Beyond the Buy Box: Amazon’s Snail Mail, Government Contracts & the NFL | Contributor Matt Bowen

The post comes to us from Matt Bowen, a frequent contributor to Omni Talk. Matt Bowen is curious about all things consumer goods. He currently operates Bowen & Co. Consulting, focusing on eComm/consumer goods business strategy.

‘Tis the season to be blown away by the Amazon sales numbers once again. While these numbers should be no surprise, Omni Talk is here to explore what’s going on Beyond the Buy Box. Sure, Nike’s departure from Amazon stings within the buy box, but it’s not the end of the world for Amazon. Such a loss would bring an average company to its knees but Amazon isn’t an average company. Its business isn’t solely dependent on its eCommerce platform — Amazon is a media company now.

It’s what Amazon is doing outside of its bread and butter that deserves attention. The allure of Amazon Prime isn’t just about convenience — it’s a lifestyle. In order to attract, retain, and delight its subscribers, Amazon must continuously appeal to consumers in ways that don’t necessarily end with an immediate smiling brown box on your doorstep. It’s always Day One at Amazon — so Beyond the Buy Box is here to discuss and discover what’s next for the eCommerce giant.

Snail Mail

What’s remarkable is how omnipresent Amazon has become in our everyday lives. The tech marvel is now innovating in ways that aren’t driven by technology. The company is using age-old tactics to drive consumers to Everything that’s old is new again, and Amazon isn’t afraid to play on nostalgia.

Amazon’s Holiday Toy List/Ultimate Wish List is a perfect example of this — it’s simply brilliant. For anyone over 25, it’s a subtle reminder of childhood when the Sears & JC Penney catalogs were something to behold. When those behemoths arrived in the mail a certain amount of joy ensued. The pure weight of the catalogs, the glossy look, thin pages, and endless items are all unforgettable. Amazon replicating these memories is pure genius.

Amazon’s Ultimate Wish List Cover — Photo Courtesy of Matt Bowen

This is a win-win for the company — brands pay top dollar to take part and families sit down together and explore every page with endless amazement. The “Ooooo’s and Ahhhh’s” are memory makers themselves.

The old-fashioned magazine cover makes the imagination run wild.

Courtesy of Matt Bowen

On the inside is where Amazon’s snail mail becomes a true work of art.

There’s an insert within the Ultimate Wish List that has stickers and reads, “Tag your favorite gifts.”

While this may easily be overlooked, it shouldn’t be. This should win some sort of marketing award. “Tag your favorite gifts” bridges demographic gaps — “tag” has become ubiquitous in the social media era. The fact that Amazon chose this word is remarkable. It’s blending worlds — mixing old and new — and over time, will almost certainly make consumers forget that Amazon’s core product for the first 25 years of its existence was “The Everything Store.” While the Ultimate Wish List drives consumers into the flywheel, it’s nearly an afterthought of the entire experience.

This also leads families on a “Create Your Own Adventure” style storybook to thumb through. In a sense, by “tagging” favorites, families are completing a form of Chris Walton’s “taction.” It’s not hard to imagine that this could easily become a family tradition for decades to come.

Government Contracts

Amazon’s AWS(Amazon Web Services) was not awarded the JEDI contract by the Department of Defense, but that doesn’t mean t won’t win a piece of business in the future.

For starters, the US Government needs an abundance of tech and Amazon is reaching warp speed on innovation. This round may have gone to Microsoft, but don’t think Amazon won’t stay in the mix moving forward. Also — AWS is quietly running the western world and an integral part of the internet’s future.

Don’t forget — HQ2 is near Washington D.C. for a reason.


If you’re an NFL fan, have you noticed anything different this year?

Perhaps a certain source for stats that’s being utilized by the major networks (ESPN, NBC, CBS, FOX, & NFL Network) that cover America’s most-watched sport?

Next Gen Stats is slowly changing the way we consume football. NGS just happens to be “Powered by AWS.”

How often does the public see so many high-stakes competitors openly utilizing the same technology? It’s no secret that the NFL runs on AWS, but we have to wonder, what’s next?

Courtesy of AWS via YouTube

This is where Amazon’s focus on the long game comes into focus. Notice the names in this commercial alone. Some of the biggest in business — and it serves all aspects of Amazon’s flywheel, conveniently right before the holidays.

Correct, Amazon does pay the NFL a ton of money to the broadcasting rights of Thursday Night Football but it seems like its maximizing its current investment.

The NFL has some major broadcasting rights up for bid in the next couple of years but Amazon could be after something much bigger than broadcasting rights. Please keep in mind — live sports, especially the NFL, is worth billions to those that obtain exclusive rights. Let’s pause for a moment — why would Amazon pay a premium for something that it’s already getting massive amounts of exposure to at a steep discount? All of the major networks are broadcasting amazing new ways to see the game thanks to Next Gen Stats. The networks don’t shy away from mentioning AWS every step of the way.

Courtesy of AWS via YouTube
Courtesy of AWS via YouTube

So, where’s Amazon taking football Beyond the Buy Box?

News broke on November 10 that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos may be interested in purchasing an NFL team. Wow. Now we’re talking. There’s talk of Bezos buying the Seattle Seahawks. Wait — why would Bezos buy a team?

Yes, owning a team is very attractive — but doesn’t Amazon have much more at stake? Owning a team may be a conflict of interest in Amazon’s many business ventures.

What about building a stadium?

A stadium would be a living and breathing retail technology lab for Amazon.

What else could Amazon miss out on if Bezos chooses to buy a team?

Fantasy football.

It seems NGS is hardly showing its hand this season — there’s much more under the hood waiting to be unleashed. If Amazon wanted to launch its own fantasy football platform it seems like it could succeed with ease. The only thing its missing is market share, but then again Amazon Prime has America’s fingertips on edge. Offering fantasy football would mean endless eyeballs focused on things within the flywheel.

What if Amazon bought Yahoo Sports from Verizon Media?

Verizon is “The Official 5G Innovation Partner of the NFL.” Correct, Verizon may want to keep Yahoo Sports in its portfolio but it seems like Amazon could take the popular fantasy sports platform to a new level. Oh, Verizon also runs on AWS — the two sides clearly have a strong relationship.

Speaking of fantasy football — let’s imagine Amazon launches a fantasy platform for a moment. How many readers out there are on a text chain with a group of old friends? Witty banter, great laughs, and endless GIFs.

Chatbots are becoming insanely popular in sports. The tech is simple to use and enhances the user experience. What if Amazon created a chatbot within its fantasy football/live sports streaming universe?

A big play just happens and your fantasy football league can’t stop talking about it. Since this is on Amazon’s platform we have video content, instant GIFs, and the world’s greatest statistical library to further showcase just how amazing that play was.

Amazon would be given visibility into the real-time moments’ fans love along with a treasure trove of consumer data. This grants Amazon access on a different level. Using that data Amazon can sense market size and demand in seconds, using it to promote merch. These consumer goods would be produced on-demand to a nearly perfect 1-to-1 scale. Crisp data, efficient production, and a huge fan base. It’s astounding to ponder. It can be argued that this could become a social network for Amazon.

While the allure of purchasing an NFL team is intensely attractive — Amazon could grow Beyond the Buy Box in other ways with the league.

Everybody wants to be the meat in the sandwich, but Amazon is smart to remain the bun in this instance. Its eCommerce platform is the bottom bun, AWS is the top bun. As for the meat — Amazon gladly services that.

Chris Walton is an accomplished Senior Executive with nearly 20 years of success within the retail and retail technology industries. He is well-versed in merchandising, store operations, inventory management, product design, forecasting, e-commerce, pricing and promotions, and tech product development.

Chris was most recently a Vice President with Target, where he led the retailer’s Store of the Future project and also ran the Target’s home furnishing division for e-commerce. He previously worked for GAP, Inc., as a Distribution Analyst and Manager.

Chris holds a BA in Economics and History from Stanford University, and a MBA from Harvard Business School.

He likes to dress as Darth Vader for Halloween, and his wife also frequently asks him to ask Alexa, "to turn off the music."

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