3. If Amazon’s growing dominance of retail is akin to the Empire’s growing power with the Death Star in Star Wars, what is one idea that a group of rebels could unite around to fight back?
Amazon’s rise in popularity has caused some of the most well-loved retail giants like K-Mart, JC Penny and Sears to fall from the top 10 retailers in America over the last two decades (1). However, for consumers to shift their shopping patterns towards smaller retailers, those smaller companies will have to evolve to meet the needs of their customers. One big way for retailers to counter large conglomerates like Amazon is to specialize in a single line of products. Some of the benefits to this strategy include higher product quality, easier data tracking and application, expert customer service and community involvement.
One of Amazon’s biggest weaknesses is their lack of product quality. Specializing can lead to a focus on quality, integrity and customizability of a product. A company can hone production techniques, use high quality materials and become trustworthy manufacturers to their customers. With disposable income rising in the United States, customers will be willing to spend more for a reliable product rather than opt for cheaper Amazon products (2). Higher levels of disposable income also incentivize the purchase of custom-made products. Small retailers can offer customized or personalized products that will attract customers with a variety of preferences.
The ability to access and process copious amounts of data from customers, vendors and distributors is one of the key components to Amazon’s success (1). However, as the technology to track customer spending habits becomes readily accessible, small specialized retailers will also have access to this vital business tool. The benefit of specialization is that these companies will be able to focus on data sets specific to their line of expertise that can help them cater to customers and keep the company competitive.
III. Customer Service
Amazon is highly rated for quick customer service but lacks specific expertise on any one product. When a company specializes, customer service will be able to provide both expert and personable assistance in a way that Amazon cannot. Additionally, Amazon is known for poor relationships with vendors and low rates of employee retention and satisfaction (1). A small specialized company will generally work with fewer vendors and employees which promotes healthier work relationships that translate into a more enjoyable shopping experience for customers.
Specializing in one product type makes a company more accessible and connected to the surrounding community. Many specialized stores can support each other by purchasing each other’s products- an ice cream store using local coffee for one of their flavors, for example- and appropriately referring customers. Also, being a specialized store makes a company a fixture of the community whose brand includes the experience of shopping in-store. Customers can try out products, have face-to-face interactions with employees and enjoy an ambience catered to their taste. Along the same line, companies can align with a cause relevant to their particular product that appeals to customers. Companies that tout environmental sustainability have proven to sway customers to spend more on a particular brand (3). This strategy makes people feel good about supporting a company which in turn can potentially generate sales and brand loyalty.