Amazon.com announced Thursday that it's launching into a whole new world of ethically sourced, Amazon-branded products for the home -- starting with diapers and baby wipes. And with that move, it's forecasting what may be an interesting shift in its brand.
The move into ethically sourced products seems to be a direct response to firms such as The Honest Company, actress Jessica Alba's eco-friendly home goods venture. The Honest Company has raised more than $120 million in funding and has tapped well into the consumer movement of wanting products that promise to be good both in terms of quality and ethics.
But it's not all about getting into the baby market. After all, Amazon is already in the baby product business with its Diapers.com, a site it acquired in 2010 after an aggressive pricing war. (Amazon's chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, is also the owner of The Washington Post.) But with Amazon Elements -- available only to members of the company's Prime program -- Amazon is indicating that it knows consumers are looking for something else. Elements products will have a QR code printed on the package that users can scan with their smartphones. That will bring up information in a users' Amazon app on where the product came from and how it was made.
“The two things customers told us they want are premium products that meet their high standards, and access to information so they can make informed decisions,” Sunny Jain, the company's vice president of consumables, said in a statement. "We’ve leveraged our strengths in technology to bring customers an unprecedented level of information about these products, all with just the click of a button.”
The move comes at a time when Amazon is pushing to get known more as a goods producer than simply a retailer. This fall, it announced its largest batch of product launches ever, with a half-dozen new tablets and e-readers and even a smartphone -- though that device, admittedly, has failed to take off.
With the phone, as with its Fire HDX line of tablets and the recent Kindle Voyage e-reader, Amazon has attempted to position its products more as a premium choice. That's a departure, in part, from its former product philosophy, which was essentially to sell super-cheap gadgets and profit from the content people bought through them.
In fact, Amazon Elements products are a little more expensive than their counterparts because of the way they're produced. Rather than have its labeled products be cheaper and "generic," Amazon may be looking to this experiment as a new way to burnish its name.
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