Amazon set to invest US$18bn to help SMBs do business
Since the start of 2020, Amazon has launched over 135 free tools and services to help sellers grow their sales in Amazon’s store. During the next 12 months, the e-commerce giant will provide over 500,000 US small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) currently selling on Amazon with online selling guidance, education and support, as the company plans to onboard an additional 100,000 US businesses as new sellers in its store.
The announcements were made at Amazon Accelerate - a three-day virtual summit for US SMBs who are currently selling in Amazon’s store or interested in doing so. Amazon Accelerate is the company’s largest-ever US event focused on providing existing and aspiring sellers with insights and ideas for how small businesses can thrive in Amazon’s store.
Despite the impact COVID-19 has had on small businesses, many American SMBs selling through Amazon have experienced continued growth. Third-party sellers continue to account for over half of all units sold in Amazon’s store, and even during the pandemic, third-party sales continued to grow faster than Amazon’s first-party sales. From May 2019 to May 2020, US SMB sellers sold over 3.4 billion products, up from 2.7 billion year-over-year, and amassed $160,000 in sales, up from $100,000 a year prior. Accelerate features Amazon executives, sellers and independent online selling experts sharing insights on how sellers can sustain and grow their companies through 2020 and into the future.
“At Amazon, our mission is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and part of fulfilling that mission is connecting small businesses with customers,” says Jeff Wilke, CEO Worldwide Consumer at Amazon, who opened the event with a fireside chat with Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President, Customer Trust & Partner Support at Amazon. “Amazon’s success is directly tied to the success of independent businesses across the U.S. We are passionate about supporting small businesses, investing and inventing on their behalf to help them be resilient through COVID-19 and beyond.”
Amazon has also confirmed plans to invest an additional US$100mn to help small businesses worldwide to increase their sales and reach new customers this Prime Day and throughout the holiday season. Last year during Prime Day, third-party sellers - mostly SMBs - exceeded US$2bn in global sales. This new investment will go towards showcasing the diversity of small businesses selling in Amazon’s store and positioning them for increased sales during Prime Day and throughout Q4.
Pandora and IBM digitise jewellery supply chain
Pandora has overhauled its global supply chain in partnership with IBM amid an ecommerce sales boom for its hand-finished jewellery.
The company found international success offering customisable charm bracelets and other personalised jewellery though its chain of bricks and mortar retail destinations. But in 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak forced physical stores to close, Pandora strengthened its omnichannel operations and doubled online sales.
A focus on customer experience included deploying IBM’s Sterling Order Management, increasing supply chain resiliency and safeguarding against disruption across the global value chain.
Pandora leverages IBM Sterling Order Management as the backbone it its omnichannel fulfilment, with Salesforce Commerce Cloud powering its ecommerce. Greater automation across its channels has boosted the jeweller’s sustainability credentials, IBM said, streamlining processes for more efficient delivery. It has also given in-store staff and virtual customer service representatives superior end-to-end visibility to better meet consumer needs.
Jim Cruickshank, VP of Digital Development & Retail Technology, Pandora, said the digital transformation journey has brought “digital and store technology closer together and closer to the customer”, highlighting how important the customer journey remains, even during unprecedented disruption.
"Our mission is about creating a personal experience and we've instituted massive platform changes with IBM Sterling and Salesforce to enable new digital-first capabilities that are much more individualised, localised and connected across channels and markets,” he added.
Pandora’s pivot to digital
The pandemic forced the doors closed at most of Pandora’s 2,700 retail locations. To remain competitive, it pivoted to online retail. Virtual queuing for stores and virtual product trials via augmented reality (AR) technology went someway to emulating the in-store experience and retail theatre that is the brand’s hallmark. Meanwhile digital investments in supply chain efficiency was central to delivering on consumer demand.
“Consumer behaviour has significantly shifted and will continue to evolve with businesses needing to quickly adapt to new preferences and needs,” said Kareem Yusuf, General Manager, AI Applications and Blockchain, IBM. “To address this shift, leading retailers like Pandora rely on innovation to increase their business agility by enabling and scaling sustainable supply chain operations using AI and cloud.”
Yusuf said Pandora’s success was indicative of how to remain competitive by “finding new ways to create differentiated customer experiences that protect their enterprises from disruptions to help mitigate risk and accelerate growth”.