A few days ago, I went to the store to pick up a few items after work, which was the peak time in retail. When I went to pay, I looked at two registers with cashiers and very long lines. I then chose to contend with self-service, and when I got stuck in the particular sequence I was supposed to do to pay, the human who in the earlier days of self-service stood around helping people become familiar with the payment machine was nowhere to be found.
As someone who had worked in retail for years, I was in disbelief of the managers who acted as if people were not frustrated and annoyed at having this terrible experience at a store. What happened to service? When did that become a thing of the past? When did it become acceptable for businesses to disregard the time and experience of their customers?
As an entrepreneur, I have many conversations with small business owners about how online companies and retailers are killing their profits, and they have no choice but to keep things lean and mean.
Amazon is a favorite business killer.
But, when I go to retail stores, I see long lines, which I'd much rather avoid by tapping a few things into a digital retail platform and then receive my products usually within a few hours of ordering in the comfort of my home. Who wants to go to a store to have an experience that is not pleasant when I can sit in my house and get what I need in a fraction of the time?
Here's my take on the big, bad Amazon and other global retailers destroying small businesses: No, they are not.
While there are pros and cons about Amazon and other global businesses, such as paying competitive and fair wages, as well as working conditions for their employees, it's easy to think about online retailers as the enemy because it gives business owners someone else to blame but themselves.
If you have a business and you're not adapting to the changes that are happening, and you think you're adjusting by destroying the customer experience, then you've got no one else to blame but yourself. You're losing your profits because of you, not Amazon.
I have a question for you.
Have you ever thought of competing against Amazon and other big online retailers?
If the answer is no, why not?
If you say that it's because your business can't possibly compete against a trillion-dollar company and if it does, then it has to shaft the customer, you're wrong. Yes, you can compete against Amazon and other global giants, and you can get more customers. Here's how:
- Change your mindset: First things first. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and stop excusing the failure of your company to be innovative and to adapt on anyone else but you. It's essential to do this because if you think right from the outset that you've lost, then you might as well close up shop. You have to believe that your company can stand out.
- Stay in your lane: I'm an entrepreneur and have more than seven brands. One of the most important things we do is stay in our path. We're not all things to all people. We picked niches for the brands, and we are relentless in being the market leader. Amazon has thousands of products and keeps moving into new industries, such as publishing, retail, and now healthcare and even education. Want to beat Amazon? Focus like a laser on a niche.
- Develop a purpose: If you search Amazon, it often has hundreds of thousands of similar products, such as shoes. No one is going to go through that, but if you're a shoe retailer and figure out a specific value to your customers for buying shoes from you (eg, a higher purpose), people will patronize your store. Amazon isn't looking to create a consumer story for making a positive impact. However, other brands have overlaid making a difference in their products, and that's a competitive advantage your business would have over a behemoth like Amazon.
- Customer service: A competitive advantage of my brands over my competitors is exceptional customer service. You can crush even Amazon if you provide something that seems to have gone out of style– extraordinary and live customer service where people can speak to another human who cares about their customer experience. If you want consumers to get into your store, then think about how you can cater to them and treat each person as a unique individual.
- Experience: This goes along with the earlier point. Think about the experience you want to give your customers. Do you want them standing in line at your store (not going to happen with many people), or entering into a fresh, modern (including lots of tech) and fun experience? Think of the customer experience from the moment they consumers see your brand, to the point of sale and beyond. Customer experience is why Amazon is a global giant; they are fanatical about knowing their customers.
If you want to continue to claim that your business can't compete against Amazon or other online retailers, then close up shop. You are correct. However, if you want to get out of your way and operate your business successfully in the 21stCentury, then get to work. There's plenty of ocean, and even small fish swim alongside the giant whales. You can't be afraid of it.