What’s the Theme of This Month’s Amazon Update?

Vendor Central has held steady this month, but Amazon, as ever, has not. Let’s look at their goings-on.

Hachette, Hachette, Hachette. The Internet goes back and forth about whether Amazon’s slow-to-nonexistent shipments of Hachette titles are a normal gambit in publisher-distributor negotiations or the draconian measures of a dangerous near-monopoly. (Amazon tends to prefer the first interpretation.)AZcog

But the spat isn’t bad news for everyone: a recent Walmart email blast highlighted the titles unavailable on Amazon, resulting in a 70 percent boost in online book sales for the megaretailer. This is bruising news for Amazon, considering other recent Walmart announcements, including their 27 percent increase in online sales in Q1 2014, well above Amazon’s 18.3 percent growth for the same time period. Walmart’s online growth also topped Amazon’s for all of 2013, the first time that’s happened in five years.

In the offline world, bookstores continue to figure out how to compete with their online counterparts. Four design firms came up with suggestions, including flexible spaces, and curation, and immediate physical engagement upon entering the store.

Amazon’s other effect on physical spaces: they’re changing the paradigm of warehouse-based fulfillment. After much discussion of the working conditions of their warehouse workers, Amazon has turned its strategy and budget to… robots. Amazon says it won’t reduce the number of warehouse jobs for humans, but that it does mean they’ll be able to fill orders faster after their robot army goes from 1,000 to 10,000. What could go wrong?

Moz recently posted a great guide to ranking well on Amazon search, which starts with the compelling reminder that, “if you are in eCommerce, Amazon should be far more important to you than Google, because it has roughly three times more search volume for products.” Want a little more background reading? Check out our interview on this same subject with Dan Myers of Mercent.

And because no Amazon roundup would be complete without additions to their annals of controversy:

To answer the title question, the theme of this month’s Amazon update is this. Amazon may still be on top in e-commerce, but challenges to holding that position continue to accrue. Amazon lost face in the recent Hachette debacle on its most important platform: putting the customer first.

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