Interesting thoughts Kyle. Though I agree that both Amazon and Walmart have complementary strengths and weaknesses, I think Walmart’s lagging entrance into the e-commerce area will continue to haunt them. In particular, given Amazon’s wealth of data on its customers going back several years, I believe it will have the leg up launching into the omnichannel space. Given the knowledge it has on its customer’s buying and searching habits, it is better poised to open more efficient brick and mortar operations that are leaner on inventory and thus real estate costs among other benefits. Moreover, Amazon’s integrated platform (e.g. Alexa, Amazon TV), gives it a further advantage.
However, there is burgeoning customer push back on the emerging Amazon monopoly, which I believe Walmart should capitalize on. Walmart needs to create viable competitors across the spectrum of Amazon’s products, such as launching a best-in-class app for phone and TV among other things, so that customers who are wary of solely buying through Amazon have a viable alternative.
In this new isolationist world order, companies with cross-border operations are increasingly being politicized. The over-arching question is whether or not these companies should surrender to the current political game, or remain above the skirmishes happening at the moment. My sense is that a degree of protectionism will always exist in large industries, such as the aerospace industry in Quebec that employs a significant number of people.
I agree with you that in the current climate, Bombardier, Boeing and others need to try and avoid engaging in politically motivate trade disputes that are further politicized and publicized given the current government’s emphasis on the issue. Especially now, any moves these companies make risk thrusting them into distracting PR fiascos. For better relations in the future, I hope to see some of these companies stepping up and shaping the current NAFTA negotiations so that they best represent the needs of a complex, inter-linked supply chain, rather than the ideologies of the current political players.
I think the introduction of AI into the retail space is an interesting one. Previously, much of the value proposition of different retailers rested on their customer service strategy. Nordstrom and others made a name for themselves on both their personalized and personal service they offered their clients, helping them craft a unique sense of style that reflects an individual’s personality.
With the advent of AI, I wonder if retailers are truly tailoring their approach to each customer, or rather, ineffectively bucketing clients based on an algorithm. People’s choice of clothing is a manifestation of their personality, for better or worse, so I wonder if clients will be proud to present their personal fashion choices as a product of a computer generated model (e.g. Stitch Fix told me to buy this!). In order to differentiate, I think Stitch Fix needs to be the leader in making the consumer feel like they are a partner in the selection process as much as possible by increasing and improving interactions with the human stylist, making their experience and unique and personalized as possible.
The question about Amazon’s entrance into the healthcare space is an interesting one, as its entrance will undoubtedly disrupt the industry. To me, Amazon’s core mission to be the place where people can buy anything they need to online. Amazon’s hurdles are both behavioral and legal – you mention the consumer’s current hesitation to purchase prescriptions online (especially difficult given the demographic of the main target market) as well as the entrenched supply chain and government regulation that makes disruption more difficult.
If it goes upstream, such as wholesale, I think Amazon’s is entering a space with large, entrenched players. As such, I think Amazon should play the role it always has, getting customers to buy things online they otherwise wouldn’t. Given it’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, I think there is a strategic advantage to integrate Amazon’s evolving brick-and-mortar presence with an entrance into the pharmacy retail space. Amazon is currently working to integrate Whole Foods into its Amazon Prime operations, taking their existing customers online. There is a prime opportunity for them to integrate retail pharmacy and make those customers comfortable with shopping online.
Your article reminds me of the IKEA case we discussed in class. Both cases dealt with a similar issue – to what extent does a business’ sustainability practices reflect pure altruism or an inauthentic marketing scheme? As we discussed in the IKEA case, there was a preemptive effort on behalf of the company to lead the way in sustainable supply chain, both due to public interest and to sustain its business model. In the case of Victoria’s Secret, it appears that their sustainability efforts are purely reactionary. But actually, to me, their swift response to RAN and minimal promotion of their actions signals a more altruistic attempt to evolve their supply chain without risking their brand image and the need for a “pat on the back”.
Moreover, I don’t believe that Victoria’s Secret should necessarily promote their sustainability initiatives given their “sexy” brand image. Consumers who are committed to ethical and sustainable lingerie can do a simple Google search and find many brands that will appeal to them. However, right now, eco-friendliness is usually accompanied by a more wholesome brand image. Although Victoria’s Secret can lead the way in combining sustainability and sex appeal, I think a brand turnaround like that is a very risky proposition for a retailer that is currently struggling to stay afloat.