sense (and so Amazon won’t let you do it unless it is part of a larger Prime Pantry box).

If you were in charge, and had the product range that P&G or Frito Lay have, what would you do to optimize your results in the Amazon channel, or even more broadly in a direct to consumer context?

Please add your comments below.

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FedEx Not Keeping Pace

FedEx Not Keeping PaceFedEx took the shipping world by storm about forty years ago, growing to become the defacto shipping leader, unseating UPS and DHL. But, then after thirty years of strong growth they began to lose their mojo. In 2003, in a reaction to UPS’ acquisition of Mail Boxes Etc., FedEx announced they were buying Kinko’s, a large United States based copy center chain. For me this showed that FedEx was beginning to lose its way, and it appears their connection to customer expectations and the current capabilities of technology is failing. For a company based on the promise of speed, FedEx is becoming increasingly slow.

Increasingly frustrated with the performance of FedEx, Amazon has increasingly turned to the United States Postal Service to deliver its packages, striking a special deals with USPS to even deliver packages on Sunday. And now, Amazon is beginning to buy trailers so they can potentially contract directly with truck drivers to help them move inventory from one distribution node to another.

And for me, my latest FedEx misadventure is a perfect example of why FedEx is now in trouble and at risk of falling from its perch. Here’s what’s happened so far.

  1. I ordered a new laptop from HP that was supposed to arrive in three (3) days on Saturday, July 9th
  2. On Saturday, July 9th I received no contact from FedEx or estimate for when my package might be delivered
  3. On Saturday, July 9th FedEx attempted to deliver the package when we weren’t home
  4. For some reason FedEx then determined they were going to wait THREE DAYS before attempting re-deliver the package
  5. On Tuesday, July 12th I received no contact from FedEx or estimate for when my package might be delivered
  6. On Tuesday, July 12th FedEx despite someone being home nearly all day, FedEx attempted to deliver the package when we weren’t home
  7. On Wednesday, July 13th I received no contact from FedEx or estimate for when my package might be delivered
  8. On Wednesday, July 13th FedEx despite someone being home nearly all day, FedEx attempted to deliver the package when we weren’t home
  9. On Thursday, July 14th I received a missed call and voicemail from FedEx
  10. On Thursday, July 14th I attempted to call the FedEx number given and nobody answered the phone, got voicemail and left message
  11. On Friday, July 15th the Web site indicated that package would be delivered again that day, but no delivery came
  12. On Friday, July 15th I called FedEx and got voicemail
  13. On Friday, July 15th I called FedEx again and got a person, hooray! But, the person said my only option was to drive a fair distance to come pick it up or have it delivered to a FedEx location near me.
  14. On Friday, July 15th I chose to have the package delivered to my local FedEx location (a Kinko’s about 5-10 miles away) under the impression it would be available Saturday, July 16th at this location for my pickup and that they would probably call me after it arrived
  15. On Saturday, July 16th I went to the Kinko’s around 7pm figuring that it must be there by that time (How long could it take to ship a package 15-20 miles from one FedEx location to another?)
  16. On Saturday, July 16th at the Kinko’s the employee was unable to find the package
  17. On Saturday, July 16th at the Kinko’s the employee was unable to get any information from their systems because they were down for maintenance
  18. On Saturday, July 16th at the Kinko’s the employee was able to call and using a voice response system get a Tuesday, July 19th delivery estimate to their location
  19. On Monday, July 18th I received a postcard from FedEx saying they had tried to deliver my package three times and to contact them (NOTE: this was a very confusing postcard, not obvious what to do)
  20. On Tuesday, July 19th I received a phone call from the FedEx Kinko’s store saying they had my package, and I picked it up a few hours later after they used my name (no technology) to search a pile of packages in the back

VERY BAD EXPERIENCE – I got my package TEN DAYS AFTER I was supposed to get it, and nearly two weeks after I ordered the laptop.

Inaccurate information on the web site, poor customer service, bad technology, slow resolution…

These are all signs that this logistics company has gone off track and has not kept pace with the capabilities of technology today.

There is no reason why FedEx shouldn’t have been able to:

  • Show me online exactly where my package is
  • When FedEx is estimating it to be delivered based on the packages loaded on the truck and the planned route
  • Offer me the opportunity to select an alternate delivery time or date or location if the likely delivery time doesn’t work for me

This would be customer service.

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