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Site Wars: Retail - Amazon vs. Play.com

Updated on December 30, 2017
Craig Easom profile image

Craig has been a writer on HubPages since 2013. He is currently studying for Marketing at Nottingham Trent University—in the land of Robin.

(cc image) The Only Site Missing Here is Google, But Luckily For Amazon Google Doesn't Have an Online Superstore
(cc image) The Only Site Missing Here is Google, But Luckily For Amazon Google Doesn't Have an Online Superstore

In the 2000s Customers Loved Play.com, and According to Research Findings, Customer Satisfaction Was Number 1 at Play.com, and Then in Second Place, Was Amazon

Amazon is king, the biggest online e-retailer known to mankind, and it feels as though this could never change. There, we can buy entertainment goods (Blu-Rays, CD's, music downloads, etc.), homeware, electronics, garden and outdoors equipment, etc., and the limits to what we can buy feel ever the more endless, and this is all thanks to Amazon's ability to grow continuously, selling more goods than ever before, each and every day.

Amazon have monopolised the e-retail atmosphere, putting other businesses into seriously heated competition, as they must continue to evolve with the technological changes, merely to stay on their feet, and these brands are heavily reliant on brand loyalty, as this remains one of the few boundaries between Amazon and the competition going under. The cold-hearted truth is that retail isn't the capital empire that it once was, as there is a fierce battle between the lasting physical retail establishments, and the universal competition online controlled by Amazon.

Amazon can not be put to total blame for certain retailers going under over the years, but it most certainly didn't help, and the ones that couldn't compete are typically the ones that stop evolving, and stop trying to be the tomorrow brand instead of the comfortable brand of yesterday, as competitive prices, web-appeals, and customer service will knock these comfortable brands straight to the curb.

One of these comfortable brands of yesterday is Zavvi, but at its height this brand would have in actuality been Virgin Megastore, turned HMV, turned the eventual Zavvi. Sure, there are still a select set of Zavvi and HMV stores, both selling entertainment and entertainment related goods, but certainly nothing to write home about. In Amazon's beginnings, they were an online e-retailer selling paperback/hardback books, later selling the rest of the entertainment and entertainment related goods, which certainly dealt a slow blow to the entertainment retailers, pressuring them into a darkened corner, and eventually bankruptcy.

Amazon were out for blood, knocking WHSmith into a much smaller, less meta part to the retail atmosphere, and subsequently did a similar job to Waterstones, and even sent Woolworths out of business. No-one can argue over Amazon's dominance online, and given the number of online shoppers, and the convenience of this space for shopping, they have been closing down retailers, online and in-store (or both) for well over a decade now.

(cc image - Alamy stock photo) Play.com, once a privately owned organisation, now run by the Rakuten group, a Japanese Owned corporation)
(cc image - Alamy stock photo) Play.com, once a privately owned organisation, now run by the Rakuten group, a Japanese Owned corporation)

Play.com (2000-2011)

Play.com was owned and operated out of Jersey, a place where companies received tax breaks selling to the UK mainland, and for over a decade Play.com remained a British online-selling success, with many back in 2007 arguing that the e-retailer service offered by Play.com to be far superior to that of the great, and mighty Amazon superstore.

Take Play.com, back in 2000 their online operations comprised of selling region 1 and 2 DVDs only, but were quick to expand into also selling CDs, video-games, and other electronic items, mostly following the categorisation of the entertainment industry. Essentially, Play.com was competing with in-store entertainment retailer brands, such as HMV, Virgin Megastore, Woolworths, and in 2004 they started selling books and electronics, forcing newer competition against WHSmith and Woolworths.

Play.com was perfect, since their entertainment goods and electronics gave customers free delivery on all items bought, something that was relatively new to the online e-retailer marketplace. Troubles were afoot, as Amazon was establishing itself as the online e-retailer superstore, and they were selling everything that Play.com was selling, and then everything else that we could possibly imagine needing, and then some more stuff.

Despite troubled waters, Play.com was still well-established, and had its tax cuts making business in the UK all but too tempting, and in 2006 it started selling personal computers, posters and t-shirts. At its peak, in 2008, Play.com began selling downloadable MP3s, clothing, clothing accessories and tickets for events, but this wasn't going to be enough for Play.com to survive the heat-wave being caused by Amazon's great dominance and boom in 2008, the year when Play.com's overall user-ship and sales began to drop, significantly.

