Helping British SMEs Grow; Amazon Finally Moves into Healthcare

RetailTechNews’ weekly Amazon Watch brings you some of the company’s biggest moves from the past seven days, analysing how the giant is revolutionising the retail space. In this week’s edition: Helping British SMEs grow; Amazon finally move into healthcare; and Amazon Cash growing in use.

Helping British SMEs grow

Amazon has emerged as a booming source of international sales for small British businesses, with exports from British sellers increasing by a quarter last year.

Exports across the web retailing giant’s global empire from UK sellers increased to £2.3bn last year, up from £1.8bn a year ago, the company said. The company is trying to position itself as an ally of independent sellers by opening up international markets to small and medium businesses.

Six in ten UK-based businesses selling on Amazon Marketplace now export abroad, with half of all sales on Amazon’s global sites coming from smaller, independent businesses.

Traditionally, Amazon has been seen as a source of pain for small retailers, driving consumers away from the high street. However, as the giant is looking to move into more niche markets, which are best served by SMEs, it is vital for them to have small businesses as a staple to their third-party vendors. For SMEs, this means that it is now imperative to sell goods on Amazon, as with consumers leaving brick-and-mortar stores behind, the online marketplace is where they are spending their money.

Amazon finally moves into healthcare

Amazon has made it’s long-awaited move into the healthcare market, although perhaps not in the way that many expected they would. The online giant has formed a not-for-profit healthcare company with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, which will be charged with lowering costs for the trio’s almost one million employees and “potentially all Americans”.

The online retail behemoth say the team up is so the trio could lend their “scale and complementary expertise” to a long-term effort to lower healthcare bills. At first, the new company would focus on “technology solutions” to lower costs. One person briefed on the discussions gave the example of an app that might help employees cut their drug bills: when the patient goes to the pharmacy to fill a prescription for an expensive branded medication, the app would send an alert informing them of a cheaper generic alternative.

The companies also intend to explore whether they can benefit more from their status as ‘self-insured’ employers, whereby they keep income from employee premiums and set aside a pool of their own capital for potential losses.

One group that stands to gain from this is startups that offer virtual care as an alternative to sending an employee to a physical doctor’s office, which will likely play a big role in lowering costs. These apps provide a first-step alternative to visiting a doctor in person, which is a real hardship for many Americans living in rural areas. Because they live so far from doctors, a lot of people in rural areas delay or avoid doctor’s visits until they’re really sick.

Amazon Cash growing in use

Amazon Cash has expanded to Casey’s General Stores. Consumers who prefer not to use debit or credit cards for purchases can load between USD$15 and USD$500 on Amazon Cash, which acts like a gift certificate.

Consumers can load cash onto an Amazon Balance by getting a barcode from Amazon, either on a mobile device or printed, and presenting it to a cashier at a participating retailer along with their money. Amazon Cash is also accepted at chains such as 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy, Gamestop, and Kum & Go.

Amazon is hedging its bets as it tries to gain a foothold in digital payments. Given the roll-out of the cashless store, Amazon Go, last month, this will represent an important market for the giant. They are banking on there being a shift in payment preferences from cash and card, to mobile payments. A service like Amazon Cash lets people load their money into an account that can be kept secure on a smartphone instead carrying around bundles of bills.