Amazon & You… Enemies with Benefits

Greg White

Greg White


Commerce has changed...changed for good...and changed for the better.

In the days of Mad Men, brands pushed goods on consumers and presented a broad identity for consumers to aspire toward by choosing their product.

To quote the Rolling Stones take on advertising;

"...a man comes on and tells me how white my shirt can be, but he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me."

Today, the consumer so often knows their personal identity, is comfortable with it, and selects brands that accommodate it. Consumers can still be influenced, and even guided to select a product, but today products reflect self-identity rather than shape it.

The consumer has the power in today’s commerce. They have access to endless information. They and their friends are likely to evaluate, validate an actuate their desire for an item before a retailer or brand even knows they are interested.

How did it happen?

You guessed it. Amazon is largely responsible for this. They, and to a lesser extent, other retail brands are forecasting the consumer (not the products) and responding rapidly with what their complex algorithms tell them consumers want.

Amazon is so often right in reflecting the desires of the consumer, that the consumer has changed how, and where they shop. Amazon is unquestionably in the driver’s seat in accommodating today’s consumer desires. They are also moving this capability into the business-to-business world…and rapidly.

If you are in retail or even distribution, you compete against Amazon. Amazon has entered markets like auto parts, furniture and wine and spirits. No market is safe from encroachment.

So Amazon is the enemy, right?
Sure, enemy. Amazon is a threat to every business on the planet. Rest assured that when the largest retailer in the world buys a business like, they see the future coming, and coming fast.

It is no longer deniable. And believe me at many of my speaking engagements, I’ve heard some serious denial…for instance:

"...I can’t conceive a world where Amazon is able to compete with our technical expertise. How can they offer the same knowledge to our customers that we do?”

All I can say to that is…REALLY? You can’t conceive a world? If that statement isn’t the problem in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. Amazon is a company that has created its own currency. Nothing is out of reach.

However, just in case anyone remains unclear, let me shed some light on how Amazon can do virtually anything:

  1. They are rich – Market cap $448B, Cash $22B
  2. They are technologically superior – they have, and can continue to build or buy any technology they want to enable their business (google: Kiva, drones, FireTV, etc.)
  3. They have ubiquitous brand recognition – Amazon. Enough said.

So what do you do?

First what you don’t do. You don’t mimic. Except for a rare few of you (Walmart, Costco, Kroger) you can’t afford to do what Amazon does. Time after time, I’ve spoken with company leaders, some of them venerable forces in their own market who say,

“We want to be the Amazon of our market.”

I’ve held back, but I can no longer. I’m sorry ladies and gents, it’s too late. Amazon is, or will be, the Amazon of your market. Wonder why? See 1, 2 and 3 above.

So what do you do? You admit it, you accept it, you embrace it. You solve for the goals and results that make Amazon a threat and success. You do it in a way that fits your business. You adapt and you do it now. You get introspective, and do three things:

  1. Generate cash. Cash generates agility. Get efficient and effective with your people, processes and technology. Wasted time, inventory & capital are weaknesses you can no longer tolerate.
  2. Discover and enhance your true competitive advantage. Let's say you have strong technical expertise, like our friends in the quotes above. Focus on your niche and monetize that, rather than trying to compete on price and availability.
  3. Embrace the enemy. You sell against, sell with, and fulfill for Amazon. You provide products, services and competitive advantage that augment your business and that of your greatest threat. Friends close, enemies closer. Maybe you thrive on your technical expertise...or maybe they buy you.

Finally, as we strive to do, you must save your slice of commerce from the status quo. Constantly question, challenge and evolve your business in this new commerce environment. Make yours one of the many companies securing sales, profit and opportunity by predicting your customer and embracing enemies with benefits.