We don't know what it was that essentially caused Play.com's fall from mighty reign in the UK's hot online retailer listings, but this was ultimately what came to a head, as it appeared Amazon was far superior on all fronts, and Play.com simply could not compete, not when it came down to the brink of brand loyalty, and what perhaps caused the slippery slope for Play.com could be presumed to be the take-off of Netflix, and the start to a new era of digital online streaming for movies, TV shows, and amongst various other online services (YouTube, Spotify, iTunes etc.), music, as well.

Let's face it, Play.com's key sales came from the very market of goods that have sent all forms of entertainment retailers into mediocre ghost stores, and some examples might include; HMV, Virgin Megastore, Zavvi, Woolworths, and WHSmith, all of which are companies that have either been sent into bankruptcy, or serious downsizing of business modelling, and scopes of business operations. Play.com, the perfect entertainment store for the online atmosphere, and even their sister brand site - PlayUSA.com, couldn't compete with the changing business models throughout the entertainment industry, with the shift into digital markets, and of course the battling front being forced by Amazon's giant scopes of online retail superstore dominance worldwide.

In truth, Play.com was a great online retailer, well adaptable to the modern needs of retailer consumership in the UK and especially across the western hemisphere, but they simply couldn't function in a depleting market that saw Play.com as an unnecessary brand, with 90% of the market shifting to Amazon, and this only worsened with Play.com's web-interface changes, ultimately coming to a close in 2011, when Play.com was initially bought for £25 million by the Japanese-owned group organisation, Rakuten.com.

Today, Play.com has been rebranded, now known as Rakuten.co.uk (/.com), as the brand now works with other UK retailers, such as HMV, WHSmith, etc. to offer customer super-points for their purchases. In itself, this comes after Rakuten's failure to make their business model work for Play.com, as they turned the website around, but in an entirely different direction, and as a result, those who may have been familiar with Play.com, will have found themselves having a far worse experience, since Rakuten changed the interface for the site, and it didn't feel premium. Lacking the user experience, exceptional products or services on offer, or even a unique selling point, Rakuten were forced into foreclosing the original Play.com website in 2013, straight after changes were made regarding Jersey's tax laws in regards to operating in business with the UK mainland.

Failing to deliver, Play.com's ultimate demise came with a lack in capital investment, as they would have needed a much better business model with the US market, but they didn't, and in 2011, the US operated sister brand, PlayUSA.com, was not all that great. In the UK, Play.com was an exceptional business, but in a way, it may be worth noting that the tax breaks in Jersey back in 2011 had no way of functioning in the US, and as such, their business modelling for various national markets outside of the UK was severely lacking, which for Britain feels like a sad series of events, as Play.com was once a beloved website, simply lacking in the investment to expand operations successfully into a more consumer-friendly Play.com, operating in the US.

(cc image) Amazon, the Online Superstore, Selling All Goods, A-Z, and Amazon's Very Own Kindle Digital Reading Device is a Top Selling Product, Each and Every Year
(cc image) Amazon, the Online Superstore, Selling All Goods, A-Z, and Amazon's Very Own Kindle Digital Reading Device is a Top Selling Product, Each and Every Year

Amazon.com (1995-Present)

In 1995, Amazon officially established itself as an online retailer, and their products remained solely of books, an idea that came from a choice of selling one of the most popular product types in the world, and books just so happened to be on the list, preferred because they are low cost to sell, and can be sold in a high quantity on the worldwide market, with Amazon even laying down claim to being the biggest book store in the world, a claim that has been disputed on multiple occasions, including conflict with Barnes & Nobles and Walmart, both settled out of court in the late 90s.

Amazon, began very much like Play.com, starting up shop during the online boom in the late 90s-early 2000s, when there was a massive influx of customers taking their custom to the online universe, benefited by PayPal, a separate company entity that would secure all online payments made by customers. Make a PayPal account, shop on Amazon (say, for instance), choose at checkout the PayPal icon, and a customer must enter their PayPal details (all, completely safe and secure), and in choosing this option, the money goes through a safe, secure and reliable middle-business-operations brand, and no credit card details need be entered onto new, and unknown sites.

