10 Nov 2017 13:39 IST

Amazon revs up its innovation quotient

E-tailer launches ‘India-first’ features that make shopping easy

Amazon.in is investing heavily in tech-led solutions that address India-specific issues in the area of payments, mobile, delivery and discovery, to make shopping on its marketplace easy, fast and reliable. And the innovation process they follow is code-named “Press Release”.

The e-tailer’s local product team, tech team and others identify the opportunities to innovate and start the process of defining the innovative idea by writing down a “Customer Backward Press Release”.

“The release will project that in June 2019, Amazon will launch XYZ, which is an internal document, not meant for the actual media. The idea is described from a customer perspective, rather than from the technology point of view,” Dale Vaz, Director, Software Development, Amazon.in, told BusinessLine.

‘India-first’ features

That process has resulted in the launch of two “India-first” features that allow its online wallet (Amazon Pay Balance) users to load wallets at their doorstep with cash, without having to give out bank details. For those users who have opted for cash-on- delivery orders, the e-tailer has built a feature whereby the user does not have to worry about tendering the exact change and can have the extra money loaded directly into his/her wallet.

“We realised that not many customers have access to digital payment methods and there are many others who are not comfortable providing credit/debit card details. Therefore, when the Amazon delivery associate lands up at their door, they can hand over the amount that they want to load into the Amazon Pay Balance, which the associate will do, following which, the customer will immediately receive an SMS confirmation about it,” said Vaz.

To simplify cash-on-delivery transactions, if the order value to be paid is ₹950 and the customer pays ₹1,000, the delivery associate can load the ₹50 balance to the customer’s wallet, providing an instant confirmation; simplifying the transaction for both customers and delivery associates, said Vaz, adding that the tech team has improved the success rates of customers who are trying to pay online by 1000 basis points over the last year.

App optimised

Over 80 per cent of the traffic on Amazon is from mobile (browser & app). The tech team has optimised the app for both high-end and low-end smartphones to be faster and more reliable. Based on the device you own, Google will automatically provide the user a high-end version of the app or the optimised version of the app for low-end phones (decided by performance). “So, whether you are a customer in Ludhiana, Delhi or Kanya Kumari, we want them to enjoy the same fast, reliable Amazon experience. During Diwali we had customers in Andaman and Nicobar Islands place orders, which were delivered to their doorsteps,” said Vaz. Amazon is addressing two other India-specific problems – non-standard quality of addresses provided by customers and the unique way they search online. “We are investing in machine learning to figure out whether addresses are street names, buildings or landmarks and have built systems to detect whether they are valid or not, using delivery data we have and internally edit the address that we send to our delivery associates, to guide them through the delivery process,” he said. Customers say, “Behind the tree, near the church, call me when you are there,” said Vaz.

In discovery or search, Amazon is investing in inventing a better search algorithm to match customer intent with the right product for queries such as, “toys for child,” “sarees for women,” “chappals for men,” where queries are not clearly spelt out and vernacular words are used.