Amazon in a post-Christmas press release summed up the 2016 holiday shopping season as “the best-ever season for Amazon with devices,” with the Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick, Fire tablet and Amazon Echo topping the e-commerce giant's bestsellers list.
Sales of those Amazon devices, all of which now employ the company’s Alexa virtual assistant technology, were nine times higher for the 2016 holiday season than during the 2015 holiday shopping rush. Amazon did not provide specific sales numbers, but said that “millions of new customers will be introduced to Alexa.”
Amazon also noted more than 72% of its customers worldwide used mobile devices to shop during the holiday season, and that shopping on the Amazon mobile app increased 56% during the period.
Santa Claus wasn’t the only one working late on Christmas. Someone in Amazon public relations must have spent a good deal of the holiday weekend assembling Amazon’s holiday shopping summary, which listed literally dozens of growth claims, fun facts and trends from the 2016 holiday shopping season.
Amazon didn’t quote any exact sales or revenue figures, and stuck with only general claims and percentages of growth (the latter without any baseline numbers, so we can’t even do our own math.) That is not exactly surprising, and pretty typical of Amazon and other large retailers, who probably won’t get much more specific until they announce earnings for the fourth quarter and full year of 2016 in the next couple of months.
It’s also not surprising Amazon dedicated much of its post-holiday summary to its golden child — Alexa. In recent weeks, the e-tailer has been aggressively ramping up its efforts to leverage Alexa’s value and build up a sector-wide ecosystem around its enabling technology. Among Alexa-related fun facts listed by Amazon: The most popular cooking tips requested of Alexa on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were turkey, prime rib and chocolate chip cookies, while customers in Seattle, San Diego and New York asked, “Alexa, turn on Christmas lights” more than in any other U.S. cities. (Perhaps the latter had something to do with how much tryptophan was absorbed from the holiday turkeys Alexa helped those customers cook.)
This devotion to all things Alexa left some of Amazon’s more interesting holiday growth claims in the shadows near the end of its summary. Its claim of mobile shopping growth in particular is encouraging for the whole sector, though its total mobile shopping activity was up only a few percentage points over last year. Still, as part of that activity Amazon said that on Cyber Monday mobile shoppers purchased electronics items at the rate of 46 per second, and toys at the rate of 36 per second, both figures up significantly over last year.
Also, Amazon noted that there are now 45,000 robots working along with human associates in more than 20 Amazon fulfillment centers. If we’re not mistaken, this is the first time in months that Amazon has attached a number to its commitment to use robots in its supply chain, and it now has roughly 15,000 more robots at work, and in seven more fulfillment centers than it had at this time last year.