Most of the time here on The Digital Home, I tell you about some of the trends, news stories, companies and products that annoy me. Other times, I'll tell you about something a company is doing right or something I applaud. This time, it's the latter.
Now, before I begin, I should probably mention that I don't own any Amazon stock because at least one cynical knucklehead reading this column for the sole purpose of finding fault in it will ask if I do own Amazon stock. Sadly, I'm not allowed to own any tech stocks because it's a departure from the ethical standards that I agreed to when I became a journalist. Does that satisfy you?
So why is Amazon the world's best tech retailer? Well, I guess I should first say that this title isn't exactly the most prestigious in the world. Who else would sit atop the list? Certainly Best Buy wouldn't with some of the questionable practices it employs and our friends over at Circuit City certainly don't have a clue about how to bring the right kind of experience to consumers.
But unlike all of its competitors, Amazon has been able to bring products to us in a timely manner without the need for frequent call backs and lengthy delays for no reason. Is it perfect? Not a chance -- some products sell out in a matter of seconds, there's no indication that anyone actually wants to buy groceries online and its customer service still leaves much to be desired. But beyond that, I have enjoyed my time using the service.
So what makes Amazon so great? The way I see it, there are three main components.
Component 1: Availability of products
Do me a favor: think of a tech product (any tech product) and put it into Amazon's search box. Chances are you found that device and there is at least someone willing to sell it to you. Was I right?
Amazon continuously amazes me on just how well it does at getting practically every conceivable product in the hands of those people who want them most. Sure, some products may only sell two units per year and the company has taken them out of its warehouses, but it still offers them on the site from other people who are looking to get rid of them.
Beyond that, where else can you find the wide array of products? Do you want an HDTV? Check. Do you want a washing machine? No problem. Do you want a pen that lights up when you write? Check. Do you want office equipment? You got it.
Sure, the company has been around for quite a while and its success has catapulted it to the position it enjoys right now, but considering its sales reach well into the billions of dollars and it turns a considerable profit year over a year, who can say that Amazon won't last over the long haul? If nothing else, it has insulated itself from the perils currently facing CompUSA and Circuit City.
Component 2: Product shipping
Unlike many other companies that employ shipping techniques that tend to frustrate, Amazon's is quite a pleasant surprise. Amazingly, the company was offering pre-Christmas arrivals on all its products up until midnight on December 23rd and according to reports filed after the holiday, it enjoyed a 99 percent success rate of on-time delivery.
Think about it for a second and try to find me one other online firm that can boast those kinds of numbers. Any luck? Certainly a major retailer like Wal-Mart or even Best Buy can't and those two companies incur even greater revenue than Amazon.
So how does Amazon do it? Simple really. With ten fulfillment centers located in North America alone, Amazon is able to ship products on-time without much of the fuss we get from other retailers. Even better, most of those centers are close to airports so a product can get moving as quickly as possible.
Of course, it goes far beyond fulfillment centers. When you buy a product on Amazon, it's not only easy, it's almost laughable. With about two clicks, you can have your product on its way to you with no questions asked. Within a few minutes after that, you'll receive an email telling you the order has been placed and an hour after that, it has been shipped. Can you find one other service that can boast that kind of turnover? I certainly can't.
Component 3: Amazon's ubiquity
Do you want to know what the main reason is for Amazon's success? Its name.
When you're perusing the Web trying to find the right product or just reading the news, chances are there's a link to Amazon just a click away. Consider this: Firefox features an Amazon search tool to the right of the address bar, CNET Reviews let you see what the price is on Amazon's pages (usually cheaper than others by the way), its ads are everywhere and if you put practically any product's name into Google, it'll display the Amazon link.
And it's for this reason that maybe Amazon isn't the very best retailer in the world, it's just the best tech retailer by default. After all, if it's always in front of you and you're always wondering what the site is offering products for, wouldn't you naturally buy products from it? Not to mention, it's a site you can trust.
Sadly, we currently live in an era of retail limbo -- brick-and-mortars are giving way to online stores. With that in mind, none of the retail offerings are really that great, but some are definitely better than others. But with a fine shopping experience, Amazon is simply a cut above the rest.