Shoppers say they are rethinking Amazon in light of its decision to end its Amazon Smile charity program. "Well, if @amazon is cutting back spending and ending #AmazonSmile, then I similarly can cut back spending and shift all of my family's necessities and consumables to other vendors," a customer tweeted upon hearing the news.
The Amazon Smile program allowed customers to sign up and select their favorite charity and - as long as they shopped by visiting smile.amazon.com instead of amazon.com - Amazon would donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the chosen charity. There was no cost to the shopper - as the Amazon Smile landing page explained, "Same products, same prices, same service."
But on January 18, 2023, Amazon announced it would end the program
on February 20th. "In 2013, we launched AmazonSmile to make it easier for customers to support their favorite charities. However, after almost a decade, the program has not grown to create the impact that we had originally hoped. With so many eligible organizations - more than 1 million globally - our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin."
But what Amazon called "spread too thin" was what small organizations considered so crucial. One person using the program to raise funds tweeted on Wednesday, "Amazon claims the Amazon Smile program didn't have an impact. I can tell you as an animal not for profit it made a huge difference to us. That $9400 meant the world. That isn't nothing to us."
Amazon said in Wednesday's announcement that while it was ending the program, it would continue to make charitable donations "where we've seen we can make meaningful change." But that message did not land as people reacted with shock, disappointment, and cynicism.
Josh Goldman, a prominent Venture Capitalist with deep ecommerce and Internet background, was among those questioning the reason behind the decision
to end Amazon Smile, tweeting the following on Wednesday evening:
"Boo @amazon - shutting down AmazonSmile. This was such a great way to support many worthy organizations. Their excuse that it didn't live up to expectations doesn't ring true. Seems more like corporate pressure to eke out a few more points of margin."
An EcommerceBytes reader who called AmazonSmile "a godsend for many local and regional charities over the past decade" did say it was commendable that Amazon intended to continue making donations to various projects of their choosing, but said they believed Amazon was shooting itself in the foot.
"The main reason I have been such a loyal shopper on Amazon for so many years is because it gave me the ability to help charities I support through AmazonSmile, namely animal shelters and rescues. Now I won't have the same enthusiasm for Amazon, or brand loyalty," the reader stated.
Amazon said in its announcement that once AmazonSmile closed, "charities will still be able to seek support from Amazon customers by creating their own wish lists." But that requires shoppers to pay for donations out of their own pocket.
Amazon may have been surprised by the attention the announcement garnered, from social media to television news programs. In a world where everyone is of divided opinion, many seemed united in their feeling of disappointment.
Will the demise of Amazon Smile have a lasting impact on shopper behavior and impact sales of third-party sellers who account for nearly 60% of unit sales on the marketplace?