Amazon Figures Out How To Get In Your House
Like most young kids, my son Theo is a picky eater. Every morning he insists on drinking one glass of orange juice and eating a strawberry Pop-Tart.
His morning routine is serious business. A few months ago, we ran out of strawberry Pop-Tarts; it wasn’t a pleasant morning. In an effort to bring peace and serenity back to our morning, I told Alexa to “buy me strawberry Pop-Tarts.” While that didn’t solve the immediate problem, it was an eye-opening experience for Theo.
Since that fateful morning, we’ve heard him tell Alexa “buy me strawberry Pop-Tarts” on numerous occasions. And sure enough, boxes from Amazon magically arrive at our door, stocking our pantry with more than enough Pop-Tarts to get us through a zombie apocalypse.
Amazon has made buying Pop-Tarts so easy a three-year-old can do it. But voice-to-purchase is only one of several innovations the “everything store” offers. Thanks to Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) and localized warehouses, Prime members have access to same-day shipping for more than three million products in 10,000+ cities. Online consumers no longer have to sacrifice instant gratification for ease-of-purchase.
Because same-day shipping just isn’t fast enough, Prime Now offers 10,000 items across categories like groceries, seasonal items, electronics, and household items with two-hour shipping. While Prime Now isn’t available in every major city across the US, it is available in Salt Lake City, delivering all day, every day.
To even consider this level of service is mind-blowing. Yet, Amazon continues to show an unmatched dedication to consumer-centricity by operationalizing this process at an unfathomable pace. Companies in any industry need to take note of Amazon’s approach because it’s quickly becoming the new standard for customer satisfaction.
Come On In
According to the 2018 Edelmen Trust Barometer, only 48 percent of the general population in the United States trusts businesses. The results reflect a general downward trend in trust over the past decade. While most companies are fighting to establish some semblance of trust, Amazon is asking their customers to unlock their front doors to unknown delivery drivers to keep hated “porch pirates” from stealing your latest purchase. And their customers are saying yes.
In late 2017, Amazon tested a pilot program giving delivery drivers access inside your car or home to deliver packages by way of an Amazon Key, available to Prime members. This in-home delivery program is now available to Prime members in 35 cities, including Salt Lake City.
On delivery day, buyers receive a notification with a four-hour delivery window for when the driver will arrive at their home. The buyer receives a second alert that the driver is “arriving now,” and gives them the option to watch the delivery happen live via a video streaming service.
Through an Amazon handheld scanner, the driver verifies the package and address, unlocks the front door, and turns on the Cloud Cam. Once the driver drops off the package they request to lock the door. All of this is monitored by a remote Amazon support team member.
At Your Service
To scale these types of services, Amazon has invested in 75 localized distribution centers and 25 sortation facilities scattered across North America. Last August, the retailer opened a fulfillment center in Salt Lake City to provide the intermountain region with expanding services such as same-day and in-home delivery.
The impact of Amazon’s Utah-based warehouse stretches beyond enhanced delivery services. The 855,000 square-foot facility, built on 71 acres, created more than 1,500 new jobs for Utahns. Amazon’s online job posting advertises a starting salary of $17.50, an employee-first company culture, and a full range of benefits such as their Career Choice program which provides up to 95 percent prepaid tuition compensation for “in-demand” jobs.
While it can be difficult to predict the long-term economic impact of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Utah, state officials are excited by the possibilities. “To have a company like Amazon, as big as they are, choose Utah for a fulfillment center is a great win for us,” says Gov. Gary Herbert. “It’s a big shot in the arm for Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and the state.”
But storing product locally is only a part of the solution. Developing ways to deliver packages “the last mile” to their destination can be difficult for companies to scale. Major delivery service providers such as FedEx and UPS are struggling to keep up with demand. In response, Amazon established a Delivery Service Partners initiative in 2017. This program empowers and enables entrepreneurs and small business owners to deliver packages from local fulfillment centers to the doorsteps of Amazon customers.
Since the program’s inception, it’s estimated that more than 200 small businesses and thousands of employees deliver packages in record time. Using an internal algorithm, Amazon determines which packages should be delivered via nationwide transportation companies and which should be managed by independent delivery services. Packages are then routed to fulfillment centers or select delivery stations before being shipped to the customer.
According to an Amazon spokesperson, “This year, the company plans to add hundreds more new businesses, starting with employee-turned-business-owners.” That’s right. With demand increasing, and the “last mile” being the most expensive and the lowest margin business for FedEx and UPS, Amazon is encouraging its employees to quit and start their own delivery business. In a May press release, Amazon said it would contribute as much as $10,000 if employees want to leave the company and form start-ups focused on delivering packages.
Delivering The Unthinkable
In an age where customer satisfaction changes daily, the most successful companies are those truly obsessed with delivering the unthinkable. In the case of Amazon, this means helping my three-year-old son, Theo easily buy strawberry Pop-Tarts at 7:00 AM, having them delivered inside of our house by 9:00 AM, so he can finish his morning routine before he’s done with his Saturday morning cartoons.
Amazon helped my make my mornings a little more peaceful, and that’s priceless.