In 2010 Amazon was just a site where you went to buy stuff. Now, in 2020 it's a rather different beast.
And, while you might say that the 2000s were the decade of Microsoft and the 2010s the decade of Google (with Apple a close second), Amazon is in prime (ha!) position to take the 2020s.
- What to expect from Apple in 2020
- What to expect from Facebook in 2020
- What to expect from Google in 2020
- What to expect from Microsoft in 2020
But 2019 was a mixed year. Amazon doubled down (again) on Echo devices, started showing Premier League games on Prime Video, launched HD and 3D music streaming with Dolby Atmos over Amazon Music Unlimited and had record-breaking sales periods pre-Christmas and over Black Friday. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is now the third-biggest name in cloud computing behind Oracle and Microsoft.
But it also faced numerous challenges. Alexa's trustworthiness was rocked when it emerged that real people listen back to some of the recordings made by the assistant. There were other scandals including a leak of Ring login data (not the first time there have been questions about Ring's use of data).
Amazon was forced to pull out of building a second global headquarters in New York because of growing opposition (it's going to focus on Virginia instead). There was a slightly uneasy deal in the UK involving NHS data. And questions remain over the company's treatment of workers in fulfilment centres and its much-trumpeted last-mile delivery network.
So what's in store for 2020 for Amazon? We get our thinking cap on and predict what will happen for the company during the next 12 months.
Doubling down on Alexa on screen
In 2017 Amazon seriously expanded its Echo range with the Echo Plus and Echo Show. In 2018 it launched so many Echo devices it was hard to keep track (especially during the epic September launch event). In 2019 though, an interesting new trend emerged. We got the Echo Show 5 in addition to the Echo Show 8 - so we've now got a trio of Echo devices with screens in addition to Alexa on Fire TV devices. And with Google clearly intent on pushing devices like the Google Nest Hub, it seems clear that the battleground for standalone Echo devices will be visual. As such, expect a huge upgrade to Alexa's on-screen menu systems, options and graphics as it battles Google.
More Prime Video sports rights
Amazon has been consolidating sports rights for some time including ATP Tennis. But it's clear that Amazon's 20 Premier League fixtures shown during December is just the start for its football coverage and don't be surprised to see it snap up more rights as packages become available. Naturally, there are stacks of other shows coming to Prime Video in 2020, too.
This could easily be part of our 2019 recap above, but in actual fact, the repercussions could run for several years. The US justice department is investigating Amazon alongside other big tech firms in a wide-ranging antitrust review - essentially a big investigation into anti-competitive practices. Perhaps of more concern for Amazon, in particular, is that the European Commission is investigating Amazon in isolation for anticompetitive practices. This centres around the collection of data from third-party sellers on Amazon's sites - and how Amazon could potentially use that data to give itself a competitive advantage.
Yet more sales periods
Got sales fatigue? You're not alone - with Black Friday sales taking place in the fortnight before Black Friday 2019 in the UK and yet continuing after in the US, it felt a bit like we were in a state of perpetual deals. And that's set to continue in 2020. Rumours are swirling that Amazon is set to bring Singles Day sales to the US and possibly the UK. Singles Day is a massive shopping event in China that takes place on 11 November. Will we really get sales for six weeks before Christmas? It sure looks that way. Online retailer Alibaba made more cash on Singles Day than all US online retailers did on Black Friday.
Hands-free Alexa inside TVs
September saw Amazon partner with Grundig in Germany to offer a TV with hands-free Alexa inside. Just as with the Fire TV Cube or an Echo speaker, you can simply say 'Alexa' to get it working - all while the TV itself is pumping out sound. Expect Amazon to work with more and more partners to produce these devices - it's clear that Amazon sees the full integration of Alexa into third-party devices as its next step. The TV is the natural home for this, whether using third-party operating systems or Amazon's own Fire TV OS.
Dealing with fake reviews
Fake reviews are the scourge of online platforms from TripAdvisor to Google, but Amazon has a growing, unsavoury reputation. In July UK consumer affairs publication Which revealed an investigation into fake reviews on Amazon which exposed practices which have been around for ages; old products being used to push new ones, groups of incentivised reviewers mobilised by Facebook and using hacked accounts. In 2020 expect Amazon to double-down on combating the problem. It has already issued new terms-of-service to third-party sellers which bans them from offering incentives for reviews including free products.
More actual stores
Amazon bought Whole Foods in the US in 2017 and has experimented with bricks-and-mortar stores with its cashless Amazon Go concept - there are 18 Amazon Go stores currently in US cities. Expect this to ramp up in 2020 and come to London as well - it's been rumoured that Amazon has secured a location for a West End store. It's also been reported that Amazon will launch another food brand in the US, too.
Parking the tanks on Google's lawn
While we still reckon Google Assistant beats Amazon's Alexa in terms of its capability, Amazon clearly plans on chipping away at other sources of Google's cash richness. It's been clear for a while that an increasing number of us are forgoing Google for product-related searches, instead opting to just search Amazon. But it also looks like Amazon is targeting one of Google's key sources of income - advertising - with large-scale growth in 2019. Expect this one to run-and-run.