Black Friday , video pages, toy catalogue and home robots?

Black Friday has landed

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So Black Friday started at midnight. It's set to be the biggest yet, and judging by the queues outside Amazon's Black Friday store the excitement for the event hasn't waned this year. It's estimated that UK customers will spend £13m a minute today and approx £8bn over the four day period, in the busiest period pre-Christmas.

With big discounts on their own technology., Amazon is using Black Friday to extend their dominance in the home, keeping their competitors at bay. Savvy merchants will have deals in place and advertising running to maximise the opportunity. Black Friday (along with Prime Day) is a proven mechanism to bring in new customers, providing a sustained demand uplift into Q4 and beyond. 

Amazon' preparation for Black Friday has been more difficult this year.  There have been strikes and protests on working conditions this week from UK, German and Spanish distribution centre employees, and then on Wednesday Amazon suffered a data breach that caused customer names and email addresses to be disclosed on its website. The timing of this issue could not have been worse, as some customers will decide to shop elsewhere, spooked by Amazon's data compromise.

Video pages on mobile

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We had a glimpse into the future of Amazon when we spotted a new video feature in its 'Watch & Shop' mobile app section. From the gifts page, you can scroll through a series of videos from merchants offering discount coupons on selected items. The videos are short demonstrations of the products on sale (between 30 seconds and 1 minute in length). Under the video, there is a link to 'clip coupon'  which takes you to the product detail page where the coupon discount is applied to the offer price. 

A look inside Amazon's toy catalogue

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A few editions back from this newsletter, we announced that Amazon would be sending out a toy catalogue in the US for the first time. We've now had a peek inside to see what it has to offer. The catalogue focuses mostly on toys, but also includes some tech products such as video game systems, cameras, photo printers and bluetooth speakers. There’s even a spread dedicated to gift cards and subscription boxes. Yet the biggest draw isn’t the toys, but how Amazon has integrated technology into an ink and paper experience. Some products in Amazon’s catalogue include QR-type codes. Using the Amazon app, shoppers can scan an image in the catalogue and go directly to the product listing. The one thing conspicuously missing from the catalogue is prices. There’s good reason for that. Pricing on Amazon changes all the time, whether in response to market forces, to compete with competitor pricing, or changes by brands themselves. Prices printed in a catalogue would likely be out of date before they arrived in customer mailboxes.

Whilst we have no details on who received the catalogue, there is plenty of scope for clever targeting with the data they possess. They could look to see how much they would expect a customer to spend on toys based on what other children's items they've bought. And they could even analyse geographical data to see how far people live from a toy store and specifically closed Toys-R-Us stores.

New home device – a robot?

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Amazon has embarked on a major hiring push for a secretive new device in a move that will increase speculation that the company plans to release a robot for the home. Job adverts show the company is looking for experts in mechanical engineering and robotics, as well as software developers to work on a “completely new best in class consumer product”. The job adverts describe the new product as “lovable” and “essential”, appearing to support reports earlier this year that a small group of employees at Amazon were developing a robot for the home. The company’s job website now displays more than 100 openings in Seattle and California for the project, suggesting that it is expanding its efforts quite considerably.