By Jim Lewis, CEO

By Invitation Only

We all know they are smart. And they just keep getting smarter. Don’t know what demand will be for an item? Just make it “invitation only” and don’t list any ship dates. That’s what Amazon has done with their latest round of Alexa enabled smart devices. It makes perfect sense for products that the broad market may not be ready for. Using the invitation concept provides some idea of what the demand is and allows Amazon to reduce risk with a huge inventory investment. They did it a few years ago with Alexa Auto.

It also creates an atmosphere of privilege- a good response to the (what use to be) long lines at Apple stores on the day of an iPhone release. Except nobody sees you clicking the invitation button. Still, it adds another way for Amazon to increase its interactive experience with customers.

Useful Products

In my opinion, Amazon has done an excellent job at bringing products to market that are useful. The Astro, a household robot for home monitoring has more purpose than just being a toy. They introduce the product via a well-produced video that proposes use cases that appeal to a large segment of the market. Checking in on seniors, monitoring your house while away, reacting to motion in the middle of the night, being at the center of a party (even if that party is just you) and delivering liquid refreshments to a loved one. They even got the nuance that buying Astro probably requires spousal agreement. Also, it’s $1,000.

The Glow is an interactive projector with video calling designed for togetherness. It’s very cool but for a smaller segment of the market. The idea is great though- adding the interactive element to calling. Finally, the new Ring Always Home Cam is a flying indoor camera with multiple perspectives. Yes, you read that correctly, it is an indoor FLYING CAMERA! Do I need it? No. Do I want it? Yes. While Apple and Google are iterating on their devices, Amazon has been coyly expanding their lineup with interesting innovation.

You Can Be First

Can it work in other product lines? Possibly. The higher the price, the more likely it makes sense. By telling a customer they could be first, sidelines the fact that the ship date is unknown. They aren’t the first to do it, remember when Elon Musk offered customers the opportunity to place a deposit for the Model 3? Amazon isn’t afraid to try different models to pique the interest of their consumers. From subscriptions to one-click, they meet their customers at whatever level is needed. By the way, if you are a manufacturer and you either drop ship or have Amazon fulfilled product, we can help you track, manage and forecast your business. Learn more here.

Now, about that flying camera- just think of all the 3rd party skins that will be developed. Pretty soon the USS Enterprise will be zinging through my house. As long as they let me change the wake up word from “Alexa” to “Dammit Jim”!

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