retail news in context, analysis with attitude

This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

I wanted to share with you an email I got the other day. It reads:

"I love most of everything on MNB but your slavish devotion to Amazon is starting to gall me as a small business owner.

"Are you enjoying Amazon’s 'long-term goal of world domination'?  In the last year, Amazon and Google Shopping have taken total control of the “top of the fold” section of Google search results.  This has resulted for many on-line retailers of a loss in traffic approaching 50% regardless of how good our organic search results are. 

"Added to this is the fact that many retailers use Amazon as a way to violate MAP pricing rules by using the Amazon umbrella to undercut MAP pricing guidelines set by manufacturers.  Not to mention that 'Show-rooming' has evolved as a technique to allow consumers and their smartphones to use brick and mortar retailers as a way to view products and then buy them on-line from Amazon.  Finally, Amazon with their enormous shipping volume can ship same or next-day anywhere in the country for prices unobtainable by the average retailer.

"Small retailers are dropping like flies and the internet is becoming one homogenous platform.  Not necessarily good ultimately for the consumer."

I get your point. I don't think I have a "slavish devotion to Amazon," but I certainly understand why you might get that impression. I also would reject the suggestion that I might be "enjoying" its march to world domination ... when I use that phrase, my tongue actually is firmly in cheek.

I do think the following. You are right about pretty much everything you say about Amazon. In a lot of ways, Amazon is carving out for itself some enormous competitive advantages which are going to put a lot of other retailers at a competitive disadvantage.

Not to be tough, or glib or insensitive ... but I have a one word response to people who get upset about this shifting retail reality.


Amazon isn't doing all these things because Jeff Bezos sold his soul to the devil, like Robert Johnson. (Though when you think about it...)

Amazon is able to do these things because it figured something out about how people's shopping habits were going to change before everybody else did, or at least better than everybody else did.

If Amazon is able to price better and faster than everybody else ... or take advantage of show-rooming better than everyone else ... or ship cheaper than everybody else ... this doesn't make Amazon evil. Just really, really good at its job.

When I write about what Amazon does - about Amazon Fresh or Subscribe and Save or delivering on what it promises faster than anyone else, or using shopper information more extensively than anyone else - I have two agendas in mind.

One, enormous professional interest. I think that any retailer in virtually any industry that isn;t thinking about how Amazon could disrupt his or her business is making an enormous mistake. Amazon-style disruptions are going to happen to your business, regardless of why you are or what you do. It may start with Amazon, or it may start with someone else. But it is going to happen. My goal with MNB is to spotlight what Amazon is doing - the same way I spotlight what a lot of retailers do - so we can all learn from it.

Second, I look at Amazon from the shopper's point of view. And yes ... I find that Amazon, better than many other retailers, is good at satisfying my shopping needs in a way that delivers value and convenience. Doesn't mean that I don't go to stores, but time and again, Amazon manages to play the trump card. And so I shop there. Often, but not always.

When I write about this for MNB, it is with the belief that a lot of people feel the same way I do. I'm not sure every retailer believes that, though, so I figure it is at least part of my job to hammer it home ... so we all can learn from it.

Does this make me slavishly devoted to Amazon? I don't think so. What I probably am slavishly devoted to is retailing that is aspirational, that delivers a solid value, that seems relevant to the way I live my life.

I think that's what most people want. Retailers have to deliver it.

Those that don't will find that someone else will. And that ought to scare the crap out of them.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind...

KC's View: