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And Just Like That, The Need For Innovation Becomes More Urgent

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

True story.  I am driving to work this week, and the morning radio guys are talking about the fact that the station has bought an entire movie theater for the upcoming “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron” sequel.  (Full disclosure:  I have no interest in anything “Avengers”, so I had to use Google to find the name of the movie.)  The conversation then moves to the fact that one of the morning personalities has not seen the first “Avengers” movie and probably should before going to see the second one.  He’s says he’ll just watch it on Netflix or iTunes tonight.

First, in case you didn’t know, you can rent movies on iTunes.  You can buy them, too.  Nexflix has become a major player in the home entertainment world, with an incredible number of people now subscribed so they can watch anything from commercial TV to cable television shows to movies.

And that got me thinking.  Why is it called “Netflix”?  If the folks at Blockbuster were truly innovative, wouldn’t we call it “Blockbuster Online”?  But they weren’t innovative.  They didn’t innovate.  Someone else did.  Actually, a number of companies did.  And Blockbuster, which at one time held all of the best cards in the home movie rental world, is today an afterthought.

Did you know “Blockbuster On Demand” even exists?  Did you know there are still about 50 Blockbuster locations that are still open?  Probably not, because they are definitely not a part of the conversation when your friends or the guys on the radio are talking about how they will be watching television or movies.

The fact is, they got “out-innovated” by the other guys, who found a better, faster and easier way for their end-user customers to actually use the service.  While the others were making strong moves and thinking toward the next 50 years of how to entertain their customers, Blockbuster stuck with what was working today.

And that brings me to the AmazonSupply decision that happened earlier this week.  After launching the site in April of 2012, Jeff Bezos is shutting it down for good on May 13, 2015.  Three years of trying to tap into wholesale distribution will come to an end.  But not without innovation.

Now we welcome Amazon Business to the equation.  The latest innovation from Amazon is built for the Amazon brand of “The Everything Store” by providing everything a business could possibly need in a B2B transaction.  Where AmazonSupply had 2.2 million products on its website, Amazon Business will have hundreds of millions of products.  It will also offer free delivery on any order of more than $50.  The idea is you can go to five different websites for all of your B2B transactions, or you can go to Amazon Business.

Bezos also appears to be making good on his promise to hire industry experts to answer any customer’s question about products sold on the site.  This was once one of the advantages we had as electrical distributors when it comes to expertise and product knowledge.  That advantage may be getting a little tighter these days.

We need to start accepting the fact that Jeff Bezos is not done innovating when it comes to B2B transactions through e-commerce and wholesale distribution.  He knows there is a multi-trillion dollar industry out there, and he would like a nice sized percentage of it.

Before it’s too late, now is the time to start thinking about innovation.  What are the simple, first steps you should be taking to move your company in the right direction for the next 50 years?  If you have ever spent time with Dirk Beveridge at UnLeashWD, you would know he is a passionate believer in change for the better.  His book, Innovate, is a part of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors library.  Beveridge writes about having the business model, transformative leadership, vision and culture and the value proposition for your customers to drive you toward future success.

These are all attributes that Jeff Bezos is using against you right now.  Bezos has a business model to lead Amazon into the future of wholesale distribution.  His leadership, based on transforming not only Amazon but the entire distribution industry, proves he will continue to build for the future.  The culture at Amazon continues to be that he will allow his employees to offer insight into the best ways to connect with his B2B customers.  And his value proposition continues to grow, from ease of ordering to pristine data on the website to having everything you could possibly want to buy in one location to fast and inexpensive delivery.

The time has come for you to innovate.  Don’t be like Blockbuster, where you are not even a part of the conversation.  Those who are innovating, do so at an extremely fast rate.  Before you know it, you could get left behind.


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