In time, e-retail sites like Amazon have generated enough income, enough loyal users to not require the reassurance given by companies like PayPal, but back in the initial online e-retailer boom it was these kinds of businesses that appeared like a safe haven to potential online customers. Remember, back in the days when PayPal was exclusively partnered with E-Bay, the online second sourced e-retailer, the height of the brands business records, as PayPal were quick to notice the potential business elsewhere, and it wasn't long before the business was being used by e-retailers; left, right and centre.

Amazon, headed by Bezos, turned the online superstore into the worlds most renowned retailer brand, and in doing so, turned the business into a thriving corporation, listed on the public stock exchange as AMAZN, one of the worlds leading stocks, having turned Bezos into one of the richest men in the world, estimated by the celebritynetworth.com website to be worth someone in the region of $40 billion (probably more), a mammoth of a net worth, and comes as a result of his perseverance with his leading online retailer brand, Amazon.

Bezos started Amazon, the worlds leading online e-retailer site back in 1995, having for a short brief period of time considered naming the business Relentless, which would have made the site Relentless.com.

But, due to advise from close family and friends who thought the name sounded somewhat aggressive, he opted out of the name, and instead chose to call the site Amazon, thinking that it would stand out on search engine results, given that alphabetically the business would start with the letter A, and then finish with the abbreviation of the letter Z.

However unusual, the site named Amazon, does have the feeling of the dominant presence of the letter A and the letter Z, and so came the logo design for the arrow pointing from A to Z, representing that they sell everything from the letter A to the letter Z, a smart and crucial side to Amazon's marketing success.

There was another reasoning behind Bezos's choice to name the site Amazon, and that was due to it representing the aims of the business, as the Amazon river is the longest running river in the world, and Bezos's aim was to make Amazon the biggest online retailer, selling everything from books to gardening tools.

Strange to find a store that sells both books and gardening equipment, but that is one of the very marvels of the online retailing atmosphere, as there is a place for every product on a website store, whereas within a physical store there will always be restrictions, as a physical store can only sell a certain variety of goods, and in truth, customers always want more. Bezos recognised a need, and he filled it.

Amazon, in 2017, remains the biggest online retailer superstore, offering every level of goods a person could ever think of needing, and the wants are all but satisfied at the great scopes of Amazon's daily sales quota, fulfilling every human need under the single roof of one site. Think Prime, as there is still one boundary between customers and customer satisfaction in e-retailer business, and that is the delivery fees, but by signing up for an Amazon Prime membership, the user pays a relatively small fee of £6.99 a month, and in turn they receive the online streaming service (Prime, instant), and then they also receive the addition of free delivery, on all Amazon deliveries.

(cc image - Bezos) - Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon (.com) - the superstore nobody saw coming, and since its rise in the late 90s, it has become a household web-known brand, and is still on the rise today
(cc image - Bezos) - Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon (.com) - the superstore nobody saw coming, and since its rise in the late 90s, it has become a household web-known brand, and is still on the rise today

Play.com vs. Amazon

Since Play.com no longer exists, at least not as the site that it once was, all those years ago, it really cannot be compared to the Amazon online superstore as we head into 2018. However unfamiliar the Play.com brand might be to people, there is no doubting that it was once an efficient, ground-breaking e-retailer machine, and those who are more familiar with the Play.com site history, it was once a most favoured online site for goods purchases.

Desperate attempts to keep up with Amazon, sadly led to the demise of the once great and great named Play.com online e-retailer mega store, but how does it really compare to Amazon, now that we are heading into 2018. That's right, Play.com does still exist on the world wide web, but only as a lead back to Rakuten.co.uk, a site that gives its users points rewards for shopping at partnered entertainment stores, like HMV and Zavvi.

Amazon, reigns king, since it persevered through the hard times throughout the late 90s, defying online e-retailer analysts who thought that Amazon would go bust, as Bezos, the Amazon company founder, was seen as the seemingly insane CEO for Amazon on the stock market, with many believing that he would send the company into forced bankruptcy. And, where Bezos succeeded in his Amazon ventures, he proved that his unorthodox business plan could work, and since the 90s' Amazon store days, the online superstore has since become one of the largest corporations in the world.

