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Since e-commerce giant Amazon launched more than 20 years ago, the company has revolutionized the online shopping experience. With the latest crop of products and services released this summer, it seems they plan to take their massive customer base and continue to get creative with online purchasing strategies.
The latest product rollouts in the grocery, fashion, books and education categories should give Prime members, specifically, even more reason to interact with the brand in interesting ways.
Let’s break down the latest from Amazon and see how these new services may affect the way you shop online.
We’re social creatures by nature, and the Amazon Spark app aims to inject that social media activity into shopping.
Comparable to Instagram, but with a more seamless, one-click buying experience, Prime users can subscribe to the app, select five or more interests — which can range from books and fashion, to the more rare “Strange Finds” and “TV Bingewatching” — and start browsing through a customized feed of products, reviews and comments. A clickable shopping bag feature on each post makes it simple to select and order products directly from Amazon.
While it’s still relatively new and doesn’t have the following of other social media apps, it does promise to break down the barriers between browsing and buying. To get in on the Spark action, you’ll need to make sure you’re a Prime member with a minimum amount of purchases before you can start sharing posts.
Amazon got its start selling books, and now it’s focused on developing creative ways to get kids hooked on reading.
Rapids, an interactive app that serves up children's stories in a screenplay format, was created to reach kids on the devices they’re already using. Many stories even feature popular characters from animated shows like "Niko and the Sword of Light" and "Danger & Eggs."
The app is targeted to kids ages 5 to 12 and offers several modes of reading. Children can either tap the screen to get the next bite-sized block of text to appear or they can opt for the text to be read to them. Additionally, kids can look up the definition of any word simply by clicking on it.
The app is available for iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire devices. Amazon is offering an introductory price of $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year for access to hundreds of stories, plus there is a free 14-day trial.
Treasure Truck Expansion
Seattle-ites may remember last year's rollout of Amazon's mobile product pickup service, Treasure Truck, but now the company is gearing up to launch it across the country.
The concept is: allow shoppers to get a discount by picking up their purchases on select online items — typically either local, exclusive or in-demand products — from a big blue truck, complete with marquee sign. It's an interesting approach to offering deals in a unique destination-style format, and depending on how good the Treasure Truck deals are — one of the first deals was 64% off a GoPro Hero4 — it could be a fun way to get discounts on local or rarely discounted items.
Currently available in Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles, Amazon says they'll be expanding to more cities soon. In the meantime, interested customers can text "TRUCK" to 24193 to get alerts about new offers, or just switch on the "Treasure Truck Offers" in the "Notifications" section of the Amazon app.
AmazonFresh Meal Kits
If you thought getting groceries from AmazonFresh made your life easy, then you’ll be excited about the latest feature in the food and grocery category: meal kits. It’s their answer to other meal delivery services like Blue Apron or HelloFresh, but geared more towards consumers who want an even quicker meal fix, with pre-chopped and portioned ingredients.
Another differentiating feature of this meal service is that Amazon doesn’t require a minimum commitment like other services. You can order as much or as little as you like. Kits range from about $18 to $24 for two people, which is on par with competitors — Blue Apron advertises meals at around $9 to $10 per person.
Unfortunately, you'll also need to be a Prime member ($99/year) and an AmazonFresh subscriber ($14.99/month), which certainly adds to the overall cost. If you're already paying for those services though and don't mind the currently limited selection, you can at least feel comfortable with the price point. Kits are currently only available in the Seattle area, but they will soon roll out to shoppers in other cities.
The Echo Look promises to be every fashionista's favorite new accessory for getting ready. Launched in May, the Look allows you to take voice-activated, full-body selfies and video clips to review and inventory your wardrobe through the companion app.
With StyleCheck, a feature of the Echo Look app, the Alexa-powered assistant weighs in on what you should (and shouldn’t) wear based on advice from actual stylists.
While Slickdealers are not quite sold on the concept of the Echo Look as a whole, fashion bloggers and other style-conscious folks looking for wardrobe advice may find that the $200 Echo Look is worth a shot. Currently, it's only available via invitation on Amazon.
As you’re searching for that perfect outfit to snap pics of with the Echo Look, you might be interested in Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe box service.
Similar to services like Trunk Club or Stitch Fix, but without the personalized help (or extra cost), Wardrobe delivers Prime-eligible clothing, shoes and accessories for you to try on (up to seven days for free). Then you just send back anything you don’t want in a prepaid box.
You’ll get 10% off your purchase if you choose to keep at least three items, and 20% off if you keep five or more items. You only pay for what you keep and the service is free for Prime members. The program is still in beta, but you can sign up to get notified about the official launch.
While it’s not technically a product rollout, starting Oct. 2nd, Amazon is planning on changing their refund policy, making it easier for consumers to send back items at a merchant’s expense.
The policy would allow items shipped from third-party merchants themselves — either from their home, garage or warehouse — to be automatically authorized for return. As part of this change, independent merchants would be subject to the same return policy as items shipped and sold by Amazon.
Speeding up the return process will make it easier and more predictable for consumers, but may come at a cost to third-party sellers.
Images courtesy of Amazon.
Any product or service prices/offers that appear in this article are accurate at time of publish, and are subject to change without notice. Please verify the actual selling price and offer details on the merchant’s site before making a purchase.