When Walmart announced the then upcoming redesign of the main walmart.com website, some asked if that is what is going to sway customers away from Amazon. The new walmart.com is less Walmart, with the company logo reduced to the spark icon, and more focused on personalization and local experiences.
The paradox is that by comparison Amazon looks outdated and clumsy, trying to fit the same layout it used for over a decade to the increasing number of categories, and yet have no trouble attracting more customers every quarter. In the age of direct-to-consumer, social media, trends, and beautiful design Amazon doesn’t fit. Still they continue to grow.
By most estimates Amazon will become the number one largest clothing retailer in the US in 2018. All while the search for “t-shirt” returns 23 million results on amazon.com. Somehow shoppers are fine shopping for clothes on Amazon, despite what most clothing brands would argue. Some of them have publicly blamed Amazon for being ignorant to issues like counterfeits on the marketplace, but that hasn’t prevented Amazon from being the market leader.
Amazon is winning in apparel for the same reason it has captured close to a half of all US online retail spend: convenience.
Most shoppers want the things they are looking for at the best possible price without having to worry about it too much. This is where Amazon excels. While Amazon is not always the cheapest, it is often not worth the time to look elsewhere. At least that’s what Amazon wants to be believed. Especially for the Prime members, of which now there are over 100 million worldwide. The time not spent looking for alternative e-commerce websites and entering credit card retails is worth the Prime yearly fee for most.
Convenience is more important than curation and personalization. It is more important than design. Amazon, of course, wants to have those things too, but while lacking there it delivers on the number one priority for most shoppers. Amazon is focusing on meeting expectations most customers have.
This is why Amazon appears counter-intuitive. Its design is subpar, lacking behind modern trends. It seems to be anti-brand, creating an environment where established brands are no better than brand new private-label products. It doesn’t do direct-to-consumer well. Nor are many customers excited to showcase their Amazon purchases on Instagram. All of the things which have become the norm for many shoppers.
Amazon is not ignorant or evil, it is economical.
Amazon built a shopping experience fit for most people and for most products. All of which is done at a scale larger than any other online retailer. This doesn’t mean that the different models don’t work and that brands and retailers shouldn’t be trying to experiment. Retail doesn’t have to be just one thing. But it affords Amazon to focus on convenience.
“Amazon, to me, is the most dangerous thing out there. As a brand, the easiest choice is: ‘everyone is on Amazon, I need to be there.’ But you have to make a decision: are you purely transactional or are you emotional?”
– David Kahan, Birkenstock
Amazon’s growth is proof that most shoppers want transactional commerce. This is not to say that over the next decade it will not change or that there is no opportunity for brands to build emotional connections with shoppers today. Most shopping is for things which don’t need anything else than a transaction.
Brand Apocalypse, the change in successful brands caused by the growth of e-commerce and Amazon, is a direct result of the growing number of shoppers satisfied with shopping on Amazon alone. Traditional brands are at a bit of a disadvantage online because the things they invested into are not as obvious and as valuable online. Amazon doesn’t care, as harsh as it might sound, nor do the shoppers. This paints the online retail in the US grim. And it is, as the dominance of Amazon means competition is increasingly bowing down to the giant. Despite that there is a lot of innovation happening both in business models and customer acquisition as new brands get launched.
The competition opportunity is in providing for not most people looking for not most things available on Amazon. Even given Amazon’s dominance this is a major slice of the market. “In the age of Amazon, who has mastered the breadth of choice – who will master the breadth of connection?” asked Emily Weiss, Founder & CEO of the cosmetics company Glossier, a very popular beauty brand built on social media and direct-to-consumer.