Amazon eliminates shopping user experience research team

Amazon is scaling back on user experience research.

The Amazon Shopping organization has laid off its entire user experience research staff.

In a recent LinkedIn post, Tracy McNulty, former principal user experience researcher at Amazon, announced that she and her entire team of about 14 employees had been laid off by Amazon in January 2023.

In addition, a text message sent by McNulty which was shown to Chain Store Age indicates she was surprised by the decision.

“On January 18, I was heartbroken to learn that Amazon made the decision to let go of the entire Shopping Design Research team,” McNulty wrote in the message. “We were small, scrappy and had experimental mindsets. We showed teams how user research could do more than evaluate/validate an already baked decision. We worked closely with teams to run A/B tests inspired by our insights which drove improvements to the customer experience and benefited the company financially.”

McNulty’s message went on to say that the Shopping Design Research team inspired a number of PRFAQs, written documents used at Amazon to propose early-stage product ideas, that drove several new initiatives at the company. She also said she can’t “understand or know” why Amazon made the decision to terminate the entire team.

Amazon to lay off 18,000 employees

In November 2022, Amazon publicly announced it has decided to “consolidate” some teams and programs in the devices and services organization (responsible for product lines such as Amazon Echo and Kindle devices). The company also announced a voluntary reduction offer for some employees in its People, Experience, and Technology (PXT) organization. As a result, Amazon said an unspecified number of jobs are being eliminated.

At the beginning of 2023, Amazon said it plans to eliminate just over 18,000 roles in 2023, with the majority of eliminations in its Amazon Stores and PXT organizations

Previous media reports had indicated Amazon was preparing to begin eliminating 10,000 corporate and technology roles, starting in November 2022. Those jobs were said to primarily be in the areas of devices, retail, and HR.

Amazon says it is working to support employees who are affected and is providing packages that include a separation payment, transitional health insurance benefits, and external job placement support. The company intends on communicating with impacted employees (or where applicable in Europe, with employee representative bodies) starting on January 18, 2023.

Amazon takes a corporate hiring break

These job cuts follow a recently announced hiatus in corporate hiring. The company has previously said it still intends to hire a “meaningful number of people” in 2023.

Amazon went on a major hiring spree in Sept. 2021, when it was still achieving record-breaking results from increased online shopping by consumers homebound due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The retailer hired more than 450,000 people in the U.S. between the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and September 2021, becoming the largest job creator in the U.S. in the process.

In 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon says it hired over 400,000 employees in the U.S.—of which, more than 60% were getting paid more than they were at their previous job.

[Read more: Amazon in hiring blitz; giving bonus to hires who show proof of vaccination]

During the second quarter of fiscal 2022, Amazon reduced its headcount by about 100,000 employees, and CEO Andy Jassy said the company would scale back operations with the sales boom it experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic cooling.

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