Amazon.com has set the standard for e-commerce with fast delivery, invisible payments and many other perks that keep consumers coming back to its site. Increasingly, the e-tailer has been experimenting with ways to streamline the payment process outside of the trappings of its website.
Amazon's latest innovation is its "Amazon Go" concept store, where people can pick up items without stopping to pay for them. Right now this system is available only to employees at a single location in Seattle, but it's conceivable that Amazon will expand its checkout-free process to its physical bookstores — or even offer it to partners who want to eliminate long lines at their own stores.
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Amazon has begun partnering with appliance makers to embed its Dash technology throughout consumers' homes. Dash is Amazon's system for reordering dedicated products with the push of a button, but if the tech is built into a dishwasher or a washing machine, the appliance can sense when it is low on supplies and place an order with Amazon without having to wait for the customer to act. Companies such as GE, Samsung and Whirlpool are already working with this tech.
The expansion of Amazon's Alexa digital assistant into more products makes voice-controlled shopping a more practical option for consumers. Alexa is built into home speaker systems and tablets, so the shopper may already be interacting with it when he or she decides to order paper towels or DVDs. At that point, all it takes is a spoken command to access the user's Amazon account.
Pushing all the right buttons
Not every Dash product can be reordered through an appliance. Some items - such as bar soap, condoms, tissues and razor blades - would still be tracked by the humans who use them. Thus, Amazon has steadily expanded its array of products that support the WiFi-enabled Dash button to order a predetermined amount of a home product with a single press. And its marketing is appropriately aggressive; Amazon refunds the full cost of the Dash button after its first use.
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Amazon is doing everything it can to eliminate the wait time from order to delivery. Subscribers to its Prime program get two-day shipping on most orders, but even that may not be fast enough for many shoppers. Amazon has experimented with same-day and grocery delivery in certain markets, and has even floated the idea of using drones to deliver packages.
Amazon's Fire Phone was built around the shopping experience, but few consumers found it compelling as a phone. Still, many of the concepts Amazon built for its smartphone remain a part of its ecosystem. Its Firefly software, which allowed the phone to identify songs and TV shows based on sounds and images, is still a part of Amazon's Kindle tablet line. This allows Amazon customers to identify unknown products - and buy them - with little effort.