Let me get this out of the way first: I really like Amazon.com:
- I’m (very) long on Amazon stock.
- I buy everything that I reasonably can using the service, shipped to me quickly (and free) through my Amazon Prime membership that I happily pay for.
- Hiplist uses at least five different AWS services, all of which I’ve specifically chosen over competitors.
If you put a gun to my head (please don’t do that) and asked me to guess one technology company that my future grandchildren will be using 50 years from now, I’d pick Amazon.
And I definitely agree with the recent post by the founder of Bonobos, Andy Dunn, that Amazon is *the* bear in building an E-Commerce company. It’s a great read from someone smart who’s in the midst of building a durable business in one of Amazon’s markets from scratch. [Side note: an honest first-person piece like that is an example of why the Internet is awesome]
That said, I was surprised that he didn’t directly touch on what I think is Amazon’s most significant blind spot: taste. More concretely: taste, style, personality, opinion, and emotion.
Clothes. Shoes. Art. Interior design. Furniture. Vehicles. Destinations. Sure, some people make these purchases with function as the only barometer. For most though, these purchase decisions (and the research that goes into them) are driven by personal taste and subjective emotion. There is no right answer to the question, “Which of these should I buy?”
These are the purchases where human beings go to experts for taste and guidance. Where they see something a friend has and they, in turn, desire it. Where they feel a need to brush against the material or view it in the flesh to really experience it. It’s their emotional reaction that drives these decisions. These are the purchases that are in Amazon’s blind spot.
In Dunn’s post, he writes that Proprietary Pricing, Selection, Experience, and Merchandise are the, “four strategies in the marketplace to deal with Amazon’s incumbency.”
I think there’s another strategy (an indirect one) that a few companies are taking: amassing a digital representation of personal taste and, in turn, creating native taste-driven demand.
It’s Pinterest. It’s Wanelo (Want! Need! Love!). It’s Houzz. Environments where self-expression of personal taste is not encouraged, but expected.
The additional beauty of these platforms are that monetization shouldn’t just be a bolt-on part of the service, they must be part of the experience or the experience actually suffers. Because if you’re the platform where I finds things I love and keep track of them, at some point it’s actually a pain in the ass if I can’t buy them with one click.
Think about that for a second: a service where monetization isn’t just a feature, but is actually *the* experience.