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Amazon on voice commerce, grocery delivery and zero carbon as profits more than double

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Amazon today highlighted its progress towards zero carbon emissions, the latest on the Alexa voice assistant, and the continued growth of its two-hour grocery delivery services in the US, as it reported its first-quarter figures. 

The update came as Amazon, an Elite retailer in IRUK Top500 research, reported a double-digit rise in net sales to $59.7bn (£46.3bn) in the first quarter of its financial year.

Net sales were 17% ahead of the same time last year, or 19% ahead when the $1.1bn (£0.9bn) effect of unfavourable foreign exchange rates were excluded. Net income – or profits – rose by 125% to $3.6bn (£2.8bn), up from $1.6bn (£1.2bn) a year earlier. 

Voice commerce

Alexa now has more than 90,000 skills  available in the Alexa Skills Store. It now operates in French specifically for French Canadian customers, while Brazilian Portuguese will be available later this year. Drivers can now operate Alexa from more cars, including the new Audi e-tron. 

Progress to zero carbon

Amazon unveiled three new renewable energy projects, in Ireland, Sweden and the US, as part of its commitment to use 100% renewable energy to power its Amazon Web Services global infrastructure. Through Shipment Zero it aims to make all deliveries zero carbon, and expects to get halfway to that goal by 2030. Its Amazon Day innovation enables shoppers to name the day they want their deliveries to arrive, grouping purchases into fewer deliveries and potentially fewer boxes. Amazon said it would share its carbon footprint and related goals and programmes later this year.

Grocery deliveries

In the US, Amazon says that customer demand for free two-hour delivery from its Whole Foods Market stores  continued to exceed expectations. Shoppers can currently order for delivery from Whole Foods Market via Prime Now in 75 US metropolitan areas, and order for collection in 30 areas. There are plans for further expansion in the coming year.

Future engineers – and engineering

In the US, Amazon awarded scholarships worth $40,000 each to 100 students through the Amazon Future Engineer programme. The funding will enable them to study computer science at a college of their choice, and then guarantees them a paid internship after the freshmen year of college. Among the first recipients is Leo Jean Baptiste, who grew up speaking Haitian Creole in a New Jersey home that had no internet access, said Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon. “He rose to the top of his class,” said Bezos, “and is set to study computer science at college this fall, with the dream of getting a job in machine learning. Our passion for invention led us to create Amazon Future Engineer so we could help young people like Leo from under represented groups and underserved communities across the country.”

Amazon also made robotics grants to schools in deprived areas, and collaborated, in the US, with the National Science Foundation to fund research into fairness in artificial intelligence (AI) to the tune of up to $10m. As reported earlier this week, the retailer is also enabling shoppers to have deliveries left in their garages while they are out, through its Key for Garage scheme.

Image courtesy of Amazon

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