31 May 2018

Could Amazon one day be the only company a consumer needs?

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Imagine you could only shop at one company. One company to satisfy as many of your needs as possible.

At any other point in the past century, such a question would’ve sparked a heated debate as there was no clear answer. Nowadays however, the first thought that would pop into everyone’s head would be Amazon.

For the past decade, it has been the undisputed one-stop shop for all of our retail needs. What started off as an online bookshop based out of Jeff Bezos’ garage has turned into an economic giant whose business strategy can both make and break fortunes.

Unsatisfied with the world of retail, Amazon has started to expand at an alarming rate, gaining a foothold in the logistics industry to transport its goods therefore cutting out the middle man. It has also decided to take on the supermarket giants through the acquisition of Whole Foods Market and its pioneering Amazon Fresh service. Backed up by a product line that includes the Echo, Kindle and Fire, the company has laid the foundations for success in any range of sectors that it wishes to focus on.

Amazon however, has shown signs of preparing to take on the most daring disruption project in their history. The launch of a debit card in Mexico by the company this March that is designed to encourage customers without bank accounts to shop online could be the beginning of an incredible assault on the financial sector. An industry that has traditionally had such high barriers of entry that it has been considered almost impenetrable to new competitors.

Amazon’s move may come as little surprise to many as Silicon Valley companies have been methodically working their way through a list of industries that are ripe for disruption. As technology evolves, more sectors become increasingly vulnerable with established companies having their marketshare eaten into as faster competitors outmanoeuvre them. Companies both big and small are taking lessons that they have learnt from the technology sector and applying them across the board with astonishing results.

The introduction of such expertise into new sectors is helping to change the rules of the game with historic companies forced into drastic shifts in strategy if they wish to compete. Failure to change has all too often resulted in the decline and even disappearance of iconic brands.

The potential rewards if Amazon succeed in the financial sector are enormous and would save the company vast amounts in card transaction and processing fees. It would also help to give the company an incredibly rich haul of data as they would be able to gain an unrivalled look at the spending habits of their core consumers.

The enormous obstacle that stands in the way of tech companies when it comes to entering the world of banking is overcoming the regulatory issues as well as the massive costs involved in entering the market. This why the first logical step for staking a claim into the financial sector is by building alliances with established players from Wall Street and across global financial centres.

Such an alliance could be a win-win for both the banks and tech companies alike. It would eliminate many of the barriers of entry that companies such as Amazon are facing whilst giving banks access to more cutting edge technology offering customers a far more complete and immersive banking experience. An example of this can be seen in the potential of products such as Amazon Echo to be used to make payments and transfers through voice command.

Initial talks of such alliances are already under way with the Wall Street Journal reporting that Amazon and JP Morgan have met to discuss the possibility of such a partnership. A similar set of negotiations have begun between Goldman Sachs and Apple as the US investment bank looks to get more involved in consumer finance.

For the time being, global banking giants perhaps have little reason to be concerned about Silicon Valley’s shift in focus towards the financial sector but this is definitely a space to keep a close eye on over the coming years. Amazon has already gained a foothold in a number of industries with incredibly efficiency. There is the perception that everything Bezos touches at the moment seems to turn to gold and that is reflected in their stock price which has rocketed over the past three years.

Amazon possess the tehcnical expertise, financial resources and brand loyalty to succesfully take on almost any sector and the company is showing an increasing willingness to do so by expanding their reach. Companies must seek to learn to emulate what makes Amazon so succesful and why their investments in technology and design keep on helping to deliver a return on investment in unexpected areas. What starts off as a debit card in Mexico, has all the potential to transform into a financial behemoth when combined with their expertise.

As their web of holdings grows aided by remarkable tech and an expert understanding of the world of online trends and best practices, even the most strictly regulated sectors such as banking and finance will have reason to fear that they too might soon be in a battle for marketshare with a company that was founded all those years ago in a Seattle garage.

Times are changing, companies must open their eyes and look around rather than stubbornly following the same old path. Directors and executives would do well to heed this advice: