Big opportunities for the small
I’ve been battling with AT&T the last few weeks about slow internet. Does anyone actually have fast internet? Because if you do, screw you. And, also, how’d you do it? I honestly don’t know if I ever had really, fast internet. I think I did my first year of college. I had a T1 line. That meant something in my day. I could download an entire The Smiths album in under a minute. I can’t believe I even tried to listened to The Smiths for a consistent period of time. That music is comically depressing. College; where the internet was good, the music was sad, and my face was an entirely different shape.
I really digressed quickly from my dilemma of slow internet. I have slow internet and it’s making life not easier. AT&T is also making my life not easier. I have had three calls with them and I still have slow internet. How can this be? How can you treat customers this way? I sure as heck can’t treat customers that way. So, why can they? First, because they’re behemoths and I (currently) need them more than they need me. And, second, it’s still easier for me to stay with them and they’re crappy customer service than the hassle of switching.
But, I am not mad at AT&T and other big companies. I like big companies. I like them because they make big opportunities for small companies. Small companies just have to ask themselves, what do the big companies suck at and how do we do it better? Big companies are also really fun to hate. Remember when we all loved Apple? Remember, even before that, when only weird people had an Apple? Member that?
Now, Apple is as common as an actual apple. A Starbucks coffee is more common than a cup of coffee. And, Amazon is more valuable than the actually Amazon. But, they weren’t always big, and the bigger they get, the more we dislike them. These were all once sweet, little success stories. That then, became legendary, whopping success stories. That are now forgotten, whatever stories about some billion dollar company that we don’t know if we can even trust.
But, here’s the good part. All their gaps, misses and greed create awesome opportunities for average gals and guys. There are now more local, hipster coffee shops. And, I like that and I am happy we have these types of small businesses. But, they’re here because, not in spite of, Starbucks. Starbucks created the coffee culture in America. And, once they got so big that it wasn’t cool to go there anymore, we get shops like Blacksmith, Antidote, Boomtown, Agora, Catalina, Morningstar, Tout Suite, Slowpokes, Inversion, Southside, The Doshi House, Throughgood, Siphon, Maggie Maes, A 2nd Cup and Black Hole.* These are all real places and all within about a 7 mile radius of our office.
Apple has been a little tougher for the competition. We haven’t quite seen an alt-Apple, yet. There are companies like Razer that are making supercharged gaming laptops that look relatively cool. The new Microsoft Surface 2 is a really nice-looking laptop, and it is priced at $999 which has to be appealing to young people. But, personally, I am not going to shift away from Apple. Probably not for a long time. There is one way I would leave Apple. And if it happens, I will likely switch and switch quickly and switch confidently. I’ll switch from Apple if they make life easier for me. And, a little cooler. It doesn’t have to make me a lot cooler, but a little cooler is still a little important to me. But, it’s really about me, me, me and my time, time, time. Which leads me to my last behemoth- Amazon. They make everything easier.
I was shopping for generic office supplies the other day on Amazon.com. Amazon is an online retailer that… I’m kidding. As I searched for batteries, a trash can and an extension cord something somewhat terrifying happened with each search; the first result that appeared was a brand of batteries, trash cans and extension cords by Amazon Basics. And, it had great reviews. And, it was cheap. And, Good God, Amazon is selling me their own products and this is the end of civilization as we know it.
There is actually something called the Amazon Effect. It is defined as the ongoing evolution and disruption of the retail market, both online and in physical outlets, resulting from increased e-commerce. It can also be characterized as Amazon absolutely kicking everyone’s ass.
Remember when we all hated Walmart? Now, I kind of just feel bad for them. They’re like a pair of scissors versus a riding lawn mower competing to cut an infinite football field. It’s not going to happen. Unless, Walmart changes tools fast enough. But, I think they may be too late. It is becoming increasingly difficult to make a case when Amazon is not the easier choice in so many situations. Not always better, but easier. Amazon is actually getting us closer to living like the Jetsons than any other company before them. I bet you remember the first time you saw that clip of the Amazon drone delivery. I know I do. By the way, that is coming, and soon. This is bananas!
So, Amazon is taking over everything, yada yada yada. And, I am sure that is really bad for free trade or the global economy or something beyond me. However, my point is there is reason to be optimistic. In fact, Amazon is awesome if your product or service is awesome. If you wrote an amazing book you can get it published online and sold on Amazon in a jiff. Invent and inside-out umbrella (I have one it’s awesome)? Sell a million of them on Amazon. This is good for small companies and bad for companies just smaller than Amazon. What’s going to happen to Duracell and Energizer when I order batteries from Alexa? Alexa’s going to send me Amazon batteries unless I specify otherwise. And, I am not going to specify because I don’t care about what kind of batteries I buy. I am sorry, Energizer and Duracell, and I appreciate all the hard work you’ve done building your brands. But, I don’t care about your brands. And, that’s not Amazon’s fault, or my fault, that’s their fault.
I also disagree that Amazon will digitally demolish the need for brick and mortar retail. It will just demolish the ones we no longer care about. Sorry, Best Buy. But, if you are a thoughtful, skillful and local shop this is all good news. Amazon can’t give me the experience that Manready Mercantile can give me. The place is beautifully designed, smells like bergamot and teak, and I only know what that smell is because the owner talks to me every time I am in there about crazy ass scents I’ve never heard of like bergamot and teak. Amazon can’t give you that. You can’t clime a rock wall at Amazon. But, you can at REI. From accessibility to experiences Amazon is creating opportunities for everybody out there who is really trying to do something. There’s no more gatekeepers. You don’t need to get your product into stores. You don’t need the big boys to buy what you are selling. Everyone is now just waiting for the next best product or service and it doesn’t matter who creates it. And, that is awesome.
*I excluded a place named AHH, Coffee! because it is named AHH, Coffee!