Cyber Monday was the biggest Amazon sales day ever
The long Black Friday weekend 2018 (also known as the 'Turkey 5') was Amazon's biggest shopping period ever with the Consumables division stealing the show. Amazon said it sold millions more products from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday than it did during the same 2017 holiday period. Cyber Monday smashed the company's records and was the biggest shopping day in their 24-year history. In the US alone shoppers spent $7.8 billion on Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday was 19% up and Black Friday 23% up on last year. The shape of holiday sales changed with consumer spending spread more evenly over the five-day sale. Amazon has also revealed the best-selling items on Cyber Monday. Top performers included the Echo Dot, the Ancestry DNA kit, Bose Quiet Comfort 25 noise cancelling headphones, Michelle Obama's book Becoming, the classic game Jenga and the six-quart version of the Instant Pot.
Time will tell whether this event, that kicks off the Christmas holiday season, will deliver sustainable growth, or merely bring forward sales from December. Whilst the benefit for brands is unclear, the 5-day sale has been a great success for Amazon.
AI-powered self-drive car
Amazon Web Services is accelerating its push into artificial intelligence with the launch of the AWS DeepRacer, a remote-controlled car that users can program to drive itself, retailing for $400. The car is now available to pre-order on Amazon at a special introductory price of $249.
This radio-controlled, four-wheel drive vehicle is 1/18th of the size of an actual car. It's trained using reinforcement learning, an AI technique that means the car will learn to drive better through trial and error. The car is rewarded for staying on the track, avoiding obstacles and more, helping the car to learn to drive more accurately over time.
This car uses an Intel Atom processor, and a 4-megapixel camera with 1080p resolution that has a heat map to detect obstacles, and WiFi access. Users can program their DeepRacers themselves with their own reinforcement learning algorithms, training the car using Amazon SageMaker, Amazon's artificial intelligence service. They can test-drive this car on a 3D simulator and virtually drive their car on a collection of tracks. Once developers determine their algorithm is good enough, they can plug the algorithm into the actual DeepRacer and let the real rubber hit the real road, as it were.
You won't only be driving the DeepRacer around your basement as Amazon plans to host real-life races at AWS Summit events around the world next year. Winning DeepRacer competitors will then be invited to a championship race at Amazon's re:invent 2019 conference.
Oreo Music Box, exclusive to Alibaba and Amazon.
Rather than creating just a new season flavour, Oreo's holiday season innovation for 2018 is a miniature turntable with tunes that change depending on how much of an Oreo you eat. The cardboard music box resembles a miniature record player, with a turntable at the centre. As you eat more of the cookie the device plays different songs, and you can also record your voice to playback. A nice touch if you want to personalise it as a gift for friends or family.
The Music Box debuted on Alibaba, as part of their on-going partnership, but now is also available on Amazon to buy for $19.95 (via a 3rd party). There were discussions with retailers about in-store executions, but given the price and where people are browsing for holiday gifts, they made the decision to stick with e-commerce.
The limited edition (actual numbers undisclosed) music box will be promoted with digital, social and TV support. It will also appear in the Lifetime movie "A Twist of Christmas," which debuts in the US on the 1st of December. In the movie, there's a live demo of the music box in a store, even though it's only available online.
We love this idea for the innovation Oreo are bringing to promotional products which capture the imagination of shoppers. This is a gift that is designed for e-commerce - easy to buy, beautifully packaged and easy to deliver.
Amazon wants more people to purchase more stuff through Alexa, and it wants the companies that make the stuff to foot the bill. The e-commerce giant has been reaching out to consumer packaged goods companies this year, asking them to include in their advertising campaigns Alexa branding and an Alexa utterance — the phrase you’d say to make Alexa purchase, say, Coke or Bose headphones. In exchange, Amazon will give CPGs data about how well their product is performing within its category on Amazon, as well as some advertising on Amazon’s sites. Amazon will also help engineer the brand’s skill, which is basically a voice assistant’s version of a mobile app. They haven't yet made it possible for brands to buy ads on Alexa, but they can create utterances that people might use to buy their products.
So far, voice is nowhere close to where Amazon wants it to be, which is why Amazon is doing this in the first place. Only about a third of smart speaker owners have ever purchased something using voice. Very few do so on a regular basis. Co-marketing deals aren’t uncommon between tech companies and partners — big banks advertise Apple’s Apple Pay feature, for example — but Amazon’s efforts underscore the uphill battle to build awareness and traction for this new purchasing method.