Competing with Amazon

Competing with Amazon

Best Buy, You Disappoint Me By Rob Boudon on flickrI’m a huge fan of Amazon.

Over the years, more and more of my purchases have moved to Amazon. I’ve bought books, coffee, electronics, camera equipment and just about everything else you can think of.  They have everything…and they are cheap too.  Plus…..the whole free shipping (with prime membership) and no taxes makes it that much better.

So…how can a brick and mortar store compete with Amazon?

The first way – the store is ‘there’ for those folks that need something NOW.     Another way – Price matching.  Yet another – service.

Competing with Amazon – Fry’s

Take Fry’s for example. They have a store that I can visit when I need something ‘now’.   I make a visit to their store once or twice a month when I need something ‘today’.  Even better, they’ve started price matching other competitors.  Now…I can pick up something from Fry’s and pay the same price as Amazon – which is nice for those things I can’t wait for.  Sure…I pay taxes but that’s not too bad usually.  Additionally, Fry’s staff are usually pretty friendly and helpful.

So..While Fry’s isn’t my first thought for electronics and computer equipment, it is #2 on my list (Amazon is #1 of course).

I don’t know how well Fry’s is doing financially, but I suspect they are doing OK…the local store is always packed so I suspect their revenue is decent.

Fry’s has found a way to compete.  They have brick and mortar stores, they have an amazing selection, have decent prices and provide pretty good service.

Will I always buy from Frys’?  No…I’ll look online first.  But…I’ve come to the point of checking Fry’s to see what they have.  They’ve done a decent job of getting ‘mindshare’ from me.

Now…let’s compare and contrast Fry’s with the disaster that is Best Buy.

NOT competing with Amazon – Best Buy

I’ve found myself really loathing Best Buy (BB) lately.

When i go into a BB, I walk around in a daze.  I can’t find anything as there’s not really any organization (at least at my local store).

I can’t find anyone to help if I have questions…what happened to all the Blue Shirts that could answer my questions?

The prices aren’t bad but they aren’t good enough to lure me back time after time.

An example – I visited BB this week to pick up a laptop hard drive.  I needed it that evening since my wife’s laptop hard drive had become corrupted.  The closest store was a Best Buy (and it was also next to another store my wife wanted to visit).  So…off we went to BB.

I dropped Tracie off at the other store and went to Best Buy.

I walked back to the computer area and began looking for hard drives.

And I looked.

And I looked.

I walked around every aisle with no luck.

I searched for a Blue Shirt but couldn’t find one…finally, I stepped into the break area in the back of the store to see if I could find some help. There were 10 employees back there doing what looked like nothing (I could be wrong…they may have been in a meeting but it didn’t look like it). I asked for help.

One of the blue shirts reluctantly agreed to help me.  I told him what i was looking for and he led me out to the hard drives. They were on the opposite side of the store from the rest of the computer ‘stuff’…poor location for sure.

Once I found the hard drives, I was surprised at the lack of selection. They had a grand total of three hard drives for laptops.  Not three different types…three drives that were all the same.  And…of course, they weren’t the size or speed that I wanted.

I asked the blue shirt if that was his entire selection and he said ‘Yes’.   My response to him was ‘how do you stay in business’.

Disappointed, I pulled out my phone, pulled up the App, found the drive i needed and ordered while standing in Best Buy (with the Blue Shirt watching me). I got a better drive (more space / faster drive) for about $50 cheaper than the BB small/slow drive.

After this latest experience at Best Buy (there were many many more disappointing experiences before this one), I have to ask myself…what is Best Buy’s focus?  Are they a computer store? An entertainment store (movies, electronics, etc)?  What are they?

Their focus is hard to discern.  But…Fry’s isn’t really focused either…and they seem to be doing OK.  So…what’s the problem?

I can’t answer that question…but I can say there’s a problem with Best Buy. If they are going to have a broad focus (computers, hardware, cameras, entertainment, appliances, etc etc) then they need to have the appropriate inventory and selections to be compete.

Not only does Best Buy not compete with Amazon, they aren’t competing with Fry’s.

There’s a broad lesson here…

If you’re going to compete, then compete. Don’t try to compete.

Don’t try to be all things to all people if you don’t have the capabilities.

In today’s world of electronics, books, computers (and darn near everything else) – you’re competing with Amazon.  To succeed, you’ve got to provide something of value to your potential clients. You’ve got to provide service and you’ve got to have what people want.

The same can be said for every other industry.

If you’re a social media consultant, what are you bringing to your clients that they can’t get elsewhere?

If you’re a professional wedding photographer who charges $2000 for a wedding, what are you doing to show that you deliver value over the $200 wedding photographer?

As a technology consultant, I pride myself on being much more than a technology consultant. I know technology, but i also know a ton about marketing, business, finance, HR and other areas of the business plus I understand the processes within those functions.  I deliver more value for my clients than other technology consultants do.

The main lesson here – if you’re going to compete with the big dog(s), you’ve got to be focused, you’ve got to deliver and provide top-notch service your clients.  Amazon is the big dog…they know how to do that. Fry’s has figured out how to compete.  Best Buy has lost the competive edge.

Are you going to be the Amazon, Fry’s or Best Buy in your industry?

Image Credit: Best Buy, You Disappoint Me By Rob Boudon on flickr