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Amazon sets out expansion of voice controlled-shopping in the quarter when ‘the present became the past’

Amazon [IRDX RAMZ] has described its fast roll-out of voice-controlled shopping devices as it reported results overnight for the third quarter of its financial year. Kantar Retail responded to Amazon’s results by hailing the summer of 2017 as the time when “the present became the past” in retail history.

Net sales grew by 34% to $43.7bn at the retail giant, which is an Elite retailer in IRUK Top500 research, and also the UK’s biggest online retailer. Net income, or profits, stood at $256m in the three months to September 30, slightly up on the $252m reported at the same time last year.

“In the last month alone, we’ve launched five new Alexa-enabled devices, introduced Alexa in India, announced integration with BMW, surpassed 25,000 skills, integrated Alexa with Sonos speakers, taught Alexa to distinguish between two voices, and more,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chief executive. “Because Alexa’s brain is in the AWS cloud, her new abilities are available to all Echo customers, not just those who buy a new device. And it’s working — customers have purchased tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices, given Echo devices over 100,000 5-star reviews, and active customers are up more than five times since the same time last year. With thousands of developers and hardware makers building new Alexa skills and devices, the Alexa experience will continue to get even better.”

The quarter was also marked by Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market in August. Whole Foods Market’s UK presence, with nine stores, is dwarfed by its US chain of more than 350 stores. It also has 13 stores in Canada. “The two companies together will pursue the vision of making high-quality, natural and organic food affordable for everyone,” said Amazon in its results statement today. “Upon closing, Whole Foods Market began offering lower prices on a selection of best-selling grocery staples across its stores, with more to come.”

Ray Gaul, vice president at Kantar Retail, said the quarter had been a highly significant one for Amazon and, more widely, for retail.

“When historians look back at the way things were, there should be little doubt that the summer of 2017 will be an important signal for when the present became the past. Never, in the history of mass retailing, has one retailer done so much to change the way British shoppers think in such a short period of time as what Amazon accomplished over the past few months. While many shareholders in Britain will celebrate Amazon’s share price rise due to record-breaking results in Q3, the rest of us should reflect on just how much change we have seen.

“To recap Amazon’s Q3 2017: not only did the platform giant launch the most popular piece of technology of the past five years – the two-way speaker called Echo with its built-in companion, ‘Alexa’ – but they also acquired the world’s most successful organic grocer, Whole Foods, including its nine locations and countless supplier relationships in the UK.

“You will be forgiven for missing the announcement that Amazon has built several new offices and warehouses, right here in Britain. In fact, they have promised to add 5,000 jobs in the UK and have now made the university city of Cambridge the future home of their global linguistics centre of excellence.
So what is the icing on the cake? Amazon has secretly forged partnerships with Britain’s independent small business owners under their Fulfilled-by-Amazon (FBA) programme, to help British businesses export abroad, with or without Brexit.”

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