Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
When enemies come wielding West Coast technology, many cower.
A belief that constantly wafts is that technology eats everyone and everything, and is never full.
Amazon managed to feed that belief, as it grew exponentially.
It was easy to get the impression that only time could prevent Amazon from swallowing its competitors whole, one by one.
It hasn’t (yet) gone that way and, especially in the case of Walmart, it’s worth wondering why.
Walmart stopped to think not merely about a coming threat, but about what its customers really wanted — and what Walmart already had.
After all, Walmart has more than 4,000 stores in the U.S.
If customers were getting ever more lazy, ever more give-it-to-me-when-I-want-it-and-where-I-want-it, Walmart had more than 4,000 places where they could pick up their online orders.
Let’s not forget, too, that Walmart is a brand people have trusted for a very long time.
When you start from a base of trust and you prove you can deliver — sometimes literally — on what the customer wants, that customer won’t necessarily look to find their nearest Amazon pickup location or, perish the notion, a Whole Foods.
By understanding how to use what it had, rather than trying to turn itself into another Amazon, Walmart showed not only wily entrepreneurship, but confidence.
Customers can smell fear. They can tell when a business is in trouble.
Yet Walmart doesn’t seem to be doing so badly.
Indeed, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that the supermarket chain is now using a personal shopping service called Jetblack to create AI that will enchant customers of all economic groups.
It’s not as if Amazon hasn’t done its own scrambling, either.
Moreover, former Apple retail head and JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson recently mused:
Amazon should be having trouble sleeping at night. I mean, seriously. Amazon same-store sales in the U.S. are now single-digit. Target and Walmart, these big retailers have learned how to leverage their stores’ inventory to create a better shopping experience. That’s where customers are going right now.
Of course, both Amazon and Walmart will enjoy many vicissitudes as they try and keep up with consumer fickleness and entice with superior knowledge and offerings.
It’s true that consumers are becoming less loyal to one supermarket brand — something Whole Foods struggles with.
It’s also true, though, that some brands really know how to create loyalty — Trader Joe’s comes to mind — and Walmart isn’t entirely lacking in that area.
Or, indeed, in confidence.
Why, last week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sniffed in his annual letter that the likes of Walmart should start paying the sort of wages Amazon pays.
To which Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, Dan Bartlett, tweeted:
Hey retail competitors out there (you know who you are) how about paying your taxes?
Oh, and just in case anyone wondered who he meant, he conveniently added a rider: @JeffBezos.
Of course technology can be a brutally destructive force.
If you already have a successful business, however, it’s unwise to stare at it in trepidation and disregard everything that got you there.