…or at least David-like. You know what? You’re not David, and you’re not going to take down Amazon, and you don’t have to, so put that slingshot down.?
First, let’s take a look at how Amazon just got into the brick n mortar business.
The grocery industry shuddered, grocery stocks took a beating, and the internet did internet things when news broke on Friday that online retail giant, Amazon, intends to acquire high-end grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion.
Walmart went so far as to request that partners and suppliers take their software services off of Amazon Web Services and instead run them on Microsoft’s Azure cloud service instead. Walmart, for its part, says this simply a matter of protecting sensitive data on a competitor’s server. Which all seems very reasonable, but as Amazon points out, AWS does not support Amazon’s retail business, calling Walmart’s move “bullying”.
How the big players in the grocery and retail industry respond to Amazon’s move will be interesting, but any changes that companies like Target or your favorite regional supermarket chain make will be so slowly rolled out that consumers may not even notice.
But Amazon… Amazon will hit the ground running, and Bezos has demonstrated he is willing to move aggressively. Amazon will instantly have 400+ brick n mortar location in all but 7 states, giving them the local footprint that has been missing from the grocery delivery service they launched in 2007 and, in theory, give them the retail space to expand their Amazon Go concept and pop-up stores.
So, how should you, a small business owner react? Well, contrary to what my headline suggests, it is unlikely you’re going to slay this particular beast, in fact, it would be foolish for anyone to suggest that you can “compete” with Amazon at all.
Now, before you close this tab, hear me out: You don’t need to compete with Amazon because you aren’t the same species – sure you may both be a member of the vast and varied Retail Kingdom, but you aren’t – or shouldn’t be – competing for the same resources.
Let’s forget about that whole David and Goliath thing and stick with this bulletproof Animal Kingdom analogy.
Some of the most successful animals have found a niche to operate in, and as long as they adapt to changing external pressures, they continue to prosper. The same is true for successful retailers – they operate in spaces that are overlooked, and often unreachable by larger companies, and when those larger companies try to tap into that niche, they pose no real threat because it comes across as crassly inauthentic.
Iron & Resin is a boutique (I’m sure they love that) brand based in Ventura California focused on motorcycle culture (Iron), and surf culture (Resin). The founders live and breath the culture – they understand it, and that authenticity comes through on their site, in their videos, and in the items they sell. Whether they mean to or not they go beyond simply being advocates for their brand, they are advocates for the culture itself – they make people want to pick up a surfboard, tinker with motorcycles, and do all the cool things they are doing, which is crucial when you consider growth in a relatively niche space.
When you boil it down this is brand Marketing 101, but it’s different – it isn’t Apple trying to convince you they are the cute creative nerd while PC’s are about as cool as your accountant uncle therefor you owe it to yourself to spend a fortune on their hardware. This isn’t safe focus grouped marketing speak – it’s something that actually is different?and customers recognize that, and *sits up straight and puts capitalist hat on* they are willing to pay a premium for it.
This approach isn’t limited to bearded makers in shops full of leather-bound books and the smell of rich mahogany. You don’t have to start your own clothing line or sell custom built motorbikes. You don’t even have to sell unique products, but you can still use those same concepts to establish a brand. Make sure your shop, online and in-person, reflects your brand. Use your familiarity with, and knowledge of your niche to curate the best collection of products, and allow that to represent your brand. And then, take the next step and be more than a brand; develop a community, understand your buyers, and give customers a compelling reason to not just spend their money in your shop but be loyal to it. The best way you can do that is to play to your strengths, capitalize on the strategic advantage you have by being local. Leverage social media, forge relationships, and provide an exceptional customer experience.
Authenticity, and that human connection is something that Amazon’s best algorithm simply can’t replicate.
Next week, I think I’m going to continue with the animal kingdom theme and explain why you should have a mutualistic, rather than adversarial, relationship with Amazon. And how you can be like the adorable African Oxpecker that eats parasites off of large mammals!
See. It’s a perfect analogy!