Jeff Bezos and company stirred up some controversy around the holidays – in the wake of the publicity from Brad Stone’s book The Everything Store – by offering immediate product delivery using unmanned drones. In a brief, minute-long video that’s already been parodied by a number of high profile brands including Groupon, an Amazon shopper is seen choosing Prime Air 30 Minute Delivery for his purchase. Next, an Amazon fulfillment center employee places the order into a plastic container, which is then shuttled by conveyor belt to an awaiting drone that picks up the package and flies it to its destination.
As frighteningly futuristic as this scenario may sound to some – in particular, retailers who worry they’ll never be able to compete with a company capable of manufacturing an army of delivery drones – there are others who are taking copious notes on Amazon’s latest, gutsiest idea. There’s a lot to be learned by studying the examples set by Amazon and incorporating them into your own business plan. Here are a few of the most important takeaways.
Develop “Stubborn” Vision
One of Bezos’ self-proclaimed secrets to success is to develop what he calls “stubborn vision.” He tempers this advice by emphasizing the need to also incorporate flexibility into that vision. “If you’re not stubborn,” Bezos said, “you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.” The takeaway here is that business owners should constantly look for new and innovative methods of improvement, even if those ideas fly in the face of the frameworks laid out by others before them. Imbuing that vision with flexibility also enables those same business owners to recognize when something isn’t working so that they can try a different approach.
“If you double the number of experiments you do per year,” said Bezos, “you’re going to double your inventiveness.” Whether you own an online storefront or a brick and mortar establishment, experimentation is key to achieving success. Testing out new products and services is important, as is experimenting with product placement and prices. Savvy business owners also employ various software programs to analyze the effectiveness of their marketing efforts, taking cues from the data returned to try out different approaches.
Know When to Ignore Advice
According to Bezos, most of the publishing experts he consulted with prior to launching Amazon had little faith that his endeavor to sell books via the internet would ever take off. “Every well-intentioned, high-judgment person we asked told us not to do it,” he said. Needless to say, it was advice that Bezos ignored, to his great benefit. The lesson learned here is not to ignore the advice of industry experts, but rather to develop a sense of when to go with your gut instincts. This is a lot easier said than done. Business decisions should never be reckless or impulsive – but if you recognize a viable opportunity (as Bezos did when looking at the potential of the internet for selling product) and have the ability to seize upon it, sometimes ignoring the feedback of naysayers can catapult you to levels of success you may not have dreamed of.
Develop Your Niche
When it becomes impossible to compete with the likes of Amazon on speed of delivery or cost of merchandise, it becomes imperative for retailers to focus on what they can offer that big league retailers simply can’t. For some businesses, that may be in the ability to provide an intensely personal customer service experience. For others, it may be in having the flexibility to implement changes to marketing strategy quickly – something that corporations, even forward-thinking ones like Amazon, will always struggle with. Concentrate on niche offerings that serve to differentiate your brand; being “everything to everyone” is seldom possible for smaller companies. But being the “go to” retailer for specific goods and services is within any business owner’s reach.
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