Still run by Bezos, he has turned Amazon into the most successful online retailer on the planet, turning a profit in an industry that is renowned for conserving large sums of debt, after ultimately reaching a record high for sales, and from here, it typically goes down hill for a retail business establishment. This is not however the case for Amazon, as year in and year out, the company has overtaken its previous quarter in overall sales, and to make this a viable business proposition, in the UK alone Amazon has 3 very large distribution centres where all Amazon goods are stored and moved into transit for the whole region.

Bezos started Amazon online as the worlds biggest book store retailer, quickly succeeding in this objective, he moved Amazon onwards and upwards, selling all forms of entertainment goods, which led onto clothing, clothing accessories, electronics, homeware, gardening accessories, and everything else under the sun.

Even with all of the departments of sales choices, Bezos was sure that their key customer was still infatuated with their online book store, and due to this Amazon began selling and distributing e-books, a revolutionary way for customers to interact with their favourite authors book collections, without having to store these books on shelves and in boxes within their homes. The digital empire, and Amazon just about owns the e-book market, as they encourage independent authors, independent book publishers, and their key website e-book buyers love this about their business model.

Thinking of our favourite e-book authors, these are often times small novelists and bloggers who are just getting started out in their writing endeavours, and Amazon makes things simple for us to support them, as there is no discrimination in online listings for e-books, regardless of the size of the books publisher, and regardless of the amount of money that has been spent on book marketing, as Amazon want only the best books being easy to find for their e-book customers.

This might sound like exactly the type of listing that would boost heavy expenditure marketed books, but in reality, there are tens of thousands (perhaps a lot more) of successful independent authors on the Amazon e-book store, and often times, they spend very little in getting their books out there for the world to see.

Basically, Amazon's e-book store is revolutionary, and by no stretch of the imagination was (or, is) Play.com, a site that had a simpler tool for book buyers to find the popularly published physical books. We love Amazon's e-book collections, and most importantly, their ambitions to support the far wider community of independent book writers, as they aim to make finding that rising star author far easier, especially when compared to other e-book sellers like Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, and all the others.

Book related, what more could Bezos do to appeal to his book revolutionary buyers, well there was the Amazon Kindle, an electronic book reading tablet-style designed book reader which allows e-book readers at the Amazon Kindle store to read all of their digitally bought books on their Kindle reader device. Starting at an affordable retail price of £99.00, the Kindle reader has been very popular on the Amazon store, encouraging a wider number of people, ultimately of the digital age, to pick up an attractive electronic reader device, lighter in the hand, to read some most favoured book titles.

Since those early days of the Kindle device/Kindle e-book store, the site has made various improvements to improve the Kindle store, and there have even been various advancements on the Kindle device itself, which make the light on the device much more visible in the dark, and have even brought out a larger capacity version, the Kindle Fire device, operating more as an actual tablet, rather than a tablet-style device that only enables access to the users e-book collection.

Play.com (2000-2011) (Summary)

Pros

  • Vibrant in user-interface colours
  • The website name sounds fun and appealing as a superstore retailer
  • User satisfaction was high

Cons

  • No longer active (now, Rakuten.co.uk ran and owned)

Amazon (1995-Present) (Summary)

Pros

  • Books marketing dominant - even in late 2017
  • Sells almost everything of the goods world
  • Owns the rights to Kindle, and the Kindle store
  • Offers free delivery on all goods bought at the Amazon store, for all Prime members (£6.99 per month - and get Prime Instant Video)
  • Most products are the cheapest priced from around the internet
  • Well-established, and offer descent goods returns policies
  • Even with free delivery, all Amazon deliveries are sent out and received by customers in no time

Cons

  • Marketed as the online e-retailer superstore (selling all items, A-Z), but there is no doubting that this store functions best when buying entertainment goods (books, Blu-Rays, video-games, etc.), whereas other departments do feel a tad pushed upon Amazon site roamers, with very little trust in the eyes of potential site buyers.

Thanks for reading, all opinions are welcome down in the comments section below.

© 2017 Dreammore

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