Hiring Spree in India; Showroom Debuts; Free Samples to Boost Loyalty

RetailTechNews’ weekly Amazon roundup brings you up-to-date news from the online behemoth. In this week’s edition: Hiring Spree in India; Showroom Debuts; and Free Samples to Boost Loyalty.

Hiring Spree in India

Amazon is on a hiring spree in India, even as new restrictions on foreign sellers loom, which will hit its private-label products hard.

Amazon currently has 660 open positions in Bengaluru, which is the second-most worldwide after Seattle, and Hyderabad has the eighth-most, with over 450 job openings, according to its career site. The job numbers are the clearest sign yet of Amazon’s continued focus on India, even as it faces new regulations that could challenge its business in the country.

The new rules, announced last month, and going into effect on 1 February, prevent foreign online retailers – like Amazon – from selling products through affiliated companies they own a heavy ownership stake in, or from offering special discounts and exclusive deals in the country.

Amazon has reason to keep up its hiring spree in India. The company has already poured roughly USD$5bn (£3.9bn) into the market, while it is reported to have plans for an additional USD$2bn (£1.6bn) investment in Amazon India. Amazon has also been making inroads into India’s offline space, buying equity stakes of local store chains like More and Shoppers Stop.

On top of that, Amazon is in a fierce battle with Walmart-owned Flipkart over India’s sprawling e-commerce market, which is considered one of the fastest growing in the world. India is expected to grow into a USD$72bn (£60bn) e-commerce market by 2020, more than doubling from last year’s USD$32.7bn (£25.4bn), according to eMarketer. Amazon is in a neck-and-neck position with Flipkart in India, having sold roughly USD$7.5bn (£6bn) worth of products in India last year, Barclays estimates.

Showroom Debuts

Amazon has debuted ‘Showroom’ – a visual shopping experience for home furnishings. The tech allows you to place furniture into a virtual living room, customise the décor, then shop the look.

Currently, the new feature is focused on helping Amazon shoppers put together a living room. In a virtual setting, you can make adjustments to the wall colour and the flooring, then swap out each item in the space with one of your own choosing – including the sofa, coffee table, chair, end table, lamp, rug, and even the art on the wall.

Not surprisingly, Amazon’s own home furnishing brands are heavily featured here. Given that Amazon rolled out their own home furnishing brands, Rivet and Stone & Beam, in 2017, it follows that they are viewing Showroom as a great opportunity to take control of the home furnishings space. The success that Amazon’s private-label brands have had in other verticals will give them hope that they can replicate this across home furnishings, despite the sector being notoriously slow to adopt online sales.

And while home furnishings is still an emerging category for online retail, not only because they’re hard to visualise, but also because heavy items are expensive to ship. However, major retailers see the potential in this growing market.

Free Samples to Boost Loyalty

Amazon is sending out free samples, tailor-made to users’ tastes with the help of their purchasing history, as reported by Axios.

The samples are part of a partnership between Amazon and select brands that allows the brands to send users free samples, hoping they will spur further purchases. The product sampling website went up in December.

Despite seeming delightful up front, this move could pose serious questions as it pertains to data privacy, especially in a year when regulation at the federal level is likely imminent. Amazon is uniquely poised to deliver targeted samples, since it already has customers’ addresses and extensive data on their purchasing habits.

Turning free samples into new targeted ads plays to Amazon’s strength as a trusted delivery service of everyday goods, something customers already expect from the company. Amazon is betting the sample strategy is something its biggest competitors – Google and Facebook – can’t match.

Amazon has the purchasing data and logistics infrastructure to offer samples of actual products, which could be more effective than display ads on Facebook or search ads on Google for certain kinds of consumer packaged goods brands.