business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Back in early December, MNB took note of reports that Amazon was launching a line of private label diapers and baby wipes under the brand name Amazon Elements, making them only available to members of its Prime membership program. Lower priced than national brands and described as being environmentally friendly, the goal of the line was to add yet more value to the Prime program, even at the risk of alienating some of the suppliers who helped make Amazon the world's biggest seller of diapers.

Well, apparently it wasn't just suppliers that Amazon may have rubbed the wrong way. There also apparently were some babies' rear ends, and maybe some parents....

Yesterday, Amazon said that it was pulling the diapers off the site, pending an re-engineering effort. Here's the email that previous diaper shoppers received:

Thank you for subscribing to Amazon Elements Soft & Cozy Diapers. Based on early customer feedback, we are making some design improvements to the diaper. In the meantime, Amazon Elements Soft & Cozy Diapers are no longer available, and we've stopped your subscription.

As a thank you for trying and subscribing to the diapers, we've applied a $25 promotional credit to your account that can be used on any item shipped and sold by Your credit will be automatically applied to your account the next time you checkout. If you have any further questions, please contact Customer Service. 

We value your feedback on our products, and we'd like you to test the new diapers once available. Please expect an invitation soon.

Some of the stories suggest that the feedback Amazon was getting from customers really didn't give it any choice.

There are a couple of lessons to be learned from these events.

One is that if you're going to put your name on a product, it probably makes sense to do plenty of due diligence. Apparently these things weren't tested enough on babies before they went up for sale.

But I also have to say that I wonder how much this will hurt Amazon. There's something to be said for a retailer that acknowledges a problem and deals with it expeditiously. The second time around has to go better than the first, but the up-front behavior and the credit will have to help.

These are Prime shoppers, and by definition, that means they are more committed and loyal to the Amazon ecosystem than regular shoppers. Amazon has to return that loyalty, which means getting the products and the prices right.

Which it seems like it is trying to do. It is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: