Amazon, always on the lookout for more products to sell on its e-commerce platform, is taking a turn to ethically sourced home essentials for its latest launch. Amazon Elements, debuting today, is a new own-brand line aimed at consumers willing to pay a little extra for products made with more transparency and ideally fewer nasty ingredients, with QR Codes included on the packaging so you can find out as much as you want to know. The first Elements products on offer will be a range of diapers and baby wipes.
Elements is notable for a couple of other reasons: it’s yet another extension for Amazon into own-branded goods; and it’s another example of how the company is pushing its premium loyalty program. For now, Elements products are only available to Prime members.
From the looks of it, Elements is a direct competitor to Honest.com, the company co-founded by actress Jessica Alba that — yes — offers ethically sourced home essentials, including diapers and other baby products. Honest.com, which has raised over $120 million in VC funding, is possibly one of the more high-profile competitors, but there are actually dozens of others, including several that sell on Amazon.com’s marketplace.
That level of competition, and Amazon’s entry into it, underscore how transparency and ethical standards in products have started to become more mainstream demands for a certain demographic. (Another mark of that rise: Whole
Customer demand is what Amazon is saying motivated it to break into the category:
“The two things customers told us they want are premium products that meet their high standards, and access to information so they can make informed decisions. Amazon Elements offers both,” said Sunny Jain, Amazon.com Consumables Vice President in a statement. “We’ve leveraged our strengths in technology to bring customers an unprecedented level of information about these products.” Details will include ingredients, explanations of those ingredients and their origins, date and place of manufacture, and more.
I have reached out to Amazon to see if the company can give a bit more insight into how Elements will develop.
Will parents who don’t subscribe to Prime ever get a chance to buy these diapers and wipes? What other products will Amazon add to the mix in the future?
For now, there seems to be at least a small clue in answer to the latter of those questions. In the menu of items listed for Amazon Elements, in addition to the baby products, Amazon also includes vegetable juice beverages from its grocery and gourmet food category — although clicking through doesn’t produce any items.
Amazon, it seems, has decided to launch these early Elements products on its own site, rather than offer them through Diapers.com, its Quidsi property dedicated to — you guessed it — baby and kids products. (We’ve asked if Elements products will ever make their way there, too.)
It seems that for now the main focus is to go slowly on this launch (a common strategy for Amazon). Tapping into the growing interest in premium products like these, Amazon is using that as a carrot to bring more users on to Amazon’s Prime offering.
The thinking here, of course, is that the kind of person who may have the means to spend a little more on nicer nappies for their little ones may also be the same kind of person who might be interested in paying a bit more to get other extras from Amazon.
And as a sidenote, focusing on new parents is smart: in my own personal experience as a new mom, I found myself often more willing to buy premium products for my kids (say, organic shampoo and those chlorine-free nappies) than I was willing to spend that kind extra of money on the same sorts of products for myself. In other words, tapping into the new-parent category, you may actually be casting your commerce net wider than it might normally reach.
The focus on offering an own-brand goods, meanwhile, seems to be a growing category for the company. In addition to its Kindle e-readers, tablets and smartphone, Amazon also offers AmazonBasics, a range of electronics accessories but also other products, like outdoor furniture. Now with Elements, it can add own-brand premium products to the mix.
Update: Amazon tells me that there is no plan to extend the service outside of Prime. “We are constantly adding value to the Amazon Prime membership program,” a spokesperson says. “Amazon Elements adds greater selection and convenience for Prime members.” It’s not commenting on any future products.