Big pay-offs in innovation take time and have confounding finances

A nice way of explaining Amazon’s success in charts, e.g., as compare to Wal-Mart:


Just thinking aloud without any analysis, it seems liken Amazon is an example of how difficult, long, and confounding  doing continual innovation as your business is. Many companies claim to be innovation-driven, but most can just eek out those “incremental innovations” and basic Porterian strategy: they improve costs, enter adjacent marketers, and grow their share of existing TAMs, all the while fending off competitors.

Amazon, on the other hand, has had decades of trying new business models mostly in existing businesses (retail), but also plenty of new business models (most notably public cloud, smart phones and tablets, streaming video and music, and whatever voice + machine learning is).

All that said, to avoid the Halo Effect, it’s important to admit that many companies tried and died here…not to mention many of the retailers who Amazon is troubcibg – Wal-Mart has had several goes at “digital” and is in the midst of another transformation-by-acquisitions. Amazon, no doubt, has had many lucky-breaks.

This isn’t to dismisss any lessons learned from Amazon. There’s one main conclusion, thought: any large organization that hopes to live a long time needs to first continually figure out if they’re in a innovation/disrupting market and, if they are, buckle up and get ready for a few decades of running in an innovation mode instead of a steady-state/profit reaping mode. 

Another lesson is that the finances of innovation make little sense and will always be weird: you have to just hustle away those nattering whatnots who want to apply steady-state financial analysis to your efforts. 

You can throw out the cashflow-model chaff, but really, you just have to get the financial analysis to put down their pivot tables and have faith that you’ll figure it out. You’re going to be loosing lots of money and likely fail. You’ll be doing those anti-Buffet moves that confound normals.
In this second mode you’re guided by an innovation mindset: you have to be parnoid, you have to learn everyday what your customers and competitors are doing, and do new things that bring in new cash. You have to try.

60m Americans have used voice devices, 35.6m devices estimated to be sold in 2017

According to a recent research report from eMarketer, 60.5 million Americans will talk at least once a month to their virtual personal assistants named Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and other as-yet unknowns this year. “That equates to 27.5% of smartphone users, or nearly one-fifth of the population,” eMarketer said. Link

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More details on the study:

  • “The e-commerce giant’s Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices will claim a 70.6 percent share of the U.S. market this year, the study found.”
  • That 60.5m figure is more like “penetration,” people who have tried voice stuff but aren’t active users. By device ownership (I don’t know if this includes or excludes phones with Siri and such): “The number of active U.S. users will more than double for the devices this year, to 35.6 million, eMarketer said.”

See more details over from TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez.

Personally, I still find all this obnoxious. But (a.) I’m more of a podcast and text person, and, (b.) hey, the Echo is a really nice Bluetooth/Spotify speaker.

Retail: tech slow to enable omni-channel, Amazon is far ahead as a threat

…a survey of the top retailers in the US and Europe. About 75 percent of them said that despite all the unprecedented investments they’ve made in retail over the last several years, they feel ill-prepared to handle and provide omni-channel capabilities.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that you need so look at online as the starting point of most purchases: “60 percent or more of in-store purchases start online ‘through digital engagement.’”

Amazon is quick to enter new retail markets:

Amazon reports e-commerce growth of 30 percent, whereas core retail is growing at only 2 percent. Amazon Fashion launched in a “very nascent way” in 2002 – it’s now the biggest fashion player in the U.S. Amazon has spent about $17 billion dollars on R&D around e-commerce. Walmart has spent under a billion. If Walmart cannot spend the money necessary to stay with Amazon, how will other retailers keep pace?

All of this was from a SFDC retail-focused person, no details on the survey.

Source: Salesforce Commerce Cloud CEO at NRF – 75 percent of retailers are “ill-prepared” for the omni-channel

Amazon is building an ‘Uber for trucking’ app

The app, scheduled to launch in summer 2017, is designed to make it easier for truck drivers to find shippers that need goods moved, much like the way Uber connects drivers with riders. It would also eliminate the need for a third-party broker, which typically charges a commission of about 15% for doing the middleman work.

This is one of those “software is eating the world” things that I would have thought existed already.

[T]he broader goal is to improve the “middle mile” logistics space, which is largely controlled by third-party brokers that charge a hefty fee for handling the paperwork and phone calls to arrange deliveries between shipping docks or warehouses. It would make shipping more efficient and cheaper not just for its customers, but also for Amazon, which

Link

Amazon grocery store has no cash registers, uses phone

Customers scan the Amazon Go app on their smartphone as they enter the store. The company spent four years developing “just walk out” technology, which detects when items are picked up or returned to shelves and “keeps track of them in a virtual cart,” Amazon said. There’s no checkout line — just leave the store with your groceries, and Amazon will charge your account.

Link

Amazon Echo owners spend 10% more

The research company found that owners of the Echo spent around 10 percent more after they bought the voice-powered smart speaker than they did before.

The NPD Group’s Checkout Tracking purchase monitor provided the data, analyzing customer spending and overall number of receipts, and found that there was also a 6 percent bump in the overall number of purchases made by Echo owners on Amazon.com when compared to their pre-Echo existence.

Source: Amazon Echo owners spend more on Amazon, says NPD.

Amazon Prime Day is biggest day for online retailer ever

The online retailer said worldwide orders rose more than 60 percent compared with the previous Prime Day.

Looks like things worked out well.

Some of the more popular “deals”

Source: Amazon Prime Day is biggest day for online retailer ever, sourced from my wife!

At Amazon Hub, Abbott Touts Legislative Agenda | The Texas Tribune

Roth gave Abbott, accompanied by state Sen. Donna Campbell and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, a lengthy tour of Amazon’s new fulfillment center in this San Antonio suburb, an immense facility measuring 1.25 million square feet, or the size of 59 football fields. The distribution hub houses tens of thousands of products that are shipped out to the San Antonio area and beyond.

Amazon, which has invested more than $400 million in Texas since 2012, employs nearly 500 people at the facility and more than 3,000 across Texas. The other two fulfillment centers are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

At Amazon Hub, Abbott Touts Legislative Agenda | The Texas Tribune