Is Amazon taking over the world?

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 22.26.31Today I looked back in my Amazon purchase history, Amazon keep a record of every purchase you have ever made and my first was an ‘Alias’ boxset on 31st July 2015 at what would now be considered the princely sum of £34.99. Back then Amazon sold mostly books and DVDs and you ordered something and it took perhaps a week to get to you but as long as you spent more than £20 shipping was free.

I went to University in 2007 and that was pretty much when Amazon bought my soul! Throughout University as part of my NUS extra card I got 5% discount on books, that doesn’t seem like much especially when they were cheap anyway but I had one of those degrees where you needed books, lots of books and it added up pretty quickly and whatever obscure title I wanted they always seemed to have in stock while my campus bookshop was woefully under stocked. As we all know now that was pretty much the beginning of the end for the high street bookshop but since I have graduated things have really got interesting…

In the last year I have moved in to a new flat which needed furnishing, I have sent Christmas presents to friends on the other side of the world and I have of course had to do my usual weekly shopping while doing a day job that has pretty unreliable hours and can often require staying late at very short notice. Amazon did all of this for me at some point. For me and many other city workers like me they have become the go-to source for shopping for, well, anything.

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 23.05.18A few years ago they launched their ‘Prime’ service, for an annual subscription this gets you unlimited one day delivery along with access to music and video streaming services and a library of Kindle Books. Just a few months ago in my area they introduce Prime Now which took this to the extreme, as long as you spend £20 or more on a selected range of products (mostly basic groceries and essentials) you can have them at your door in 2 hours for no extra cost. When I first heard about it I thought it sounded ridiculous, who needs that? Since then I am a little ashamed to admit I have placed several orders with the service including ordering £20 worth of wine and chocolate because I wanted a drink but couldn’t be bothered to walk the 5 minutes from my flat to the Tesco Express across the street (in my defence it was freezing cold and I was in my pyjamas)!

I understand this sounds like a horrendous story and I blush a little when I tell it but when I’ve told others they have sheepishly admitted they have done the same. You see, we are the Uber generation, we live in our smartphones, have very little patience and occasionally the thought of getting out and interacting with a human being is just a little too much. Looking on the Prime Now app as I write this article I can see that the range is growing significantly to a much larger selection of household products and electronics so perhaps this type of behaviour will become more and more common. I mean why would I go out when I can sit here, watch Netflix and a man will bring my shopping to my door at no extra charge to me?

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 23.03.42Prime Now is just one of the services that Amazon provides for Millennials like me. Looking back at my order history I can see that in the last year I have used Amazon lockers, Click and Collect through Doddle, Amazon Prime Same Day, free shipping and gift wrap to the USA at Christmas and just this week Amazon Pantry. All of these services are provided at no cost to me and provide a convenience that no other retailer in Britain (and perhaps the world) has yet mastered. All of these services allow me to order products on the go, on a frankly very well designed app, and pick them up or send them where I need them in almost any timescale (instant pickup is basically the only thing missing). I struggle these days to find any product category that Amazon don’t stock, the only one I can think of browsing the site now is fresh produce such as meat and fish; even dairy products are now available on Prime Now.

By day I am now a consultant and I work closely with retailers. The rest of the industry is struggling to keep up with the scale of Amazon. Reports this week suggest they are looking to expand in to upstream supply chain logistics along with their expanding consumer-end distribution networks and growing own-branded goods lines it will not be long before they own almost all of the value chain and could quite possibly out compete many of the retailers out there today. Not even the big supermarkets of the world have managed to create as efficient a distribution network as Amazon and push product through at such a volume.

But is that actually a bad thing? I would argue it is bad if Amazon are the only ones that can do it, that’s a monopoly and history has shown they tend to not be in consumers best interests. There are plenty of large retailers out there who still have time to shape their omni-channel offerings to compete but many seem slow and reluctant to do so or do not see the speed with which my Millenials will switch allegiance and they could lose us forever. Can you imagine a world without Tesco? It’s hard but from where I am standing at the moment it is difficult to see any Bricks & Mortar retailer being able to scale up an offering that would attract me back fast enough before my brand loyalty to Amazon is complete.

They bought my soul in 2007 but I reckon 2016 could be the year they take the bulk of my wallet too. Won’t someone else please step up and offer the convenience that Amazon offers, time is ticking on the Millennial generation and those that don’t adapt will lose us forever.

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