Amazon reigns the retail sector in Fast Company’s eyes.
The e-commerce tycoon nabbed first place on the publication’s Most Innovative Companies for 2017 list. Amazon, along with other popular retailers, including Adidas and Coach, were recognized for their technology advancements and humanity impact.
According to Fast Company, Amazon made the cut, “For offering even more, even faster and smarter.” Three initiatives, including the company’s $99 annual membership program, expansion from e-commerce to brick-and-mortar and an AI approach to logistics are what place Amazon ahead of the pack today. The company also isn’t afraid to pioneer change and take risks when it comes to the retail environment.
Prime is a major connecting artery for Amazon’s innovations. Roughly 50 million U.S. consumers use Amazon’s Prime services, and Morgan Stanley said those consumers are likely to spend four times more than non-members do—a whopping $2,500 annually. For Prime members, there are ample opportunities to save both money and time. In addition to free two-day shipping for many products, Prime members also receive access to Prime Now, a one hour or less package delivery and one free e-book monthly with a yearly membership. Prime members also are more likely to test Amazon’s tech products, including Dash, which instantly replaces products with a tap, and Alexa, Amazon’s smart voice service for the home.
Amazon’s dabble in brick-and-mortar stores is not coincidental. Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos explained how Amazon isn’t only confined to online shoppers, since in-store shoppers can also engage in Amazon’s digital platforms. Amazon’s innovation status could be attributed to the fact that the company has creatively merged two different commerce environments successfully with its physical store expansion. Amazon’s first fleet of brick-and-mortar shops include more than 30 pop-up shops showcasing Amazon’s electronic devices, including Echo, Fire TV and Kindle, in addition to three Amazon Books stores. Amazon’s next brick-and-mortar expansion, Amazon Go, is set to debut in Seattle this year, which will merge a phone app with a convenience store concept. By bridging the gap between omni-channels, Amazon is fostering convenience for consumers and demonstrating that retail is no longer a polarized area.
It is no secret that Amazon is revolutionizing its logistics operations either. The company recently secured a patent for a packing robot, which could significantly streamline its warehouse operations in the coming years. Some of Amazon’s distribution centers, including its Washington-based DuPont facility, already incorporate artificial intelligence to stock inventory. Last year, Amazon also piloted its first drone delivery in the U.K., which arrived at its destination in less than 15 minutes. Amazon also plans to expand its Prime Air fleet with 40 additional Boeing 767-300 cargo planes this year, which would also minimize delivery operations for the company.
Retailers today may be struggling to stay afloat but leaders like Amazon could pave the way for digitization. Amazon may be one of the first companies to deliver e-commerce and brick-and-mortar experiences, use robotics in its warehouses and buy consumers’ lifestyles, but other retailers will follow its path to thrive in retail’s uncertain landscape.