Convenience is addictive and dangerous. With no incentive to be inconvenienced, the modern world allows us to bask in our ability to be as lazy as possible. We can live like 19th-century lords and ladies with a variety of products and services to cater to our whims as if we still employed servants. Today, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) has found a way to monetize convenience culture and to provide us with ample opportunities to do as little as possible.
The Ultimate Convenience
Amazon provides the perfect excuse to never leave the house again. For a $99 fee, Amazon Prime will literally delivery anything you could dream of needing — a small price to pay for endless convenience. In some cities you can have that item within two hours or pay an extra fee to have it in an hour.
The U.S. has a huge convenience culture, from drive-thru restaurants and banks to fully stocked supermarket shelves year-round. With Amazon, not only do Americans now get to enjoy all of this convenience, but they can also find and buy anything they’d like without having to fight through people at the mall. What’s more, the days of sifting through bargain bins and going from store-to-store looking for the perfect item are long gone. Today, a well-worded search term can find the exact thing you’re looking for in less than a second. One click later and your credit card is charged and the package is on its way to your doorstep.
In a "Prime world," a person can wake up in the morning and enjoy a cup of coffee while reading a free book from Kindle Unlimited on her Fire tablet or watching something on Amazon Video — or maybe even HBO for an extra fee. Halfway through, she might remember to order a gift for her mom. She can browse through the Amazon app to find the perfect thing and have it gift-wrapped and delivered across the country. The order will take seconds and the delivery only a few days. (See also: Amazon Lowers Minimum Order for Free Shipping to $25 (AMZN, WMT))
At lunch, that same person could order take-out via Amazon’s new delivery service, purchase ingredients for tonight’s dinner to be delivered straight away and then re-stock her home office supplies or buy a new blanket for her bed. In fact, if a Prime member notices that the temperature is falling when she puts a movie on in the evening, she can have that blanket delivered before the movie’s over.
Amazon Prime makes convenience the default option. Why would you leave the house to run errands when your phone can do them for you? Amazon’s Dash button, Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service and Amazon’s to-the-door delivery options have created a lifestyle where no one needs to go outside and interact with others at all.
Also available to Prime members is AmazonFresh — its new grocery delivery service (or Fresh Direct's worst nightmare, if you will). For an extra $14.99 per month members get free grocery delivery (as long as the order is over $40), with groceries sourced from local markets, in addition to well-known store brands. Back in April, Bloomberg reported that Amazon's goal was to become a "top 5 grocery retailer by 2025." Then came the acquisition of Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM) (For more, see: Amazon Stock Gain Equals Bid Price In $13.7 Billion Whole Foods Deal).
Not content with delivering their groceries to you, Amazon opened their first ever Amazon Go grocery store to the public on January 22, 2018. Amazon hopes the store will revolutionize the way people by groceries by simply eliminating the checkout line. The store works but utilizing hundreds of cameras to track every individual and every item they put into their bag, and then links the value to their Amazon account. When you're done, you simply walk out of the store and you're charged digitally. What could be more convenient than grocery shopping without the cashier?
The biggest consequence to this convenience culture is that people will become less active and interact with each other in-person less frequently. While the effects of convenience culture have been well documented, the increasing popularity of Amazon Prime and the increase of offerings of Amazon Prime will augment the problem in unimaginable ways.
It could be argued that Amazon makes our lives simpler so that we can focus on less mundane tasks. However, the feeling of finding the perfect dress after a day of shopping or the fun of discovering new foods at the grocery store are little things that we’ll lose as we become more and more dependent on the convenience that Amazon provides. (See also: Amazon's New Echo Speaker Will Have a Touchscreen (AMZN, GOOG))
And lets not forget about the retail industry. More retailers are going bankrupt than ever before, and many blame Amazon for it. (See also: 2017: The Year of Retail Bankruptcies)
Amazon’s Point of View
Increasing dependence is like gold for shareholders. Getting an entire generation of people addicted to a product or service is extremely profitable for any company. As more people become used to the services that Amazon Prime offers, the retail world that we currently know will become increasingly disrupted. Today Walmarts (WMT) are found throughout rural America. With lower prices and the ability to bypass heading to a busy superstore, how soon will it be before the Walmart that we all know is completely different or shuttered for good?
Walmart and other big box retailers have already had to adapt to stop from losing customers to Amazon. As Amazon has become larger, it has ironically had the same effect on Walmart that Walmart had on small businesses 20 years ago. Amazon is showing us a world in which we don’t need to leave the house or go outside or talk to anyone and can still get anything we want, hassle-free, delivered to our doors.
The Bottom Line
Amazon has created a perfect business that provides addictive services that people can’t imagine living without. As Amazon takes over the retail world, we will become more dependent on its Amazon Prime membership service, ensuring a steady stream of revenue for shareholders. Without decent alternatives, the convenience of Amazon Prime will become the norm and Americans will become greater victims to the convenience culture than we already are today.