• Anne Heaney, Director

The End of Amazon

It’s wildly innovative, persistently disruptive and laser-focused on its customers. Its growth trajectory is so staggering that brands across the spectrum have little choice but to partner with it or suffer the anguish of competing against it. It is feared, admired, even hated, but above all, it is seemingly invincible.

While this may seem a fitting description of the American e-commerce giant Amazon, these are also precisely the sorts of superlatives used, not long ago, to describe another retailer, one that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos forged much of his go-to-market philosophy around: Walmart.

Ironically, many of the elements that made Walmart so uniquely formidable were also the things that conspired to make it vulnerable to disruptive competitors like Amazon and others.

It’s this same conspiracy of success that is likely, at some point, to sideswipe Amazon but with even greater brutality and speed. Because unlike Walmart, which scaled its business in a largely industrial era where change, competition and consumer allegiance moved at a comparatively glacial pace, today’s retail world is built on digital rails where new ideas, concepts and technologies move at the speed of light and where customer loyalty is just as fleeting.

Amazon’s success with its current business model may be leaving it inherently blind to important social, economic or technological changes in e-commerce.

As a shopping experience, Amazon is about as elegant and enjoyable as a chainsaw. But like a chainsaw, Amazon is purpose-built to do one thing and one thing only; to deliver the largest selection of products with the greatest level of speed and convenience… period. And if you know what you’re looking for, it’s a sharp tool that works brilliantly.

The problem is that we, as human beings, don’t merely shop to acquire products. Not all the time anyway. We also shop to discover new things, to socialise with friends and to entertain ourselves. We shop for the thrill of the hunt and the associated dopamine rush to our brains when we find it. Amazon seemingly has no interest in these less transactional elements. Shopping on Amazon remains a solitary, static and sullen activity: a Sears catalogue on digital steroids.

Young start-up founders around the world are working to crack the code of a more immersive, interactive, entertaining and socially connected online shopping experience. When they do, Amazon could find itself in a position where it’s impossible to shift its course.

Just as Jeff Bezos used Walmart as his muse in the beginning, he may want to refer to it again in order to avoid a premature end. For brands, this is a cautionary tale. If you’re determined to do business with Amazon, do so with eyes wide open and a parachute packed.

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