Google, Amazon and Alibaba are the leading giants in their respective realms of search and ecommerce. What these tech giants have in common is that they never stop innovating; they continue to expand their empires, tapping into new markets to deliver the kind of experiences customers want.
To stay ahead of the game, Amazon and Google are seeping into every aspect of consumer life, from fashion and entertainment to groceries and home appliances. Many businesses struggle to compete as these tech behemoths expand into various markets. Will they own the future of commerce?
Does Amazon Really Provide an “Experience” for Shoppers?
With shoppers increasingly gravitating toward online channels over traditional brick-and-mortar stores, many retailers see Amazon as a threat to their business. During the recent Shoptalk conference, some speakers were quick to argue that Amazon does not provide shoppers with an “experience,” and that consumers lose human interaction when shopping on Amazon.
But shoppers beg to differ, according to Prosper’s consumer survey, which collects insights from 2,000 Amazon shoppers each month. While Amazon certainly doesn’t have associates to personally greet shoppers on their website or the glitzy websites of hip brands, Amazon has plenty of customer data, which allows them to be relevant because they can anticipate their customer’s needs. Shoppers are met with with personalized product recommendations based on their past shopping activity and preferences.
Similarly, Amazon shoppers are given the option whether or not they want to interact with customer service, and they can choose this at their own convenience and preferred communication medium, from email to phone support.
The very concept of shopping experience is changing as more people become increasingly comfortable buying everything over the Internet, from toilet paper to large electronics. The kind of experience Amazon aims to deliver is not just about on-site experience, but a customer experience tied to customer’s expectations.
When people shop on Amazon, they expect a great assortment of products, good prices and quick delivery. Amazon has been investing heavily on their infrastructure to deliver goods, and when expectations are met, customers are very satisfied.
While the brick-and-mortar store certainly gives a different ambiance, Amazon nevertheless provides a real shopping experience that continues to build relationships and generate loyalty and repeat visits.
Google is Moving into Predictive Intelligence and Conversational Computing
With people spending less time browsing the web on computers, Google is turning to artificial intelligence to stay relevant and compete in the crowded field of conversational computing. During the I/O developer conference, Google unveiled Allo and Google Home, two products powered by their existing technologies.
Allo is a new messaging app that features a digital personal assistant that learns your preferences and daily behavior. Allo will allow users to search for movies or dinner reservations simply by chatting with the AI assistant. This is very similar to Facebook Messenger’s chatbot platform, which allows consumers to chat with stores directly, leaving out Google’s search engine.
Google Home is a voice-based search device that rivals Amazon’s Echo. Both “smart speakers” can stream music and answer questions when people are in their houses. Both can perform tasks like web searches, adding calendar appointments and looking up movie showtimes over an Internet connection.
With Amazon Echo, however, people can use their voice instead of typing for things and order products from the Amazon’s store. Similarly, users can play music through Amazon-owned services, cutting out Google from the picture.
Is Google is coming in late in the conversational computing game? Their previous messaging services such as GoogleTalk and Hangouts didn’t really do well in the mobile arena. But their focus on machine learning could be promising and can put them back on the map of relevance.
Will we one day hear product suggestions from a smart device or chatbot, without a direct input? How will retailers respond?
Amazon and Alibaba to Be Major Disruptors in Logistics
Amazon and Alibaba, two of the world's largest retailers, recently made huge investments to their supply chain capabilities, building their own streamlined delivery systems that could one day replace the more established delivery postal and courier specialists.
As Amazon continues to open new fulfillment centers, they are also doubling the size of their courier fleet, signing a new deal to lease more cargo jets. While this is partly a response to increasing demand, it is also part of their desire to make Amazon the only acceptable place to shop. By having a nearly infinite list of goods and same-day delivery, Amazon shoppers will have no need to drive to a physical store or turn to other online competitors.
Last year, Amazon shipped 1 billion parcels of its own goods. To further expedite and automate shipping, they are also working on delivery drones, aimed to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less. Analysts predict that Amazon will handle more shipments than FedEx by 2019. Amazon is building their own logistics network to circumvent slow and expensive delivery systems that only hinder growth.
Similarly, Alibaba, the largest ecommerce company in China, has made similar moves in expanding their logistics network. Aside from enhancing their data quality and route planning information, they are investing into 1,800 distribution centers and 97,000 delivery stations in more than 600 cities across 31 Chinese provinces.
As they bypass traditional channels in the supply chain, both Alibaba and Amazon are positioning themselves as major disruptors in the logistics market. In effect, they are transforming into the world’s biggest supply chain companies that could completely revolutionize the industry.