Amazon has achieved the ultimate trifecta: debuting a new portal, Amazon Exclusives, to showcase products in partnership with Kickstarter; offering its virtual assistant, Echo; and expanding its footprint into China and India.
Announced today, its Amazon Exclusives online boutique provide customers with discovery and early access to “exciting new technologies and innovative brands.” The portal offers products such as Shark Tank’s inflatable paddle board, as well as Kickstarter successes including Jackery Mini Portable Charger, Hot Chocolate Design Shoes and Zackees LED Turn Signal Gloves for cycling.
“Our mission on behalf of customers is to make Amazon the destination for brands and innovators to launch and sell their products, providing our customers early access to new products,” stated Peter Faricy, VP of Amazon Marketplace.[more]
The products are only available on Amazon or direct from the brands but fulfilled by Amazon, which makes them eligible for free two-day shipping in the US for Amazon Prime members.
The announcement also mends fences following Amazon’s recent falling out with Kickstarter over enabling payments within Kickstarter.
No doubt in response to Apple Pay attempting to take over the world of online and mobile payments, Amazon is expanding its Pay With Amazon affiliate network with another new partnership announced today: AdamAndEve.com, a purveyor of adult products.
“Amazon Echo is designed around your voice,” notes the product page. “It’s always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather and more.”
Answering to the user’s choice of either Alexa or Amazon, it can add to shopping lists, provide “flash news briefings” and answer questions—including jokes.
“Echo, while far from perfect, feels both fresh and inevitable,” wrote reviewer James Martin on CIO.com. After three weeks of use, he highlighted her best features as convenience, mobile app value-adds and a cool look and good sound.
“Comparing her to virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana is a stretch,” continued Martin. “She doesn’t have access to your calendar or contacts, so she can’t answer personal questions or make appointments. If nothing else, Echo is a fun thing to show off to buddies.”
As Amazon continues its innovations like Exclusives and Echo, it is also working on a third E (Expansion) by developing new sales channels in the critical market of China.
Following disappointing attempts to win the market on its own, it has just launched a storefront on competitor Alibaba’s e-commerce platform.
Amazon will sell over 1,000 products on Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao sites that together reach 334 million active buyers, joining other US retailers with Tmall storefronts such as Burberry, Vans, Costco and Blue Nile.
“Ultimately it’s about being customer-obsessed,” explained Amazon China VP Niu Yinghua of the partnership.
An Alibaba spokeswoman added, “We welcome Amazon to the Alibaba ecosystem, and their presence will further broaden the selection of products and elevate the shopping experience for Chinese consumers on Tmall.”
However, the deal with Alibaba is not necessarily seen as a strong play by Amazon. “The move signals that Amazon is not getting enough distribution through its own shopping site there,” according to Re/code. “It’s also a stunning acknowledgment that a decade into its foray to steal market share away from Alibaba’s home-grown sites like Taobao and Tmall, Amazon needs its biggest competitor’s help.”
Beyond China, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is said to have his sights set on India. “They are more focused on succeeding in India than trying to turn around China,” said a person familiar with the company’s practices to Re/code.