retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Apparently Amazon believes that what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.

The Washington Post reports that "Amazon was awarded a patent May 30 that could help it choke off a common issue faced by many physical stores: Customers’ use of smartphones to compare prices even as they walk around a shop. The phenomenon, often known as mobile 'window shopping,' has contributed to a worrisome decline for traditional retailers.

"But Amazon now has the technology to prevent that type of behavior when customers enter any of its physical stores and log onto the WiFi networks there. Titled 'Physical Store Online Shopping Control,' Amazon’s patent describes a system that can identify a customer’s Internet traffic and sense when the smartphone user is trying to access a competitor’s website."

This is sort of remarkable ... not because the technology exists, but because it was just a few years ago that Amazon actually introduced a mobile application, called Price Check, designed to allow people to use their smart phones to scan any bar code anywhere and find out what Amazon would charge for the same item, and even order it if the price was lower.

Now, the story notes that when a customer at one of Amazon's bricks-and-mortar stores go online to check the competition, "Amazon may take one of several actions. It may block access to the competitor’s site, preventing customers from viewing comparable products from rivals. It might redirect the customer to Amazon’s own site or to other, Amazon-approved sites. It might notify an Amazon salesperson to approach the customer. Or it might send the customer’s smartphone a text message, coupon or other information designed to lure the person back into Amazon’s orbit."

However it plays out, this story makes clear that Amazon has a double standard. I actually think that it is one of those innovations that ought not find its way into the store, because it does not put the customer first.

"Customers first" always has been a core value at Amazon. It should avoid doing anything that even creates the appearance that this precept is losing importance.

When you come right down to it, this is the Eye-Opening lesson.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something.
KC's View: