The only Way to Out-Amazon Amazon.

Amazon is a giant, and there is nothing they can do about it!

Like all giants, the source of Amazon’s greatest pride is also the source of its greatest concern.

“Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.”
Malcolm Gladwell.

The key to fight amazon is not to defend, but to attack. Attack where Amazon can not defend itself due to its ginormous size.

This was what David did to Goliath. Microsoft did to IBM and Amazon did to Walmart, once upon a time.

There are a lot of things Amazon can no longer easily do. For instance, its delivery people will not be able to stay back 30 minutes and help your parents set-up their newly bought iPhone and teach them how to video call you.

A small business can. Not only that, they can brand this service and advertise it. There are a lot of people who would love the attention of buying physical combined with the convenience of online shopping even if it means buying at a premium.

Amazon can sell coffee, but they cannot be as obsessed with coffee as you are. And people usually are attracted to passion. It shows.

Amazon can sell surf-boards, but it can not invite its customers to a weekly-free surfing meet-up at the beach with the founder and his small team that bleeds sea-water.

Amazon can sell tennis racquets at half your cost, but its customers cannot expect to call their support number (provided they are able to find it on the app) and get a 10-minute energizing lecture on the right racquet for them to play with on their backyard grass court.

Amazon became a giant by delivering a great customer experience (among other things, of course) and if you can deliver a better customer experience — you improve your odds greatly. As simple as that.

Sam Walton delves deep into the topic of how small merchants can fend off Walmart in his brilliant autobiography — Made in America.

Here are a few tips from Sam:

  1. Craft shops should offer classes in things like pottery and flower-arranging, “services we could never think about providing.”
  2. The same thing can be done with fabrics: offer higher quality material and throw in some sewing classes. “I don’t care how many Wal-Marts come to town, there are always niches that we can’t reach — not that we won’t try”
  3. A good smart hardware store can beat us to death if he thinks about what he’s doing and commits to putting up a fight. If he gets his assortment right and makes sure his salespeople have excellent knowledge of the products and how to use them, and goes out of his way to take care of his customers, he can keep plenty of business away from us.

I have personally competed with Wal-Mart, so I know it can be done. You develop a uniqueness, a niche and then you capitalize on it. — Don Soderquist, former COO, Wal-Mart.

So what do you do about it if you wake up one day and find yourself to be the giant? There are no easy answers, but here is a tip for you coming straight from the wise old Sam himself:

And now am going to confess to a really radical thought I’ve been having lately. I probably won’t do anything about it, but the folks who come after me are eventually going to have to face up to this question. Even by thinking small, can a $100 billion retailer really function as efficiently and productively as it should? or would maybe five $20 billion companies work better? — Sam Walton

There is this beautiful quote from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, “….The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”

Next time you’re intimidated by the size of a corporation you’re facing train yourself to look for their blind spots — the things they can no longer easily do. And do it, graciously.

Next time you feel small, remind yourself that within your smallness lies your strength. Within your meekness lies the source of your greatness.

And on our best days, let’s remind ourselves that it goes both ways. If that is not humbling, I don’t know what is.

Fractional CMO, Digital agency Chief.