In a recent post on 24/7 Wallstreet, Douglas McIntyre laments the enviable position of eCommerce market leaders Amazon, eBay, WalMart and Target. There’s no doubt those four sites make up a large portion of the eCommerce spend in the US. However, I take issue with his closing point that, “No online retailer can compete with the small number of companies that lead the field.”
As a culture, we tend to be obsessed with companies that generate the most of something – usually it’s revenue. In any market, there’s bound to be a “top dog” in terms of revenue. Wall Street investors value this above all, and perhaps that’s Mr. Macintyre’s perspective. But I find such a perspective to be unnecessarily defeatist and myopic, serving no purpose other than to stifle would-be innovators.
The message? Spend your time complaining about the success of others instead of expending your time and effort on a creative and competitive endeavor. What a crock.
I’ve seen many eCommerce companies, some of whom were clients, succeed in recent years by launching great sites in niche markets. They still produce plenty of revenue, but pale in comparison to the giants of the eCommerce industry. What they produce the “most of”, though, is customer satisfaction. The focus is clearly on the customer, the quality of the product, the user experience, and the customer relationship — not on whether or not some massive company sells more stuff than they do.
I for one would hate to see a market defined solely by what the top four companies are doing. Attitudes like this kill innovation. And small companies are the font from which innovation most often springs. In an alternate reality, who could possibly imaging Bill Gates or Steve Jobs saying, “Well, I was thinking about starting a company in the computer business. But since IBM is so large, maybe I’ll just go apply for a job there.”
Other names that come to mind: Richard Branson, Larry Ellison, Sara Blakely. Thankfully, they chose to create and innovate. They chose to find a way to compete, not complain.