eBay: Yes, speedy shipping really is a thing with us – CNET (Mar 20, 2017)
eBay is announcing that it now offers guaranteed 3-day shipping on 20 million items, compared to Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping for over 50 million items. The difference in the range and timing here highlights another big difference: whereas Amazon increasingly controls its logistics infrastructure, eBay has very little control at all, which is why it’s been reluctant in the past to commit to delivery dates even though it says almost two thirds of its sales already reach customers in three days. That’s because eBay buyers are responsible for shipping their own goods, while Prime and Fulfillment by Amazon leverage the company’s massive distribution infrastructure including an increasingly deep investment in its own shipping. Yes, eBay is making progress here, but it’s going to be hard for customers not to notice both the difference in the number of items and the speed of delivery and spend their money accordingly.
Amazon Plans Air Cargo Service for Chinese Customers – WSJ (Mar 15, 2017)
There have been lots of stories about Amazon expanding in logistics over the last couple of months – see here (chartering planes), here (ocean freight), and here (an air cargo hub in the US), for example. Now it seems it’s investing in both sea and air cargo for Chinese sellers. That should allow Chinese companies to sell more easily and potentially cheaply to US buyers, but another interesting angle would be US sellers who source their goods from China – I know of several businesses which basically scan Amazon’s top seller lists for arbitrage opportunities and then have goods made in and shipped from China. So those would be other potential users of these new services. Overall, though, this is just another investment in unique logistics infrastructure and more of a competitive moat versus other retailers.
Yet another story about Amazon’s deepening investment in shipping infrastructure (see also ocean liners). Its Prime Air freight investment is an existing strategy, but Amazon is leasing the planes and has been using existing hubs, whereas this new $1.5 billion investment is to create its own hub in Kentucky. Amazon’s claim that it isn’t looking to compete with UPS gets harder to believe all the time.
Amazon Expands Into Ocean Freight – WSJ (Jan 25, 2017)
Amazon seems to be treating building its own shipping infrastructure as a major strategic goal at present, from running its own planes to shipping its own sea freight. That’s partly about leverage over the traditional companies it has historically outsourced these jobs to, and partly about flexibility and control over the infrastructure it needs to get the job done. The further Amazon goes down this route, the harder it becomes for anyone to compete on a level playing field – Amazon’s logistics and distribution infrastructure is reaching a point where it’s becoming a massive competitive advantage.
With the usual caveat about not assuming a patent filing implies immediate (or even any) intention to build something, this is another fascinating step in the evolution of Amazon’s logistics operation. Logistics are vital to Amazon’s ability to do what it does, and a small competitive edge driven by innovation pays off in big ways. Definitely looks like a better use for a barge than Google’s ill-fated Glass showroom.
Amazon is outgrowing the US delivery infrastructure, especially when it comes to Christmas sales, and so is making increasing investments in its own logistics operation beyond warehouses and fulfillment centers. The challenge here is the difference between average daily load and peak load at busy times, but Amazon seems willing to invest for the peak.
Angry Amazon pilots are warning last-minute shoppers that holiday deliveries may be late – Recode (Dec 19, 2016)
This piece highlights two things – Amazon’s ongoing challenges with ensuring that its deliveries arrive on time, and the complexities of getting deeper into logistics with flying its own planes. Anecdotally, I saw several packages from Amazon delayed by one or more days in early December, so the existing system clearly is feeling the strain.