Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service fittingly announced a deal yesterday that puts to rest the notion that Sunday is a day of rest from mail delivery. Amazon Prime customers in the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas will get delivery of goods for no charge beyond the normal $79 yearly fee. There are plans to expand the year-round service next year to “a large portion of the U.S. population” residing in cities including Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix.
“If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can order a backpack for your child on Friday and be packing it for them Sunday night,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s VP of worldwide operations and customer service, said in a statement.
The deal “gives the Postal Service a chance to take some business from United Parcel Service and FedEx, which do not deliver on Sundays,” points out Ron Dixon in the New York Times. “Now, some orders that would have been handled by either of those carriers for Monday delivery will go through the postal service and arrive on Sunday.”
The agreement starts “in time for the holiday season,” Dixon points out. But barely. It is already “Countdown to Black Friday Deals Week” on Amazon, leading one to wonder if any space/time constraints are still operable in the marketing universe.
“The deal could be a boon for the postal service, which has been struggling with mounting financial losses and has been pushing to limit general letter mail delivery to five days a week,” the Los Angeles Times’ Tiffany Hsu reports. “Spokeswoman Sue Brennan said that letter mail volume is declining ‘so extremely,’ yet package volume is ‘increasing in double-digit percentages.’”
Indeed, according to postmaster general Patrick Donahoe, “the future of package delivery is a seven-day-a-week schedule,” writeUSA Today’s Alistair Barr and Donna Leinwand Leger. “We've got the capacity to do it,” he said.
The postal service expects a 12% increase in package delivery this season over last year, Barr and Leinwand Leger report, but “it is in a precarious financial condition. The organization lost $15.9 billion in its last fiscal year and expects a loss of $6 billion this year.”
The Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang points out that “the arrangement with Amazon could open the doors to more partnerships with retailers that are eager to use the 500,000 USPS employees and 31,000 post offices across the country to satisfy consumers who want to get what they buy online faster.”
“Amazon, meanwhile, is estimated to near $75 billion in sales this year, and the latest move on Sunday deliveries may help it gain an edge over competitors such as Wal-Mart,” blogs MarketWatch’s Barbara Kollmeyer.
In other Amazon news, the Wall Street Journal’s Serena Ng, Jonathan D. Rockoff, Greg Bensinger and Ann Zimmerman combined on an exclusive this morning that reveals discord with Johnson & Johnson “over complaints that Amazon isn't doing enough to prevent [third-party resellers] from selling damaged or expired J&J products — Tylenol painkillers and Rogaine baldness treatments, among others — on its website.”
J&J had stopped selling some products directly but resumed last week as its mystery shoppers encountered fewer problems with the third-party resellers recently. The dispute reflects “a widening fear among consumer-products companies: On the Internet, it is easier to lose control over a brand image,” they write.
Amazon would not comment; a J&J spokeswoman tells the WSJ: “The most important thing for us is that the products reaching our consumers' hands are the quality they expect and give them the experience they deserve.”
While we’re speaking of the J&J brand experience, Brenda Armstead, J&J’s VP of global strategic insights, told The Market Research Event (TMRE) in Nashville that the company is “switching the focus of its market research to a cross-company system for its major brands,” according to Warc’s email newsletter this morning. The group is using a “Millward Brown composite metric that captures levels of engagement and commitment that brands inspire” to help “guide the every-day brand-equity evaluation.”
“It's about doing activation sessions with our local markets — and with our cross-functional teams — to make sure that we're actually putting plans against addressing any outages in our equity. So, if we're off, we ought to be doing something about that to close the gap,” Armstead said.
So even as J&J addresses its potential equity outages at Amazon, Amazon is addressing its own distribution outages on Sunday, and the worlds of micro branding and delivery-on-demand hum along their merry paths to 24/7 ubiquity.