Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 31, 2017 8:26 AM

Is Amazon The Creepiest Company In The World?

Today we celebrate ghosts, ghouls, goblins, witches, monsters and... Amazon?

Happy Halloween! Get ready to sugar overdose on mini Snickers bars! In anticipation of this year's Halloween festivities, I am always regaled with tales of how prepping for Halloween has become - almost one hundred percent - an online shopping experience (mostly on Amazon). From discounted bulk candy to more unique costumes (we need to one-up the neighbor's kids) to lawn decorations. Amazon not only makes this experience easier, but it also makes it hyper-price competitive, as businesses fight for your business. This is different from the limited selections that most of us were forced to face based off of geography, and our local merchants' non-desire to stock extensively for this here today/gone tomorrow holiday. 

That's not what makes Amazon extra-creepy this year.

Amazon is not what most consumers think it is. It's true that Amazon makes it increasingly easy to get what you want quickly and for a great price, but that comes with a price. There's a famous turn of phrase: "if you can't see the product, then you are the product." Well, Amazon has pushed this phrase to Orwellian levels. For Amazon...

"You can see the product... and you are still the product."

Here are just some of the creepiest developments from Amazon in the past short while that should make every brand, marketer and consumer pay attention:

  • Creepy Voice. Did you know that Amazon's Alexa (voice platform and connected speaker) can now recognize different voices? Yes, your Echo can now learn the many different voices in your family/office to deliver a more personalized experience. Amazon is listening in to everything that you ask of it... and knows who is speaking. It's still early days for this technology, but imagine the data and privacy implications here. Source: Amazon's Alexa can now recognize different voices and give personalized responses.
  • Creepy Front Door Access. Last week, Amazon announced, Amazon Key. Starting soon, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can pay $250 for an assortment of home automation tools (a new deadbolt for your door, a security camera and special mobile app) that enables you to open your door, and allow anyone delivering an Amazon package to leave the package inside of your home. Sure, let the strangers on in! Source: Amazon Is Betting on In-Home Deliveries to Win Over Prime Users.
  • Creepy Paying Them Shop. Speaking of Amazon Prime, has anyone really thought about what this is? Sure, Amazon Prime is wrapped up with "free" content (movies, TV shows, books, magazines, etc...), but the real story here is that people (actually, 90+ million customers) are paying Amazon over $100 per year for priority shipping and other goodies. Yes, we're paying them for the privilege to shop with them. What other retailers can truly claim this? Source: With 90 million subscribers, Amazon Prime might be one of Jeff Bezos' best ideas yet.
  • Creepy Instant. Next day delivery? Same day delivery? In the new few hours delivery? Every time that Amazon experiments with how to get products to consumers faster, every other retailer in the world is flummoxed. Well, Amazon is now tinkering with Instant Pickup in the US. This is currently being tested at five college campuses, but Amazon plans to expand this program out. It's pretty simple: Order something (anything) and within two minutes, it is ready to be picked up at a nearby locker that consumers can access with a barcode. Amazon is taking impulse and snacking purchases to a new level. Source: Amazon adds 'Instant Pickup' in U.S. brick-and-mortar push.
  • Creepy Drugs. Amazon is currently looking at how it can disrupt the pharmacy business. Everyone would agree that the business of selling prescription medication is ripe for disruption, and Amazon has a beat on how to do this. With it will come legal and regulatory challenges, but nothing seems to stop Amazon. Think about the additional layers of personal data that Amazon will then have on their consumers, as they move from the bookshelf and living room to kitchen and bathroom and then right into your medicine cabinet. What won't Amazon know about you? Source: Is Amazon getting into the pharmacy business? This is what you need to know.
  • Creepy Advertising. When we think of the duopoly that is digital advertising today (namely, Google and Facebook), many media pundits struggle to see if another media player can knock one of those two from their perch. A more likely scenario might be a third horse in the race. Before you guess who it might be (Snapchat? LinkedIn? Twitter?), think about Amazon. While nobody knows just how big Amazon Media is (several billion dollars per year, is anybody's best guess), make no mistake about it, Amazon has one of the fastest growing and deeply efficient media programs that most of us in marketing have ever seen. Amazon's customer profiles enable them to know and target advertising in a profoundly powerful and different way. Can Amazon break the duopoly and turn it into a game of three? As creepy as that may sound... it can (and probably will). Source: How Amazon is selling ad buyers on its growing advertising business.
  • Creepy Robot Army. We have all seen the robotic prowess and dance that Amazon's robots go through to get something into our grubby little hands. Their development, research and development of robotics doesn't end in their warehouses. Whether it's drone delivery, home automation tools or the Amazon Robotics Challenge, make no mistake about it, Amazon has the power, resources and capabilities to be the true leader in robots. No, we're not just talking about Roomba-like robots either, but the stuff that we see in the science fiction movies of today. Source: Amazon Is Quietly Building the Robots of Sci-Fi--Piece by Practical Piece.
Boo! Are you scared yet? Creeped out?

There's much more to be creeped out about, but you get the idea. Think about the power of Amazon Web Services, how much it is powering the tools of the Web today, how much understanding it has around our usage and where our interests lie. Think about how the one app that millennial can't live without isn't Instagram or WhatsApp... it's Amazon, or how you will soon be able to walk into an Amazon store, pick up an item and walk out of the store with it (no more cashiers). With all of this, Amazon has become increasingly better at anticipating what you might buy, as it works behind the scenes to get items that you "should" be buying soon to a distribution center closeby. 
 
Don't be scared... it's technology... it's progress... if it's something consumers don't want, it dies.

Amazon is a business. Maybe the biggest business. It is constantly changing, upgrading, testing and learning, and while everything won't be as sweet for them as that bag full of your favourite chocolate mini bars on this scariest of scary days, it's hard not to see just how creepy the company can be. At the same time, Amazon is a beloved brand. Most consumers can't imagine retail, shopping or even watching a movie without them. And, while this article was riffing on "creepy" in keeping with the theme of Halloween, I'm a massive advocate and fan of the brand (including its founder/CEO, Jeff Bezos).
 
Amazon will continue to amaze us... and even though it can feel creepy at times, it's equally astonishing. 

Happy Halloween!

 

By Mitch Joel

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