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It’s Amazon’s World and We Just Live in It

I love Amazon.  I hate Amazon.  And if I’m honest, I’m just a little bit scared of Amazon.  Amazon has slowly and inexorably wormed its way into many aspects of my life.  I download books through the Kindle app.  I watch Amazon Fire TV.  I order many, many things from Amazon (love me some Amazon Prime).  I set kitchen timers with Alexa.  When I think of the things I don’t use Amazon for (planning travel for example) I realize they could change that in a day by purchasing Trip Advisor.  Or maybe they’ll enter banking –  I already have an Amazon credit card.  They are dabbling in healthcare.  I hear rumors Amazon is going to buy Target.  By the time you read this, they may have purchased Ancestry.com so they can match up our DNA with our spending habits and send us specialized food, medicine and exercise equipment.

Yeah, it scares me and creeps me out, but I keep buying from them. It’s so convenient – a few clicks and I can get almost anything I want dropped off on my doorstep.  What’s not to like?

The things I’m afraid we’ll lose.  Cool independent bookstores.  The funky shops I visit when I travel.  Grocery stores.  Our humanity.

What to do?

If you compete with Amazon, and at the rate things are going, we all will sooner or later, here are some ideas:

Hang onto your customers with both hands.  Thank them and thank them again for doing business with you.  Be responsive.  Don’t make assumptions about what they want, find out.  Take away their pain points.  Can you add delivery or other options?  I suggested to grocers recently that they consider setting up delivery options along with wellness checks for older customers.  What can you offer that Amazon can’t?  You operate in Amazon’s world now – everything has changed.

Do something really cool to attract new customers.  Amazon doesn’t really have to do anything to attract new business.  But chances are good that you do.  Some crazy ideas:  A clothing store does a how to dress for a hot date class/fashion show and has someone giving mani-pedis.  Wine is served.  A grocery store has a cookie tasting with local milk and the farmer’s cow out front.  Take that Amazon!

Empower your front-line people to do almost anything to make customers happy.  We are all way behind the curve on this.  The idea used to be we could beat Amazon by providing great customer service.  Amazon has upped the ante.  They tell their army of customer service people to do just about anything to make people happy.  An example:  I got a bit caught up in the excitement of Prime Day and ordered some toner.  It popped up as a suggestion, it was a good deal, and BAM – I bought it!  When I went to put it in my printer 6 months later, I realized it was toner for my old printer.  And I had opened one of the two cartridges.  They cost almost $200 and the return window had long since closed.  But I thought, “What the heck?”  and e-mailed Amazon customer service.  They took the toner back!  My head exploded.  We all have to get better at customer service.  Much better.

And we all could consider this – buy from stores and people you like if you want them to survive.  I’ve quit discovering books in the bookstore and then buying them on Amazon.  I don’t want bookstores to disappear.  I know it’s just a drop in the bucket, but it makes me feel better.  You don’t own me, Jeff Bezos!  Yet.

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