Published on: June 9, 2016
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
As I sat down to work on this commentary, a friend of mine called me and said that my name had come up in conversation. "I like Kevin and MNB," someone had told my friend. "But sometimes I just get so mad at him ... it is always Amazon and Walmart, Amazon and Walmart ... and generally he hates Walmart and loves Amazon."
This person isn't alone. Just check out today's "Your Views."
Well,they're going to love this one...
I've been intrigued by some of the media and analyst reaction to the announcement by Walmart, carried here last week, that it is testing drone technology. Unlike Amazon, however, Walmart's plans are to use them inside its distribution centers, not to make deliveries to customers.
Some of the pieces I've read have suggested that Walmart's plans are both more doable and smarter than Amazon's. Using drones inside a warehouse to check for out-of-stock merchandise is enormously faster than using a person to perform that same check ... and there are none of those annoying FAA rules to worry about. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if OSHA might have something to say about the subject.)
While the point about being more doable certainly would seem to be true, I'm not sure we should be at all surprised by that. In fact, I think it might even be fair to suggest that the different approaches actually illustrate some of the very real differences between Walmart and Amazon.
By focusing drones on warehouse operations, Walmart does what it has always done - worked very hard to drive costs out of the system and everything it can to be efficient as possible. By focusing on using drones to deliver products to customers - which could have enormous implications for people in certain areas who otherwise might have to wait for products they need or want - Amazon is being far more customer-facing in its approach. It is anticipating what shoppers may need or want, and is playing a long yardage game, while Walmart is doing what is doable, and playing a short game.
In short, Amazon's approach is "gee, whiz." Walmart's approach is a little more paint by numbers, albeit with some pretty high-tech paint.
Now, let's be clear. By focusing on warehouse efficiency, Walmart may be able to use drones to make sure that products are where they need to be, when they need to be there. That's pretty customer-facing in my book. And I'm not suggesting that one approach is better than the other, or will bear more fruit than the other. Just that they are different companies, with different approaches and different cultures. No reason that they can't both exist.
Do I focus a lot on both of them? Sure. But here's the reality - almost everybody competes with Walmart, and everybody competes with Amazon. Both have dreams of retail domination, and their own particular takes on how to achieve it.
That's a pretty good reason to focus on both of them ... not exclusively, but a lot.
Because here's the other thing. When I talk to companies, especially about what Amazon is doing, executives usually follow up their own "gee, whiz" moments with "really? I didn't know they did that."
That's what's on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: