The Amazon effect on shipping and shopping habits is well documented by now. The e-commerce giant has normalized buying just about everything online from books to appliances to toiletries, even live plants and potted succulents.
Likewise, shipping carriers have adjusted to moving all kinds of goods they didn’t have to deal with before. Of course, they charge for those items. Every carrier now imposes hefty fees for large and heavy packages, especially during the holiday season. Carriers have had to re-organize their pricing models to account for strange sizes and shapes.
But Amazon’s next move takes this to another level.
This year, Amazon has announced that it will sell seven-foot real Christmas trees. Not fake, assemble-at-home, artificial christmas trees, but real pine trees cut 10 days before they ship.
Last year, a few third-party retailers sold trees on Amazon.com’s marketplace. But they didn’t have to compete directly with one of the world’s largest companies. Now they do.
Amazon Will Start Selling 7 Foot Live Christmas Trees With Prime Shipping
Last year, Amazon gave real Christmas trees a whirl. They sold three-foot trees during the holiday season. Clearly the return on investment was a good one because this year, the program is expanding.
Amazon will sell Douglas firs and Norfolk Island pines each measuring about seven feet. They cost about $115, although that could vary. Ten days after being cut, they’ll be placed in standard boxes—as standard as you can get for a seven-foot pine tree—and shipped without water. Amazon will start selling the live trees in November.
Some Prime members will be able to get trees within two days with free shipping. Customers can schedule delivery days so they can be home to meet their trees.
Additionally, Amazon will be selling poinsettias, wreaths and garlands—everything you might normally go to your local Christmas tree farm or florist to buy.
However, this is mostly uncharted territory. Last year, less than two percent of live Christmas trees were bought online. This is out of some 27 million in total.
The Executive Director of the National Christmas Tree Association, Tim O’Connor, told the Associated Press that most people haven’t typically been willing buying trees online. Last year, most of those online sales came from Christmas tree farms’ websites. The number was “so small, it’s almost undetectable,” he said of the online business.
But that’s before Amazon got involved. The company has a way of revolutionizing people’s shopping habits.
Customers Still Value Experiences
Part of the fun of buying a Christmas tree is going to the farm or Christmas tree lot and picking it out. If you spent any part of your life in New England, the Midwest or the Rocky Mountains, you likely have memories of visiting a Christmas tree farm with your family. Many make a day out of it, dressing up in snow gear and drinking hot chocolate while they pick out the perfect live tree to cut down.
It doesn’t even have to be snowing—many cities in the American south and the Great Plains have tree farms as well.
Can Amazon replicate that experience? Simply put, no, unless the company makes dramatic advances in virtual reality in the coming years. But that doesn’t mean it can’t create its own experience.
Customers who shop online still want to feel valued. They appreciate it when packages feel personalized with unique wrapping materials or individualized notes. Dozens of companies have capitalized on this desire for customization by creating subscription box services that tailor shipments specifically for individual customers. Some of those retailers even ask customers to celebrate their “unboxing experience” on social media to further build their brand.
Amazon hasn’t really mastered that personalization experience yet. It’s getting closer with customizable grocery services and a recently launched personal styling service.
But this is one area where small retailers still have an advantage: they have the bandwidth and the resources to make every customer feel special.
Will People Buy a Christmas Tree Online Unseen?
They certainly might. Amazon’s proposal could be attractive to city dwellers who can’t schedule a weekend trip out to a Christmas tree farm. It might also make sense for people who are ill, homebound or disabled, who aren’t able to set up a tree or spend hours outdoors in the cold. And there will always be a subset of busy people who prefer the convenience of free two-day shipping with the online retailer.
But that doesn’t mean Amazon is going to scoop up the whole Christmas tree market this year, or at any point in the foreseeable future. Experiences remain extraordinarily valuable to consumers. But remember consumers are changeable: some busy urban professionals may want to take their kids to Christmas tree farms in a decade, while other people will retire and no longer be able to do so.
From the Christmas tree industry perspective, this might even be good: Amazon will have to source its trees from existing farms. The ability to buy online might encourage people who have typically used artificial trees to gravitate back toward real ones.
Whatever happens to Christmas trees, remember that consumers value experiences. The more you can save on shipping, the more you can invest in experimentation that delights your customers and keeps them coming back. That’s the kind of innovation Reveel wants to set you free to do. Contact us today to start saving money on shipping so you can reinvest it in holiday joy.