Well in advance of the holiday shopping season, Amazon has debuted AmazonSmile, a site that allows people to dedicate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible items to their charity of choice. Almost a million charities are currently participating and more are invited to apply to be part of the program; Amazon is steering customers to the Red Cross, DoSomething.org, charity:water, and the Nature Conservancy, among others.
Not every item for sale at Amazon is part of the AmazonSmile program, and in particular, Subscribe and Save purchases are excluded. Amazon sales were $61 billion in 2012, so if only 10% of purchases are made through smile.amazon.com, that could drive $3 million in donations to charities.
The company has micro-thin profit margins—it took a loss, yet again, in the third quarter of 2013. The decision to squeeze revenue even further with a charitable giveaway reads as the latest move in founder/CEO Jeff Bezos's maverick playbook. With moves like same-day delivery and the Matchbook program, he has proven himself again and again unafraid, even gleeful, to leave money on the table if it will help his company undercut competitors and distinguish itself in inspiring customer loyalty.