Commentary

Looking Forward: Amazon And Today's Affluent Marketplaces

According to some industry pundits, Amazon will be the number one seller of apparel in the United States by next year. To help accelerate that achievement in apparel and fashion, Amazon earlier this year unveiled a new daily show, “Style Code Live,” on Amazon.com to help push its fashion and apparel businesses. The show features fashion and beauty tips as well as live chat that allows viewers to communicate with the hosts and includes a product carousel displaying apparel related to the show and that can be purchased on Amazon.com. 

As most marketers in the affluent marketplaces know, Amazon has been endeavoring since 2012 to get into higher-end and luxury fashion, a category of the apparel industry that to date has been slower than most to go digital in a big way. Nevertheless, Amazon is still perceived in many circles as where you go to buy television sets and socks, not $200 jeans or $3,000 evening gowns. “Style Code Live” seems like another step in Amazon’s effort to change that current perception.

In addition, earlier this year Amazon quietly launched seven private-label fashion brands, selling goods like men’s dress shoes, and women’s and children’s clothing. Based on current  prices, these brands are currently targeting mass-market America, but nothing prevents Amazon from launching fashion and other personal luxury brands to tap the affluent marketplace, which it has already penetrated with its other offerings. Plus, it already sells upscale watches and jewelry on its site, as well as premium fragrance and cosmetic brands. Also, some upscale fashion brands have begun marketing their apparel on Amazon.

From our perspective, Amazon is better positioned now to market all categories of upscale goods and services than it was last September, when we focused on Amazon and its forays into the affluent marketplace. This obviously assumes that upscale brands can eventually become comfortable working with Amazon. And if they do not, we don’t believe it’s far-fetched to predict that Amazon will launch its own upscale fashion brands with higher price points. 

What else we currently know about Amazon’s positioning is the following:

  • The number of American adults who reported they bought one or more items from Amazon in the past 12 months, according to our surveys, has increased from 144 million (60% of all adults) to 151 million (62% of all adults).
  • Amazon continues to have great appeal to affluent and luxury-oriented consumers, as 67% (71 million) of affluent Americans (those with household incomes of $75,000 or more) and 63% of the very affluent (those with household incomes of $250,000 or more) reported they bought from it during the past 12 months.
  • Amazon's affluent and very affluent customers are shopping there very frequently. While 66% of all Amazon customers are now doing so once a month or more often, compared with 54% in our prior survey, 73% of their affluent customers and 74% of their very affluent customers reported they purchased one or more items in the past month in our most recent survey, compared with 58% and 66% in the prior survey.
  • Also, when asked to compare Amazon with other stores and sites at which they shop, about 73% of all its customers (compared with 64% in our prior survey) rate Amazon as better than other stores and sites. Seventy-five percent of the affluent now rate Amazon as being better, along with 80% of the very affluent. Notably, only 1% of all Amazon's customers rate it worse than other stores and sites at which they shop.

Based on Amazon’s current positioning and penetration among affluent consumers (no matter how one defines affluence), we believe they will keep moving deeper into the affluent and luxury markets going forward. Consequently, we continue to recommend that upscale and affluent marketers review the consumer benefits Amazon is now offering, and consider offering as many of them as they can. As we all know, shoppers want "convenience" and "to save time," when they shop (to cite just two benefits Amazon offers), as well as others such as Amazon’s Prime (Note: this year’s Amazon Prime Day is next Tuesday, July 12). Affluent marketers who don't offer comparable or better benefits to what Amazon is currently offering in the near future are, in our estimation, failing to do so at their peril.

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