SEATTLE — Amazon would like to become the Internet of Everything.
Fresh off the heels of what it proclaimed a wildly successful Prime Day promotion (despite a social-media skewering), the e-tailer announced it was expanding its Home Services program, launching a designated platform for start-ups, and making its Dash product-replenishment buttons available to Prime members.
First announced in the spring, Amazon Home Services lets consumers solicit providers for around-the-house jobs, such as TV mounting and IT support. Rather than be limited to fixed jobs, consumers are now also able to create personalized service requests and obtain free price quotes by posting text and photos of a custom task they require.
The service has also been drastically expanded since its launch and is now available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington. According to Amazon, 900 providers participate in the program, and they carry an average 4.71- out of five-star rating.
The Dash Wi-Fi buttons, which cost $4.99 each, let consumers instantly order replenishments of specific products when they’re running low. There are currently 18 different buttons available from such brands as Huggies, Glad, L’Oreal, Gatorade and, naturally, Amazon Elements, the e-tailer’s private-label line of baby wipes and other household items. The buttons can be further customized to include specific products, such as Gillette Fusion razors vs. Mach3, for example.
According to Amazon, the Dash button responds only to the first press until the order is delivered (preventing button-happy toddlers from ordering pallets full of Kraft macaroni and cheese). They were previously available only by invitation.
Amazon also made it clear it intends to be one of the first stops for fledging start-ups, with its newest platform, known as Amazon Launchpad, designed to pave a ready-made road to selling for the e-tailer. Start-ups on the verge of shipping products can apply for Amazon Launchpad to gain access to tailored product pages, marketing tools, customer service, and, perhaps most importantly, access to Amazon’s fulfillment network in 10 international markets, including its Vine consumer reviews.
Although manufacturers funded via crowdfunding and venture capitalists are among the most heavily courted — Amazon has partnered with Andreessen Horowitz, Betaworks and Indiegogo, among others — the e-tailer notes on its website that those using other methods are also welcome to apply, as are existing vendors. There’s no fee to participate; products are sold wholesale to Amazon.
While Amazon states on its site that products should be ready to ship within 90 days, it appears willing to bend the rules a bit: The Eero Home Wi-Fi System, for example, is expected to ship Dec. 1.
This is not the first time the e-tailer has sought out startups. Its Exclusives program, announced earlier this year, has a limited number of products that are offered only through Amazon. Launchpad participants, however, will be able to sell products through other retailers as well.
Meanwhile, a new members-only e-tail site is vying for consumers’ attention, the founder no stranger to its biggest competition.
Jet.com, which carries a $49.99 annual membership fee, promises algorithm-calculated price reductions and offers several ways consumers can automatically increase savings, such as waiving returns. Founder and CEO Marc Lore also co-founded Quidsi, parent company to Diapers.com and other e-tail sites, which is now a subsidiary of Amazon.
“Our platform is engineered more like a financial trading system than a traditional e-commerce marketplace,” said Lore. “Because Jet’s business model is to only profit from membership fees, not from the products we sell, all cost savings are passed back to the customer.”
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