Spotted on Manhattan’s downtown 6 train this weekend: Google ad campaign explaining why collecting personal data makes their services better.
“Spot the difference? Were you looking for a beetle that beeps or a beetle that buzzes? When you type in beetle we can guess you meant the car and not the insect if you’ve searched for cars recently. It makes things a little bit quicker and a whole lot easier for you. Which is good to know. To find out more about how Google uses information to make the web more useful go to google.com/goodtoknow
-Me, after seeing an Amazon Locker for the first time.
My curiosity got the best of me and it turned out that “thing” was an Amazon Locker, a service that that lets you ship a package to a locker location nearby your home. This is huge if you live in an apartment without a doorman (guilty). Amazon Locker is available in three trial cities: Seattle, London and New York City. As a lucky inhabitant of a trial city, I just had to try it out.
Cut to the chase, why is this cool?:
Ship Amazon items to nearby, safe location without waiting for the UPS guy
Pick up your package from a touchscreen computer with an easy-to-use interface (8 touches and your lockers opens)
It works exactly as advertised
How does it work?
If you’re in one of the three trial cities, you’ll see an “alternative to home delivery” option during Amazon checkout:
After entering your zip code or address, you’ll be given a map with nearby Locker locations (NYC has has 9 current locations, 3 with 24/7 access). The NYC Amazon Locker locations are at local grocery or drug stores like Gristedes, Rite Aid, Morton Williams and Dagastino’s
Simply select your location and payment method and you’re good to go. As with all Amazon orders, you’ll receive an email when your item has shipped. This is when it gets interesting. No more playing the cat-and-mouse game with the UPS delivery guy. Your order gets sent directly to the Locker location you selected during checkout. When your shipment reaches the Locker, you’ll get an email confirmation with the Locker address (as a reminder) and a 6-digit access code (mine was EZEBEB). You’re given a 5-day grace period before your shipment is sent back to Amazon for a full refund. My shipment (desperately needed shower curtain rings) was delivered to the Rite Aid on 24th & 8th ave.
Walk up to the Locker touchscreen computer and enter your 6-digit access code. The screen illuminates with a map of the lockers and a green shading over you’re locker location. Touch the screen a final time and your locker will open sesame.
Amazon has the right idea with this service. It’s serving a niche user base of on-the-go city dwellers that aren’t home when UPS arrives or don’t have a doorman. It’s also a unique looking unit that attracts attention and builds upon Amazon’s brand as a leader in technology and operations. The biggest challenge I see is finding enough store locations that can actually fit a locker unit.
As a data driven company, I’m sure Amazon is comparing order volumes within a 10 block radius before and after the locker installation. I’m guessing the locker unit costs $15,000 to install and maintain. With 40 individual lockers per unit and an average customer pick up time of 2 days per shipment (guesstimate), you’re looking at 7,300 locker shipments each year. That means nearby customers only need to spend $2.05 / year more on Amazon.com for to break even. Heck, I spent $3 just to test the thing out.
I’ve been using Spotify for 6 months and recently stepped my game up to Spotify Premium (iPhone app access, no advertisements, higher quality streaming). Spotify has been making some solid software improvements over the past few months and I think the new App ecosystem makes the product stickier (the TuneWiki app is great). With that said, there’s always room for improvement. Here are five ways that Spotify can take their product to the next level:
Give users the ability to create actual “Libraries” of music. For example, I’d love to be able to add all Black Keys albums into my library to make it easier to find these albums in the future. Currently, I have to create a unique playlist for every album which clutters up the navigation. The existing Spotify library feature groups your favorite and playlist songs which doesn’t add much value. Without the ability for users to create complete music libraries, there will always be a need for other music applications (like Grooveshark, who already has this concept)
Two-Way communication through song sharing – I love seeing my inbox light up with new songs shared from my Spotify friends. It’s even better when then song is accompanied by a message from the friend explaining why they shared or a funny message. Spotify should let users to send a replies to these song messages. This two-way communication would provide a feedback mechanism to whether the friend digs the song or thought it was crap. Without this feature, Spotify is forcing users outside their system to discuss the song (e.g. email, text messages)
When clicking on the search bar, put an“x” icon to remove your recent search text. Right now it forces you to manually delete the entire query. Why?. Fixed in the newest release. Good stuff!
Improve Queue Functionality – When you find a new song to listen to you have two options: play it now (which clears out your play queue) or play as the next song (and keeping your existing queue intact). Let’s expand the queue option to “queue next” and “queue last” so you can on your existing queue with more flexibility.
Spotify Favorites Radio – Spotify’s sweet spot is putting millions of tracks at your fingertips and gives you control in playing what you want, when you want. I don’t always know exactly what song I want to listen to and don’t feel like opening up Pandora. Spotify already has Radio that plays random songs based on a particular artist or genre. Spotify also knows what artists you consider “favorites”. Let’s combine those two features and create “Spotify Favorites Radio” that aggregates all of your favorite artists into one radio station. When new songs are favorite, those artists are automatically added to your Favorites Radio to create an evolving radio station that will introduce you to new tracks that you’ll probably dig.