The company, based in Seattle, has had a two-decade-long obsession with shrinking the time from click to doorstep. It has built warehouses in more than 30 states and a sophisticated web of delivery methods, giving it a logistical advantage.
Amazon has used that edge to lead people to expect near instant gratification that, for a while, only it could deliver. The company built trust in its delivery speed with its Prime membership, which costs $119 a year and includes two-day shipping. This year, in the days leading up to Christmas, Amazon’s share of online sales will increase by almost 50 percent — to about half of all digital sales — while most rivals fade, according to the market research firm Rakuten Intelligence.
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“Amazon’s ability to fulfill more quickly and effectively than competitors has been a key differentiator back to the earliest days,” said Kenneth Cassar, an analyst with Rakuten Intelligence, which is an independent subsidiary of the Japanese e-retailer Rakuten.
Traditional retailers still enjoy strong sales when the holiday season begins around Thanksgiving. They advertise widely, luring shoppers with doorbuster deals. The promotions also drive sales to their websites instead of Amazon. Around Thanksgiving, Amazon’s share of online sales can dip to as low as 20 percent in the United States, according to Rakuten.
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But as November turns to December, and then into Christmas crunchtime, shoppers’ preferences change. Last year, Walmart and Target had their busiest online traffic of the month on Dec. 10. Amazon’s was eight days later, on Dec. 18, according to an analysis by Griffin Carlborg, a researcher at the digital intelligence firm Gartner L2.
The Last-Minute Option
Amazon’s share of e-commerce sales tends to drop around Thanksgiving, and usually peaks about one week before Christmas — just enough time for packages to be delivered before the holiday. Amazon’s quick delivery times may contribute to its popularity at Christmastime.