Will ambitious Amazon.com change the way we buy everything? The online retailer wants to sell us everything we buy and consume, and I do mean everything. From movies we watch to groceries we eat, Amazon will soon sell cars we drive (or drive us), too.
For traditional retailers, Amazon is more than a 600-pound gorilla – it’s a jungle full of 6,000-ton apes. Exasperated retailers looking to the heavens for digital inspiration will just see a giant, menacing Amazon dark cloud. Amazon practically owns “the cloud.”
No retailer has more servers and digital channel clout than Amazon. Look carefully at the shipping labels of Amazon purchases. Some may be from Wal-Mart and Target, even if they’re purchased on Amazon. A fearless aggregator, Amazon will source from competitors to deliver on the expectations of its customers.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em, Right? Wrong
Amazon can be beat, but not if your retail organization self-destructs first. When struggling retailers slip into panic mode, they make a series of strategic moves that backfire, each one more desperate than the next.
Casual water cooler chatter turns increasingly negative. Employees read between the lines of formal company communications and assume the worst. Pessimism grows organizationwide. Insecurity builds, rumors spread, social media stings happen, bad press hits, and the business declines faster and faster.
The panic becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. Nothing short of the “Shopocalypse.”
Welcome to the ‘Shopocalypse’
The biblical apocalypse tells of four horsemen who arrive to bring the end of the world. This “Shopocalypse” occurs when retail C-suites unleash these four tell-tale signs upon their retail stores:
1. War: The first casualties of bloody retail war are caused by friendly fire. Already understaffed stores are forced to reduce payroll and cut hours for remaining front-line employees.
2. Famine: Layoffs make it difficult to retain experienced customer service workers and recruit capable replacements. Morale sinks lower. Customers become disgruntled, too.
3. Conquer: Merchandise quality standards suffer. Products linger on overstuffed racks and cluttered shelves inside increasingly messy and run-down stores.
4. Death: Customer satisfaction plummets as fast as employee morale. More deep discounting, store closings and going-out-of-business sales add to a sinking feeling until bankruptcy puts the retailer out of its misery.
Customers become increasingly frustrated and employees grow more humiliated. It’s no wonder major retailers built on value products and quality service struggle once they start exhibiting dollar store tendencies.
Every Giant Has an Achilles’ Heel
Even David would have no chance to defeat Goliath if he didn’t believe he could win. You may not be able to innovate faster than Amazon or match the digital retailer’s low pricing or convenience, but you do have an advantage that Amazon doesn’t have: you have a human soul.
Amazon’s mission is to sell, sell and sell — not to deliver a human consumer experience. Brand experience is Amazon’s Achilles’ heel.
A traditional retailer’s advantage is having products consumers can touch in exciting environments sold with humane service. To win the battle of “Amazonageddon,” build a brand culture of excellent service, product expertise and inspired merchandising. Above all, make human experiences that emotionally engage all brand stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers and community members — part of your brand DNA (as in Do Not Allow customers to leave disappointed).
Retailers that create memorable, human experiences will survive the Shopocalypse.
This article first appeared on Total Retail on December 15, 2016.