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How Amazon is reshaping the way we shop

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How Amazon is reshaping the way we shop
How Amazon is reshaping the way we shop
Amazon is nothing if not controversial. It’s feared by online and store-based retailers across the UK as the ultimate rival, one that expects to beat others both on price and on service. But it’s also nothing if not an exciting retailer, that has led the way both in the US and in this country in setting new standards for online shopping.

Both are reasons why BBC Two last night devoted an hour to the online giant in its Amazon’s Retail Revolution documentary, part of the Business Boomers series. The sheer emotional response to Amazon came through strongly in the documentary. The publishing industry, recounted narrator Sandi Toksvig, is both “terrified by and excited by Amazon,” which first pioneered ebooks and now enables self-publishing authors to bypass the publishing industry altogether. Linda Jones of bookshop Ibis Books, warned in the documentary that the logical end of such a journey would be that consumers would “stop talking to people, sit at home, and type into a computer.” The French are having nothing to do with it. Laws in that country, the documentary suggested, mean no retailer can offer more than a 5% discount on the book price, while upcoming legislation will outlaw Amazon's USP of free delivery.

There are other emotions too: incredulity is not an uncommon response to the latest developments coming out of the Amazon stable. That was certainly the reaction to the Amazon drone parcel delivery system, unveiled late last year, and it is also the response to the latest innovation. Last week’s news of the Amazon Dash, a combined barcode reader and microphone that enables customers to update their Amazon shopping lists by scanning a barcode or making a voice note, was also met by consternation. The service, described in this YouTube video from the retailer, promises next day delivery on most items – and the ability to avoid the store. The childish narrator of the video says: “No more parking lots, waiting in lines or eluding kids in the store. Now you’ll have more time in the day so you’ll never miss those special moments. Amazon Dash - shopping made simple.”

Essentially, this is shopping for people who don’t like going to the shops. As such, it splits YouTube opinion – between those who judge the service as “awesome” and those who see it as enabling extreme laziness. Echoing Jones’ comments in the BBC documentary, one poster says: “Am I the only one who's noticed the more Google and Amazon and big name brands put out in new technology, the less human interaction there is? Human interaction is important for the growth and development of society and individuals within said society.”

Ultimately, however, Amazon is here to stay – and its innovations are ones that have changed the way we shop for ever. The only real response, however, is not to complain but to compete. There’s an argument to be made that the fast development of UK online and multichannel retail owes a great deal to Amazon: competing against Amazon has brought innovation and vitality to the sector.

In real life, stores are proving an important part of how UK shoppers like to buy. Making stores ever more of a draw will be part of the useful response to Amazon that will develop the retail sector for an omnichannel future.

Amazon won last year's Internet Retailing Capability Award, will they maintain their title at this year's celebrations? Let us know who you think the retail winners are by nominating before 30 April and then get your ticket to the most exciting ecommerce event at One Mayfair, 26 June 2014.
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