While the company’s shares (AMZN) saw significant growth in the winter months of 2017, the first weeks of April trading brought AMZN to new heights.
AMZN broke $900 during Tuesday (April 4) afternoon trading, peaking above $920 before tempering back down to around $894 by the end of the week. This week, Amazon is at it again. At the time of writing, one AMZN share was worth $919.43, up 0.37 percent from Monday’s close and trending upward still.
The online retail giant’s estimated market cap sat at just a tad over $439 billion—nearly twice that of Walmart. This is all very exciting to investors who have been eyeing a $1,000 milestone for this year.
The big play Amazon made in the past few weeks came in a form not normally associated with eCommerce, at least not in the more mature digital markets. Namely, in the form of cash.
Earlier this month, Amazon debuted Amazon Cash, a service whereby consumers can deposit cash at over 10,000 physical locations across the U.S., including CVS Pharmacy, Kum & Go, D&W Fresh Market, Speedway, Sheetz, Family Fare and VG’s Grocery. Those funds then show up in their Amazon balance.
Amazon Cash is not unlike PayPal’s My Cash Card or Payment Source’s Loadhub service, both of which work to open up eCommerce options to under- and unbanked populations, as well as to accommodate the ‘digitally nervous’ — consumers who would, if given the choice, prefer not to pay online.
Amazon Cash users download a reusable barcode to their smartphones (or to print) and display to participating merchants. Deposits can range from $15 to $500 per transaction. Amazon said the program is free to use, but there are no refunds once the cash is deposited in a user account.
It’s likely that Amazon looks to roll out its cash option to markets outside of the U.S. if it can get more retail locations to participate as tellers. With its major investments in India and the recent acquisition of Souq, Amazon looks to grow in two major cash-based markets. Amazon currently offers a cash-on-delivery option in the United Arab Emirates.
While the ultimate goal for businesses is perhaps to see these regions transition to digital-first (especially as far as payments are concerned), rolling out Amazon Cash in India and other nations in the Middle East could work in the short-term to open up new swaths of customers for the online retail giant, not to mention new buying channels to under- and unbanked consumers.
Though digital life doesn’t come without its own set of issues.
In the past few weeks, hackers have been targeting Amazon’s marketplace, directing attacks on the bank deposit information of its merchant sellers. Cybercriminals have stolen tens of thousands of dollars or had their inactive accounts leveraged by fraudsters to sell nonexistent merchandise.
The increase in fraudulent activity has come as the result of major data breaches in which account login credentials were swiped from companies like Adobe, Myspace and LinkedIn and sold on the dark web. An estimated 2.6 billion email addresses and passwords have been stolen in total.
To date, Amazon has some two million sellers and third-party merchants on its marketplace. Combined, these folks bring in more than half of its eCommerce sales. Concern is reportedly growing among merchants as to how strong Amazon’s security actually is.
A company spokesperson said that Amazon is “constantly innovating on behalf of customers and sellers to ensure their information is secure and that they can buy and sell with confidence. There have always been bad actors in the world who try to take advantage of consumers for financial gain; however, as fraudsters get smarter, so do we.”
The hacking issue isn’t the only authentication misstep Amazon was paying for in the past few weeks. In an agreement with the FTC, the online retail giant will end appeals to last year’s court findings that Amazon billed consumers for unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children.
All told, some $70 million in unauthorized in-app charges to Amazon will soon be eligible for refunds. So if your kid ordered something from an Amazon app without permission, you’re in luck! (Well, as long as it happened between November 2011 and May 2016.)
The company has plans to publish the details of how its refund program will function in the coming weeks.
The case and the agreement between Amazon and the FTC doesn’t cover the more recent ‘dollhouse incident’ wherein a voice broadcast on a local news report in San Diego accidentally ordered a dollhouse on some Alexa devices without authentication measures for purchases that picked up the audio.
Accidents can happen on the road to innovation. So remember, folks: kids and payment technologies don’t mix. Still, it’s not outrageous to expect that voice-activated ordering could ignite the next big wave of contested charges for Amazon and others leveraging the technology.