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Has Amazon reached its peak?

Diane Hall


Amazon echo dot

Arguably the biggest household brand of the last five or ten years, Amazon is indeed a giant. With a finger in every pie, and selling any product you could want, the company grew even bigger during lockdown, when their fast delivery service proved a lifeline for many when local shops were told to close.

As a consumer, I’ve noticed that the items I regularly order, which used to find their way to me within a day or two on Prime delivery, are either not Prime products anymore, or they’re taking longer to reach me.

I’m not the only one to notice this. On a recent forum thread, there were pages of similar examples from unhappy Amazon customers.

Contributors remarked on how many sellers seem to be from China, compared to a couple of years ago, which perhaps explains the delivery delays. Other issues mentioned were the number of fake reviews on items and doctored/inaccurate photos of products, and the price of some items being many pounds more than local retailers with a physical store—in fact, a few people stated that they’d found Amazon to be more expensive than their local high street.

This is one poster’s comment on the subject: ‘For more than a decade, I’ve been used to Amazon being the cheapest retailer for household products and books, etc., by a country mile. But, over the last few weeks, I’ve been looking for random bits and pieces—Playmobil, Usbourne books, Brabantia bin liners…they’re all cheaper from local bricks-and-mortar stores. It does make (Amazon) easier to boycott…’ One person found that even handmade products on Etsy were coming in cheaper than Amazon.

Another added, ‘It feels like a jumble sale at times. You can still get some things quickly and reasonably priced, I find, but for other things it's like wading through a sea of tat.’

According to one customer, the company’s next-day delivery option seemed to have a mind of its own when they made a recent purchase. They added a product to their online basket because it stated next day delivery, but in the order summary, the ‘next day’ claim disappeared. Luckily, she noticed this, but other people may not have done.

Amazon warehouse

Amazon warehouse

Amazon’s range of products seems to have bottomed out, according to other contributors on the forum. They claim that, when searching for a specific item, pages and pages of the same product appear in the search results. Whereas the company once offered a good variety, from a range of sellers, that doesn’t seem to be the case now.

One contributor forecasts this for the brand: ‘I’m not particularly worried, as it felt a bit like Amazon was taking over the world. But, with this business model, I can only see sales declining.’

On the subject of Amazon’s business strategy, and in contrast to the previous comment, this poster doesn’t see Amazon’s business model any different than that of many brands before them. They said, ‘It’s pretty much the entire capitalist business model. Make sure the rest of the market can’t compete, ruin everyone else’s trade, and then once you have a monopoly, more or less, put prices up and reduce quality.’

Of course, this one forum thread doesn’t hold the consummate experience of the entire country, it’s simply a snapshot. That said, it resonated with me, because I’ve had the exact same thoughts running through my head.

However, I don’t think Amazon will be panicking quite yet. Whilst the thread identified a handful of disgruntled customers, the company has a humongous customer base.

One poster mentioned that their mother-in-law will never stop using Amazon, whatever their prices, as it’s the only online app/website she knows how to shop from. This is a valid point. Even if the above claims are felt by many Amazon shoppers, a good portion won’t choose to vote with their feet in favour of a competitor because they’re too used to the convenience of Amazon’s app, or the many other products that DO reach them the next day. It’s a case of ‘better the devil you know’. As one poster commented, ‘That’s probably a lot of their customer base nowadays…people who are just comfortable using the site and who won’t switch.’

It’s taken a lot of hard work from Bezos and his team to get Amazon to this point. He knows he has that contributor’s mother-in-law in the palm of his hand—and many thousands of others besides. He knows that Amazon is so ingrained in our lives and buying habits that he could tell all of the discontented customers, whose comments I’ve shown above, to shop elsewhere. It wouldn’t damage his bottom line one iota.

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