Consumers want companies that do good. And doing good means going beyond practicing company values throughout the organization.
When your company gives back, you encourage brand loyalty. You bolster engagement when your organization shares a mission and purpose with your target market. It comes as no surprise then that many businesses have expanded their corporate social responsibility programs to include innovative ways to help charities.
Amazon has one such program: Amazon Smile.
What is Amazon Smile?
Amazon Smile is a separate site developed and run by the titan of e-commerce. It is, what Amazon calls: “feel-good shopping” because you log onto smile.amazon, shop and the e-tailer donates on your behalf.
The charitable organization will be left up to you, and you’ll have multiple options. Over a million organizations are connected with Amazon Smile; you’ll find organizations working with children, poor farming communities, victims of human trafficking, homeless, senior citizens and a long list of other groups that are in dire need of support.
Other charities are advocates of criminal justice reform, environmental initiatives, affordable health care and animal rescue.
So you have a variety of options no matter what cause you support.
But how much will you be able to donate?
Every purchase you make on smile.amazon automatically allows you to donate 0.5 percent to a charity of your choice. The 0.5 percent is taken from the price of your purchase, which is exclusive of shipping, handling, taxes, rebates and other applicable service charges.
The prices of products on Amazon Smile will be the same as the ones you’ll see on Amazon.com. Your donations, however, are not tax deductible.
How Do You Use Smile on Amazon?
You can shop on Amazon Smile in two ways:
- Go to smile.amazon and sign up, or
- Activate Amazon Smile on your Amazon Shopping app through the Settings or Programs menu. Tap AmazonSmile and follow the instructions.
First-time shoppers are directed to a list of charitable organizations. You’ll be asked to pick organizations you’ll want to receive donations from your future eligible purchases. This means that every time you shop on smile.amazon, you don’t have to list a preferred charity.
If for whatever reason you’ve changed your mind about a charity, you can replace it.
- Go to smile.amazon.com/change, or
- Choose AmazonSmile on your app
- Pick “Change your charity”
The new charity you picked will then receive donations from your future purchases.
Some charities on Amazon Smile also request products. If you want to do more than the 0.5 percent donation, you could donate requested items to organizations. Look through the list, click the items onto your Amazon cart and send the products to the charity.
Although all of this sounds like a good thing, some find the program insufficient.
What’s the Downside to Amazon Smile?
What’s not to like about getting a product you want and having that purchase contribute to organizations that do good?
A few things, it turns out.
The Downsides to Amazon Smile
- The percentage of a donation is too small; you would need to spend $2,000 to donate $10. If you’re not a big shopper, your donations may not amount to much. Yes, every cent counts. But if you’re intention is to make a donation greater than $10, you don’t have to spend over two grand on Amazon. You could just go ahead and send money to a charity of your choice.
- You would have to be signed in to smile.amazon to make your purchase count toward a donation. Not every shopper is going to be prompted to switch from Amazon.com to Amazon Smile. If the intention is to purely buy a book you’ve been wanting to read or a gift card for your niece’s birthday, changing websites would be a hassle for a 0.5 percent donation.
- Amazon’s intentions for “doing good” appears disingenuous. The Amazon smile logo has not been synonymous with goodwill in the last few years. Among the many issues people have brought up against the e-commerce giant are: subpar working conditions, missing wages, a barrage of employee abuses and a host of other uncharitable, unkind actions. So people are understandably suspicious of Amazon’s motives behind its program. Add the seeming inconvenience of switching websites to make donations, and people will doubt the e-tailer’s desire to do good with Amazon Smile.
- The quality of charities may not do much to provide financial support to nonprofits that have limited resources. Because Amazon understands the effect of too many options on consumers, it created Spotlight Charities to help shoppers choose with ease. Spotlight Charities features five main organizations, like Red Cross and The Nature Conservancy. Both charities already receive substantial donations outside of Amazon’s Smile, which means the smaller nonprofits have little to no chance of receiving donations.
The downside, for critics of Amazon Smile, is you’re not helping charities as much as you can. But you are adding more revenue to an already massive business. Even in an economic downturn and a slowdown in retail sales, Amazon still makes money.
In 2020, Amazon’s profits skyrocketed to 84 percent. Its sales reached $386 billion. In 2022, even amid a sluggish retail market, the e-commerce giant saw profits in other areas of its business. Its Amazon Web Services took in $17.8 billion in revenue.
How Do You Get Out of Smile.Amazon?
It comes as no surprise then that most people who started to try out smile.amazon now want out. They just want to go in, shop and get out. Although you could probably just not sign into your account on charitable arm of Amazon, you may want to be fully out of it.
So how do you get out of smile.amazon? Try the video below for some instruction:
Amazon shoppers number in the millions, with the e-commerce’s subscription service, Amazon Prime, having 150 million members. Clearly, it has the reach necessary to help millions of nonprofits. Although its charitable website is a good start, more push needs to be done.
It must make it easier for shoppers to donate. It must give exposure to smaller charities instead of highlighting already established ones.
The Business of Doing Good
Businesses that have taken the initiative to do good, beyond making donations, get consumer approval quick enough. But buyers are highly discerning and sensitive to the true intentions of a for-profit. Some valuable lessons can be learned from Amazon’s cause-related marketing.
Sincerity matters where corporate social responsibility is concerned; conveying that sincerity to the public is of equal importance. So if you’re developing a program similar to Amazon’s, see what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong.