Contrary to popular belief, Amazon has already been in Australia for several years. The much-hyped recent changes have involved the introduction of the Amazon Marketplace, local distribution and access to a wider range of products in Australia.
Amazon will improve our lives
One of the secrets behind the success of Amazon is its deep pockets and its lack of a profit imperative. They are prepared to lose money for a long time, perhaps even 5 years to establish themselves in Australia. I have no doubt that this and its superior offering at a competitive price will deliver success for Amazon in Australia.
For those who like to shop online, Amazon will deliver a bigger range, better delivery times, lower delivery costs and superior value – if you like what they are selling. Online shoppers should be happy.
For other online retailers, I believe that Amazon will educate the market regarding online shopping and help drive the percentage of Australian retailing that is online to around 50% in 5 years.
For producers and manufacturers, Amazon will offer a new platform to take their products to the world, albeit with a high Amazon margin.
Even offline shoppers will benefit. To start with department stores will go broke and gradually be replaced with customer focused specialist retailers (a prediction of Warren Buffet, among others). This can only be a good thing given the standard of our department stores in Australia. No Harrods, John Lewis or Selfridges here.
The biggest benefit to offline shoppers will be the lift in the standard of the retail experience. Unless you use international retailers like Zara, Apple and Ikea, the standard of service and the overall customer experience in Australia is dreadful, yet if they are to survive that must change.
Entering most retail stores in Australia is all about ticking off an item on your shopping list. You might want the item, but you are not looking forward to and take nothing memorable from the shopping experience in 99% of retail stores in Australia. You get in and out as quickly as possible and the only satisfying aspect of the experience is having one less item on your list.
This is clearly not the case in an Apple store where people go in to play, look at new things, learn, talk with others and generally develop their relationship with the Apple brand. While this is not an experience I enjoy, it is an experience and the market that does enjoy it is growing daily.
As the pressure comes on from Amazon and Alibaba, and a growing number of international retailers, Australian retailers will begin to realise the importance of customer service and the customer experience, a focus on which will only benefit us as shoppers.
In time we will see the end of frustrations such as ‘we do not take credit card transactions under $10’, blank stares from poorly trained and poorly informed staff, the smile on the faces of staff who say, ‘sorry we have run out of stock’ instead of ‘can I get it in for you from another store and have it delivered to you’, and many other of these ignorant facile and customer unfriendly habits.
In most Australian stores today, the customer is a necessary evil, while at Ikea and Zara, they are the total focus of the business, explaining why these businesses have been so successful. While Australian retailers are focused on their competitors and constantly complain about the price sensitive competitive market, successful international retailers are focused on their customers and how they can provide an experience that sets them apart and justifies what they change.
When is the last time you enjoyed a retail experience? I bet it has not happened too recently. When is the last time you found shopping entertaining and something worth discussing with friends? I bet it has not happened too often. When is the last time you thought, that was fantastic, and I cannot wait to go back? I bet it has not happened too often either.
But thanks to the likes of Amazon it will all happen more frequently. Either that, or these retailers will go broke, which most of them deserve. They have only survived because we put up with their crap, and that will not happen much longer.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming store staff for the way these stores operate. I am blaming the pig ignorant retailers who still say things like ‘we cannot afford training’, or ‘you train staff and they leave’ and the poorly informed who just do not know what is involved in great retailing and it’s critical importance.
Amazon is here to stay, and I say we embrace their entrance with open arms, as it will improve all of our shopping experiences. What do you say?