From the inception of the internet, digital has fundamentally changed the commerce industry and the way consumers shop. Today, it only takes a few clicks and two business days to get practically anything. Whenever anyone talks the evolution of commerce, or even of digital as a whole, Amazon is always cited as a leader. Founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos as an online bookstore, the Fortune 500 company has grown to the premier commerce epicenter of the internet. According to a company profile on The Balance, “As of early 2017, Amazon had nearly 269,000 employees worldwide. It is known for its technical innovations and boasts that its engineers handle complex challenges in large-scale computing.” That makes perfect sense when you consider what it takes to remain a digital leader.
Amazon has not only put its “customer-centric” focus into practice via cultivating a dedicated community of reviewers or through programs like the incredibly popular Amazon Prime, it has taken on the challenge of emotionally connecting with its customers. It’s not about being all warm and fuzzy; creating a personalized experience is a given now for any successful retailer. Enter Spark.
Laura Brooks, vice president of commerce at Acquia, recently discussed Amazon’s foray into more emotion-driven customer experiences in her article for Digital Commerce 360 With Spark, Amazon Moves from Transactional to Emotional. Brooks writes;
With the launch of Spark, Amazon has dipped its toes into an e-commerce strategy that’s much less transactional, and much more emotional. No longer will Prime members flock to the site solely to find an exact product at a competitive price, but instead they’ll play a game of discovery — one that Instagram and Pinterest have mastered. Customers won’t engage with Spark because they’re in need of a specific product, instead they’ll willingly interact with the larger Amazon community — fulfilling their emotional needs, while also obtaining a clear sense of belonging.
But Spark isn’t just about fostering loyalty and a deeper connection to customers; it’s another important data collection tool for improved customer experiences in the future.
Spark will feed new data into the personalization of customer journeys, and also benefit from data collected at other touchpoints, Brooks writes. Soon, for example, Amazon will be able to leverage pre-existing data — from purchase history to Alexa queries — to make the Spark feed as relevant and engaging as possible. That ultimately will drive even more transactions, both from the Spark feed and everywhere else.
Spark isn’t the only new venture for Amazon lately. The commerce world shook when the internet giant announced its acquisition of organic grocery store heavyweight Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in July. This merger now grounds the Internet company with a true brick-and-mortar presence, going head to head with the likes of Walmart and Target. It’s not a surprise, considering the launch of Amazon Fresh and Amazon Pantry. But what does this mean for Whole Foods?
In her article for Fortune, How Whole Foods Can Keep its Identity After the Amazon Deal, Brooks is adamant that maintaining important aspects of corporate culture is essential for a successful merger of the companies:
First, both companies must face the challenge of merging two distinct teams accustomed to their own culture and priorities. Whole Foods is known for its “micro-cultures” that fluctuate based on store location. With each store inspired by the surrounding community, its localized company culture is core to who it is as a brand. Merging with Amazon may cause Whole Foods employees to question whether this unique approach will remain intact, or shift to be consistent with their new parent company.
In addition to culture, the integration of technology poses a challenge but also an enormous opportunity:
Second, Amazon and Whole Foods need to seriously consider the integration of their technologies and systems. It won’t be long until customers can point a smartphone at a tomato to get nutrition facts, details about what farm it came from, and how far it traveled before it hit the shelves. But bringing this technical vision to fruition will be their most prominent and defining challenge.
In her own words, it’s a “heavy lift” for both companies, but as two industry leaders, hopes are high.
So what’s next for Amazon? Only time will tell, but the company will keep pushing the boundaries of the commerce industry and the digital landscape as a whole.