Amazon is the well established alpha of ecommerce. They are always willing to try new and innovative methods that continues to keep the brand on top. The newest Amazon projects are providing customers without credit cards a convenient way make purchases, as well as beta testing stores that may revolutionize in-store shopping.
No Credit Card? No Problem
Ecommerce merchants trying to reach the “cash customer” or unbanked customer may seem like like a difficult task. Yet Amazon has made it happen. A FDIC report found that approximately 9 million households in the U.S. were unbanked and another 24.5 million were underbanked, which means they use alternative financial services instead of a bank. Amazon wanted to make it possible and convenient for these customers to access to their over 398 million products.
Amazon Cash is now available for these “cash customers” or anyone that doesn’t want to use their card to make purchases. Customers just need to log on to their Amazon account to get their specific bar code. It can be texted or be printed out at home. The barcode will stay the same and can also be added to Apple Wallet or the Android home screen shortcuts for easy access. By showing the barcode at participating retailers, like CVS, any cash amount between $15-$500 dollars can be added to an Amazon account. As soon as the transaction is completed the money will immediately show up in the account and can be used right away.
These people are not shopping online because they get paid in cash, don’t have a bank account, or don’t use credit cards. To shop on Amazon in past they would have had to purchase Amazon gift cards or use prepaid cards. Now through Amazon Cash, it’s made as simple as possible. Cash can be used without a physical card and with no added fees when depositing it into the account.
PayPal’s answer for the “cash customer” the MyCash card has downsides that Amazon does not. For a customer to load the prepaid card on to their PayPal account, there is a $3.95 activation fee. It is also a physical card which then must be taken home and uploaded onto the account. Amazon has removed that final step by sending the money straight to the account instead of having the customer load it. Richard Crone, a payment consultant, concluded that, “Amazon’s service is open to anyone who has a mobile phone. It pushes the entire prepaid market to up its game.”
The “Just Walk Out” Store
A project that Amazon has in the works might even further change the way that retail is handled. Currently being beta tested by Amazon employees is Amazon Go, a grocery store that has no checkout process. All you have to do is grab the stuff you need then walk out. Shortly after your Amazon account will be charged and a receipt will be sent. This means no lines to wait in and no cashiers, just as simple and pain free as shopping can get. This grab-and-go technology was speculated to still be years away from becoming a reality but Amazon made it happen.
When Amazon opens the store to the public customers will just need to open their Amazon Go app to enter the store then they can put the phone away to shop and browse as normal. Amazon explains how this shopping process is possible by comparing the technology to that of self-driving cars. Using computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning will detect when products are taken from or returned to shelves then keep track of the products in a virtual cart. Amazon calls it “just walk out technology.”
Alongside of Amazon Go, Amazon Fresh Pickup will soon be available for free for Prime members. For this service just pick the groceries you want from the Amazon Fresh selection, choose a pick up time, then drive to a Fresh Pickup location to have your products loaded into your car. There is no minable order requirement and they can be ready for you in as little as 15 minutes. It is a great and convenient combination of ecommerce and brick-and-mortar. Fresh Pickup first location will be in Seattle, but is still in the beta testing.
The news of Amazon Pay, Amazon Go, and Amazon Fresh Pickup will not be welcomed by big box chains which are continually being shadowed by Amazon. At the end of 2016, Amazon’s market value was $356 billion, compared to $297 billion for Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, JCPenney and Sears combined. As Amazon releases features that are drawing even more customers to their brand it will put increasing pressure on brick-and-mortar stores.