Once Again, Amazon Owns Christmas

It's no longer a surprise when we see online holiday sales grow faster than -- if not at the expense of -- traditional store sales. It's even less of a surprise to find Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) leading the way. 

The leading online retailer put out some interesting metrics this morning:

  • Customers ordered 36.8 million items worldwide on Cyber Monday alone.
  • More than 1 million customers became Amazon Prime members during the third week of December. Amazon Prime offers a year of subsidized shipping and other digital goodies for $79 annually.
  • More than 200,000 exclusive books were added to the Kindle digital storefront in 2013.  
  • The average response time on Mayday requests -- the button that provides live video tech support to Kindle Fire HDX owners -- was a mere nine seconds on Christmas Day. After having to wait nearly nine hours for tech support from Mr. Softy last month for my buggy Xbox One, this is huge.

Amazon also rattled off countless other colorful metrics, including how many NCAA football fields it can satisfactorily illuminate with the miniature flashlights it sold or the length of the rainbow looms it helped deliver, but that's just flash. The real meat is that Amazon continues to grow its share of the retail market, likely growing faster than its smaller rivals. It also continues to build a digital ecosystem that is now ripe with 27 million digital media items, including movies, shows, tunes, magazines, books, audiobooks, games, and apps. 

It wasn't perfect. Like so many other retailers out there, Amazon didn't get everything right this time. An unusually high number of orders that were guaranteed for Dec. 24 delivery didn't make it on time. FedEx (NYSE: FDX  ) and UPS (NYSE: UPS  ) are bearing the brunt of the Grinch actions. They were swamped with a spike in last-minute orders and weren't able to come through on many packages. This happens every year, but the reports were far more widespread in 2013. We can blame the short holiday shopping season, as Thanksgiving took place on the latest possible day this year, but a lot of traditional chains also saw a spike in last-minute orders from folks who didn't want to brave the mall crowds. FedEx and UPS weren't ready, but customers will naturally take it out on the digital storefronts.

Amazon is doing its part to respond to that anger. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the e-commerce giant is refunding any shipping charges incurred in the post-Christmas deliveries. It's also including $20 gift certificates. Yes, Amazon gets it right. Once again it owns Christmas, and it's no surprise that the stock kicked off this holiday-shortened trading week by hitting a new all-time high.

Amazon's leading the new way to shop
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