Is Amazon set to shake up the services sector?

Amazon has just launched Amazon Home Services, which for the moment will be limited to a few US cities, offering anything from plumbing, gardening, painting, cleaning to fitting a new car battery, or odd jobs around the house, along with goat grazing or guitar lessons.

This is hardly an innovation: professional services platforms have been around for many years in all shapes and forms. What makes this different is that Amazon is doing it, complete with evaluation system, money-back guarantee, and of course scale. The idea is to create a level of service that matches the standards users have become accustomed to, extending that to outsourced professionals that accept Amazon’s rules and are rigorous and thorough. After all, what professional would want to be dumped by Amazon?

What Amazon is trying to do here is build on its reputation: you started out buying books, and then moved on to other items, which in some cities can mean the weekly shopping, and most recently for storing your family photographs and other digital files. Amazon now allows you to hire people to do tedious or repetitive tasks that cannot be easily automated, and with its magic wand you can now have it do the shopping and deliver it to your door, or you can install one of its black boxes in your living room to answer just about any question you can think of. In short, a dizzying array of services that runs from the perfectly reasonable to the out of the ordinary, all under one customer experience umbrella.

The variety of services and products Amazon offers just keeps growing, fed by an innovation policy in which anything the company develops or acquires is in some way turned into a product. For whatever reason, I find myself ending up using Amazon as an example of innovation in my classes. Not all of Amazon’s initiatives have been successful, but one rarely finds complaints about them: when the company launches a new line, it may or may not attract greater take up than others, but in general, those who try its services tend to be happy with them.

This has turned Amazon into a formidable competitor, a real threat for anybody looking to sell stuff online, something along the lines of the famous Jeff Jarvis comment about Google ending up being able to do whatever you do, and doing it better, although in the case of Amazon, not for free.

So while the company doesn’t give its services away, it does seem to have a clear tendency to take other people’s ideas, develop and refine them, and them take their customers away. People who buy from Amazon Fresh or via Amazon Dash tend not to bother with using other buying options in this tough and complex sector, because once you have paid to become an Amazon Prime customer, the feeling is that can now order whatever you want, at a reasonable price, and it magically appears at your home. Rarely does something able to revolutionize a traditional sector like this come along. Needless to say, the approach can be applied to any number of other areas. I haven’t bought a book from anywhere other than Amazon for some time, and if one lands in my hands as a gift or from any other source and I end up reading it, I even have a place to “confess my infidelity” so that Amazon can bear it in mind when making reading recommendations for me.

My impression is that Amazon Home Services could well represent an important change in the way a lot of people source professionals. It may well end up being a modern, and much-improved, version of what the Yellow Pages used to be. Only time will tell…

(En español, aquí)

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