Amazon’s amazin’ 20-year transformation from upstart e-tailer to global sales, services and content creation platform is picking up speed with each passing month.
In 2015 alone, the company narrowed its delivery time to mere minutes, introduced a push-button solution for regularly reoccurring purchases, and began streaming original shows in 4K HDR to customers.
Lest we forget what a hotbed of innovation Jeff Bezos has sleeplessly established in Seattle, here’s a look at some of the highlights, and lowlights, of the year.
January: Amazon said net sales rose 15 percent, but earnings declined 10.5 percent, in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31. On the bright side, the company was also named the No. 1 retailer in customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, based on interviews with over 70,000 U.S. consumers.
Separately, CE VP Laura Orvidas cited strong growth for the company’s 450 wearables SKUs, and a strong shift to mobile sales going into Holiday 2014, at TWICE’s Executive Retail Roundtable.
February: Amazon reportedly considered purchasing select RadioShack stores in a bankruptcy sale for use as showrooms and fulfillment centers, “people with knowledge of the matter” told Bloomberg News. Didn’t happen.
March: Amazon expanded it new one-hour Prime Now delivery service to three more cities, and beefed up its Fire TV and Fire TV Stick streaming media devices with expanded storage and Bluetooth support.
April: Amazon announces Dash, a replenishment service it’s testing with Whirlpool, Brother and other vendors, that allows customers to reorder frequently used items by pushing a button on a Wi-Fi-enabled dongle.
Separately, the company added a vetted, outsourced home services store to compete with Angie’s List and the like.
May: Amazon’s see-saw financials returned to the red in the first quarter as stepped-up investments in fulfillment, marketing, technology and content proved a drag on earnings.
June: In a move to close the instant-gratification gap with brick-and-mortar competitors, Amazon began offering free same-day delivery to Prime members in 14 major markets on orders of $35 or more. Separately, just as the company expanded its Fire TV platform with more than 600 additional channels, apps and games, the proprietary console and dongle were ranked tops in U.S. market share for digital media-streaming devices by Strategy Analytics, which pegged its piece of the pie at 30 percent.
Amazon rounded out a busy month by introducing its Echo smart wireless speaking, updating the Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, and becoming the first streaming service to offer HDR programming. Available through the Amazon Video app on Samsung SUHD TVs, its first HDR selection was season one of its original series “Mozart in the Jungle.”
July: Looking to goose summer sales and Prime memberships, Amazon decided to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a one-day “Prime Day” sales promotion. Despite record-breaking order rates, the event left some consumers underwhelmed by what they described as the slim summer pickings.
August: As Amazon adds 4K HDR streams to LG TVs and HBO to its Fire TV devices, The New York Times takes the wind out of its sales with a blistering article on the oppressive culture at company headquarters, where employees are regularly overworked and berated, the newspaper said.
September: Another busy month for Amazon, as the company introduces its first $50 tablet; launches a restaurant delivery service for Prime members in Seattle; and adds 11 new brands to its recurring-order Dash fulfillment service, bringing the total to 29.
October: Amazon greeted the fall by adding automatic replenishment capabilities to its Dash system; dropping from its site competitive media-streaming devices from Apple and Google; and recruiting drivers with flexible work schedules to make one- and two-hour Prime Now deliveries in Seattle, in a page clearly taken from Uber.
Elsewhere, the company was named the No. 1 consumer search engine for researching products, and gave it back to The New York Times in the form of a stern rebuke of its reporting standards delivered by former White House press secretary and current senior VP spokesman Jay Carney. — Reporting by Lisa Johnston, John Laposky and Joseph Palenchar