Amazon is scaling the digital ramparts and making more inroads into the physical world in an effort to become the go-to delivery service—everywhere, any time, for everything.
Case in point: the e-commerce giant is testing bike messenger deliveries in New York City this holiday season, with the goal of delivering customers' orders within an hour. Dubbed Amazon Prime Now, trials are underway with at least three courier services to ascertain the speediest and most careful delivery to Amazon Prime customers.
“During the trials, messengers are given an address and told to bike there within the allotted time," The Wall Street Journal reports. “Once they arrive, they are required to take a photograph of the building’s address and return to the ground floor of the Amazon building, which is referred to by bike messengers as “the base.””
Working out of the company's new 34th Street HQ in New York, the couriers are paid around $15 an hour and work eight-hour shifts.
On the drone delivery front, meanwhile, Amazon is still at odds with the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency and threatening to take its marbles elsewhere. "Without approval of our testing in the United States, we will be forced to continue expanding our Prime Air R&D footprint abroad," said Paul Misener, Amazon's VP of global public policy.
Amazon has been waiting for permission to fly its drones in outdoor spaces in Seattle since July. Interestingly, the U.S. government has fewer than 10 approved commercial-drone operators, while Europe has thousands.
Leaving no stone unturned, Amazon also is testing a restaurant takeout and delivery service, called AmazonLocal.
In contrast to its AmazonFresh grocery delivery service, the takeout/delivery service (now being tested in its hometown of Seattle) “doesn't involve Amazon physically driving the food to your doorstep," Gizmodo notes. A third-party service rounds up local options and the delivering restaurants arrange the fee.
“Amazon Local isn't just a potential Seamless killer," The Verge writes. “The feature also lets people connect with handymen and babysitters. And if Amazon decides to hook it up to Prime, it could one of the best deals for the hungry and lazy among us.”
And as traditional retailers like Macy’s and Walmart roll out same-day delivery services, as well as e-commerce leader eBay and start-ups like WunWun and Postmates, Amazon is sweetening the deal with a new pricing feature, the eBay-like "Make an Offer," that applies to items including fine art and rare coins that are sold by third-party vendors.
With the new feature, customers can negotiate lower prices on more than 150,000 items from participating Amazon sellers.
“The new ‘Make an Offer’ experience is a game-changer for Amazon customers looking for great prices on one-of-a-kind items, and for sellers looking to communicate and negotiate directly with customers in an online marketplace environment just like they do normally in their own physical store or gallery,” stated Peter Faricy, VP for Amazon Marketplace.
"In a recent survey of our sellers, nearly half of the respondents told us that the ability to negotiate prices with customers would be important to drive more sales on Amazon," he also told USA Today. "'Make an Offer' delivers that functionality and makes customers feel confident they are getting an item they want at the lowest price possible."
One caveat is that only items priced at $100 or more are eligible for negotiation. "We don't want people haggling over a $5 item," Faricy commented. With manufactured items, "there's really a bottom for what people want to sell them for."
As for the workers making all these new features happen? Amazon today won a U.S. Supreme court ruling that means it doesn't have to pay them during security checks, while it's also refusing to file diversity data on the composition of its workforce (other EEO holdouts include Microsoft, Twitter, Apple and Amazon).
"I hope everyone eventually shares their EEO-1s," said Rosalind Hudnell, Intel's VP HR and chief diversity officer, according to USA Today. "If we are going to commit as an industry to drive improvement in a collective fashion, we cannot do it with inconsistent data."
But inconsistent may well define Amazon’s ethos as it moves towards dominance in the physical and virtual worlds of consumers worldwide.