AMAZON
FANBOY

COLUMN /
STEFAN de jong

Yes, I admit it. I’m an Amazon fanboy. The first time I bought anything on Amazon.com was in the previous millennium. It was a book, of course. Because that’s how Amazon started - as an online bookshop. I had to pay by credit card and it took about ten days before I received my order. Amazon now sells almost everything. If you order on Amazon.de, you get a Dutch website. You pay easily with iDeal and, if you want, the goods are delivered next day. Almost no month goes by that I don’t place an order. 

What are the main reasons for ordering on Amazon instead of with one of the big Dutch players? Products are almost always cheaper and the logistics are top notch: in all those years, nothing has ever gone amiss with any of my orders. My only frustration with Amazon is actually that there are many items that are not sent to the Netherlands. Examples include the Amazon Fire TV, Fire Tablet and the smart speakers - the Echo and the Echo Dot. 

And then, of course, there’s Amazon Prime. With Prime, orders are delivered the next day for free, without having to order a minimum amount! You also get free access to a large array of ebooks, films, series and music. Yes, Prime is really great. 

Amazon has virtually raised frictionless online ordering to an art-form: you talk to a device and the products are sent to you free of charge. Yet I still don’t have an Amazon Prime subscription, and that is pretty illogical for someone who orders so much. But to be honest, I don’t think I’m going to buy one. And however convenient it may be, I don’t really believe in Alexa. 

Why not? Although I’m a huge fan of low prices and convenience, I also believe in a healthy market economy. And a healthy market has competition. All the convenience that Amazon offers the consumer in the short term may be disruptive in the longer term. 

Everything Amazon is currently doing is aimed at getting consumers into the ecosystem. Of course, this also applies to Apple and Google, but they are not yet as dominant in the retail sector. More than 80% (!) of households in the US now have a Prime subscription. And once they have one, consumers have little interest in looking further. Amazon is almost always cheaper and faster. Frictionless shopping. And they are just going to repeat that game offline, whether Amazon Go is a success or not. 

Amazon is also the most dominant online retailer in Europe. It’s the largest in Germany - four times larger than the number two, Otto. Comparable figures apply to the British, French, Italian and Spanish markets. It has gone unnoticed that the company is now number five in terms of online sales in the Netherlands. If Amazon so much as sneezes in the direction of the Netherlands, Bol.com will no longer exist. 

The company sets the bar high for its competitors, and the consumer gets used to it. The question is how retailers and brands must respond to this. Too often, I see them selling a large part of their products through Amazon and that the goods are delivered faster and/or cheaper than through their own channels. So why in the world would I buy through the retailer’s own webshop/ app? 

As I said, I believe that there is sufficient competition in a healthy market. And I would like to buy somewhere else than at Amazon, but then the proposition has to offer a convincing advantage. I challenge all retailers and brands to convince me!