Tuesday, September 02, 2014

How can anyone compete with Amazon?

Two weeks ago I decided I needed proper running shoes for my aching Achilles — something other than my flat Crossfit shoes or my ancient clunky 911s. I’d have loved to go to a proper store and learn about pronation, but, really, I don’t have time.

So I ordered a B-width Asics that’s in Amazon’s free return program. The first pair was a bit big, so I returned them and ordered a half-size smaller.  They’re great. They were also tax free (very unfair) and probably 30% cheaper than a store purchase — but really, it wasn’t the price, it was the time.

A week ago I biked two miles to Petco to pick up a poop-scoop. Kateva ran on the way out, trailored on the way back. I found a good enough scoop for $30, but it’s so annoying when these break that I wanted a backup. Amazon had a much better one for $20.

#2 son needs an introductory electric guitar for school music — $99 at Amazon. We want a useable kitchen radio with aux-in [1] - Amazon. Clipless pedals for #1’s road bike. Madden NFL 15 for xbox. Ruby Redfort book. Welch Allyn batteries for 30 yo otoscope. Vittoria road tires to replace 30yo originals. Amazon for all of it, with donations to Minnesota Special Hockey on the side.

How can any retailer compete? It’s not the price — it’s the convenience, the speed, the inventory, the buying experience, the easy returns, the reviews [2].

The only option I can see is for stores like Walmart and Target to setup mini-stores. Customers pick what they want, items get delivered to store within 12-24 hours. Consumer can try on shoes, inspect guitar, decide if they want to complete the transaction. Maybe order three pairs of shoes to the mini-store, but buy one.

Is there any other model?

[1] Aux-in for AirPort Express AirPlay connection, because, as best I can tell, almost nobody can make Bluetooth audio work. While I’m at it, why is Tivoli the only company that makes a simple half-decent bloody radio? Can’t someone simply clone them?

[2] Which convinced me the Bluetooth Tivoli was a very bad idea.

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