The American economy is changing. From a manufacturing economy in the 50s, the economy slowly morphed into a (mostly) consumer economy in the 80s and 90s. Still, despite this market shift, American business was still conducted in person, in traditional brick and mortar businesses and American malls, anchored by familiar brands and larger regional names. But times have changed. Driven by the once-upstart online bookseller, Amazon, the American economy has shifted, slowly at first but recently with increasing speed, into an online transaction-based economy. While the tipping point has yet to occur, it’s getting close, as larger chain stores that have not found a way to capture people online are suffering … and shuttering locations. Meanwhile, Amazon, the catalyst and continual trendsetter in this industry, is thriving.
Amazon recently announced plans to hire about 100,000 full-time workers in the next 18 months. The hiring wave comes as the company begins a series of expansions, hoping to increase its customer service capacity and overall service footprint. Since the beginning, CEO Jeff Bezos has been all about growth, innovation, and expansion, both of his brand and his ability to service customer demand. For years, Amazon operated some lines of business at a loss, using income from other sectors to both cover that loss and re-invest into the business. Faithful investors hung in there, trusting Bezos to make good on his long-term promises and goals.
Now, some of those promises are beginning to bear fruit. Amazon is more popular now than ever before. It’s Prime delivery and streaming video memberships are growing, and the company is offering more products and easier customer ordering than ever before. And service? If you have a problem with an Amazon order, it’s pretty easy to make it right. In recent years, Amazon has been investing heavily in Florida, building and expanding warehouse locations. Now, the company is focusing its expansion in two more of the Big Four states – Texas and California. The new facilities allow Amazon to deliver more, even faster, and that has customers and employees excited.
Less excited, are the brick and mortar stores, who spent most of the first few years Amazon was around mocking the company and refusing to believe their business model would be threatened. They were wrong, and now they are forced to play catch up to the company they once viewed as a minor annoyance. At this point, Amazon has both the infrastructure and the cash flow to keep their competitors from ever reaching this runaway juggernaut.
Some traditional retailers, like Walmart, might have a chance at catching Amazon, but they will have to learn to be more creative, more limber and more self-and-customer-aware if they have any chance of succeeding there.