Where exactly is Amazon going? We ask this question with respect.
Who has pondered what has been happening at Amazon over the last few years without wondering whether Jeff Bezos is not – by any chance – on a path to self-destruction? We here at Fluence certainly have. I mean Amazon shoes. C’mon Bezos?
In 1994 Jeff Bezos had the brilliant idea to launch a bookshop empire sans the bricks and mortar storefronts by retailing strictly online. That was the birth of Amazon and it was great. He even managed a stroke of genius with the introduction of Amazon Kindle books. It’s 20 years later, and EVERYTHING has changed. We have more retailers doing business online today. We have authors enabled by technology to sell their books directly to customers. We have social selling, with people being able to “embed” a storefront inside a social platform like Facebook. In addition we have the challenge that Amazon is not just a bookstore anymore. What this means is that the voracious reader that used to frequent the Amazon website to see what’s new has now resorted to RSS technology for updates on books available for purchase online.
The Amazon platform is not “bookworm-exclusive” anymore.
Let’s look at it from a branding point of view. We all know what a brand is right? Ok I’ll explain. A brand is a cluster of attributes about a product or service that lives inside the mind of the target/existing customer. So when you launch a brand, what you are doing is to develop and execute a way to get those attributes into the mind of your customer. That is how your “brand” gets to stand for something. In the case of Amazon that brand was BOOKS. We got to know about Amazon, we loved what they did and stood for and we started buying BOOKS from Amazon from every corner of the globe. Then they made the smartest move ever by launching the KIndle, a digital book reader. Now we can buy digital books and read them on our Kindles, iPads, iPhones and even on normal desktop computers. That was focus. Go Amazon.
Then Jeff Bezos, who despite being super smart is not a marketer at his core(he’s a techie at heart), started branching Amazon out into all kinds of stuff. Amazon has become the Chinese mart down the street. And worse, everything you can buy from Amazon online is available for much cheaper from your local China Mall. Just last year Amazon developed their own smartphone and it failed dismally. But smartphone aside, try and buy books from the Amazon website today and you are bombarded with recommendations to buy kitchen aids, clothing, music instruments and even the odd sewing machine. This is blasphemy from where we sit.
So here’s what may happen. Someone smart will come along and devise a better way to sell books. They will engage existing technologies making it extremely cheap to buy and download books to your device. Something outlandish like projecting the book onto white space via the flashlight on the iPhone. We don’t know, but the unimaginable has happened before. So say this person brings us a better way to sell books. There goes the primary revenue stream of Amazon. This new company has just stolen the FOCUS that made Amazon the behemoth it is today and slowly the new entity grows bigger and bigger, grabbing bigger and bigger slices of the Amazon booksellers market share year by year. And then one day Jeff Bezos wakes up and finds the very foundation of his company eroded so much he may have to find something new to do in 6 months time. This is probably not how it will play out, but this is what happens when a company loses its focus. Someone comes along with a better way to focus one ONE THING that they can build a business on – just like Amazon did when it started out.
So from where we sit right now, Amazon is on a slow path to self-destruction. That is what a loss of focus has done to every business that has lost its focus. In the 1980s in South Africa there was no difference between supermarkets Checkers, Grand Bazaars and OK Bazaars. So after Whitey Basson bought and repositioned Shoprite, they focused on low prices (kinda like Walmart) and swallowed all 3 companies whole. That is what focus does for a company.
So with Amazon losing focus, we only see one direction for the brand’s future. Down.
We’d really like to help and do something about that – hence this post. So if you know anybody at Amazon, please make them aware of where they’re headed. It may not happen tomorrow or 5 years from now. But it is inevitable.