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How do I identify our best positioning versus Amazon?

Lindsay Says

A common thread among many of our clients is that they must compete with Amazon in some way, whether direct or indirect.

Indeed, Amazon’s tentacles continue to extend worlds beyond its original ecommerce roots. Whether it is health care (Amazon Care), video games (Prime Gaming), health tracking (Halo), or any of the myriad other categories in which Amazon now plays, this behemoth is flexing its might every place we look.

In virtually every category it enters, Amazon enjoys a structural cost advantage. This means that Amazon can always win when competing on price.

Win Against Amazon by Changing the Game

So it’s a trap to try to compete on price when you’re up against Amazon. You simply cannot out-Amazon Amazon. To win, you will need to play a different game altogether by competing on something more brave than mere price.

Fortunately, value encompasses more than low price. And it is not in Amazon’s DNA to lean into those non-price elements of winning a customer’s heart, mind and soul. Use brand strategy as your tool to identify the position that will enable you to thrive despite Amazon’s might.

Opportunities to Thrive

A few dimensions where Amazon tends to be weak, and where its very strength will likely keep it weak:

(1) Purpose Driven.

Other than growing and becoming ever bigger, it’s hard to discern any heartfelt purpose within Amazon.

  • What is your business’s unique reason for existing?
  • Have you articulated it in a razor-sharp way so that it can become a scalable guiding tool?

(2) Personality.

It’s nearly impossible to have personality when you are everywhere and everything, as is Amazon, whose personality is generic, boring, vague.

  • What’s your personality that actually feels like a real person?
  • Have you defined it with nuance so that it is distinctively you and you alone?

(3) Specialization.

Amazon is the everything store. It is the ultimate “generalist.” By sheer breadth, it lacks specificity or expertise.

  • Could you zig where Amazon zags by leaning hard into your specific-ness? Could you lead with your unapologetic expertise?
  • If Amazon were a Swiss Army Knife, what is your specific blade? Could you lean into that blade and forego all other tools?

(4) Curated, pleasurable shopping experience.

Amazon’s shopping experience is utilitarian. It does the job, but most don’t go there for the sheer pleasure of it.

  • Could you double down on the level of delight in your customer’s shopping and unboxing experience?
  • Could you pare down in the opposite direction of Amazon’s overwhelming size, offering less, rather than more? Eliminating, rather than adding?

Real-World Examples

Let’s look at a few well-known brands and identify how they can compete against Amazon by leveraging one or more of these four dimensions:

  • REI could lean into its personality in combination with its heartfelt, expertise-rich purpose to get us all outdoors. Perhaps you could be the brand in your market that does so as well.
  • Warby Parker could celebrate and amplify its combination of emotive purpose with a curated, pleasurable customer experience that extends to the customer trying on glasses in their own home. Is such a position white space in your market as well?
  • StitchFix might magnify its combination of the expertise you get from a fashion stylist with a curated, pleasurable customer experience. The StitchFix stylist personally evaluates your style for outfit inspiration, and the unboxing experience brings joy. Is specificity and joyful spareness white space for you?
  • Chewy (owned by PetSmart) could reframe the game by combining its quirky, chipper personality with its curated, pleasurable customer experience for doting pet owners. Do you have the potential to differentiate more bravely by leaning into your personality and customer experience?
  • Casper might consider this a game of combining heartfelt purpose to improve the world’s sleep with its delightful shopping and unboxing experience. Is this combination white space in your market?

Reframe the Game

Amazon has a “right to win” on price, because scale gives them the necessary cost advantage. But Amazon lacks a right to win on other dimensions, such as personality, purpose, specific-ness and pleasure.

You simply cannot out-Amazon Amazon. So do not try! Instead, reframe the game altogether. Find a position that renders Amazon’s strengths irrelevant.

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