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Amazon - the inside story

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A couple of months ago, myself and a few other people from the business packed our bags and headed to Seattle; home of Starbucks, Getty Images, Expedia and another company you may have heard of – Amazon.

While we did spend quite a bit of time drinking Starbucks lattes to stave off the jetlag, the reason we were there was to visit Amazon’s global headquarters and get an insight into how it works.

Our agenda was big and we were determined to fulfil it. We wanted to know:

- What is Amazon’s view on Big Data and AI and how does it use it?

- What is its recruitment strategy?

- How does it bring new products to market?

- How does Alexa work?

- Is the Amazon Doppler building as cool as it sounds?

- What’s the thinking behind Amazon Go?

- How does the new contact centre service Amazon Connect work?

- What’s the Amazon culture of innovation?

It was quite a lot bigger than we imagined

Although we knew about the scale of Amazon’s operation in Seattle, it still took us by surprise. It has nearly 40 buildings in Seattle, and the workforce is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. Over the next year or so there are plans in place to bring tens of thousands more people into the business.

A unique environment to work in

Looking around it was easy to see why people might enjoy working there, especially dog lovers. As employees are allowed to bring their pooches to work, there are regularly hundreds of animals on-site. And there are plenty of amenities for them including rooftop exercise areas, parking stations for when their owners are in meetings and even a grooming area filled with fresh towels.

And for the staff? Well, currently under construction are a series of huge glass domes that will house a tropical botanical garden, waterfalls and a river. It will act as a place where staff can get away from their desks, think freely and be inspired. 

There’s also a whole host of other amenities including a wide variety of restaurants and coffee shops, sports courts, games rooms, creative rooms and the first and only Amazon Go store where you can walk in, pick up whatever you want (such as a sandwich or a drink) walk out without paying manually, and cameras will track your activity. It’s all part of a huge experiment that will help the business develop new systems, artificial intelligence, logistics and much more. 

New technology is everywhere

It’s not just Amazon Go that lets people shop in the workplace. While we were there we also managed to pop in to one of the world’s only physical Amazon bookshops, where it uses insight taken from Amazon.com to decide which books to sell in the store. Each book has a card underneath showing the Amazon.com customer rating, and there’s also an area where you can try out the various Amazon devices.

We also had a play around with its new contact centre technology, Amazon Connect, which uses text-to-voice and allows you to change things quickly in real time. It was released to the rest of the world very recently, and means that businesses can now set up a cloud-based contact centre in just a few clicks.

Have a banana

Just to give everyone a daily ‘feel good’ vibe, Amazon has stalls set up every day giving away bananas to anyone who walks past. In fact, the company recently gave away its millionth banana.

Staying ahead

As we continue to utilise the tech solutions offered by Amazon Web Services, it's been really great getting to see inside the business and learn more about how it works. It’s clear it's passionate about testing and developing new solutions to keep itself, and others, at the forefront of innovation.

To read more about what Amazon is up to, have a look at its press releases.