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Jeff Bezos and His Competitive Edge

Jeff Bezos and His Competitive Edge

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

Now that college basketball season is in full swing, I can remind all of you that I am a huge Kansas Jayhawks fan.  I can also remind you that we look pretty good this year.

We didn’t last year, especially last March 23rd, when we were knocked out of the NCAA tournament.

I’m not really OK with losing in general.  I am pretty competitive at just about anything I do.  Funny thing is, on that day, the Jayhawks weren’t really very competitive.  In fact, they just sort of let Wichita State do whatever they wanted, and, in the end, win.  It’s the most disappointed I have been in the Jayhawks in nearly 30 years, not because we lost to another team from the state of Kansas, but because we just did not compete.

You know who else likes to compete?  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

About a month ago, I read an update showing one of his companies, Blue Origin, launched a rocked into space, then had it return and land vertically, just 4 feet from its target landing site.  Landing a rocket vertically means it can be re-used for other missions.  It also means Bezos has moved one step closer to his larger goal, which is to send a rocket to Mars, have it land, then have it re-launch and return to Earth.

Of course, Bezos is not alone in this goal. Tesla founder Elon Musk is trying to do the same thing.  Musk’s team, called SpaceX, has not been able to create a rocket that can be re-launched.  So at this point, Bezos is winning this “space race.”

But that’s not all.  Bezos has also taken on other companies, like Apple.  Amazon is taking a deeper dive into the computer hardware market in the past few months.  According to “The Street,” Amazon’s tablets (Kindle, Kindle Fire), e-readers, the Fire-TV and the Fire-TV Stick accounted for between $300-$500 million in sales over the Black Friday weekend.  That might not be as big a number as Apple’s iPad sales, but the fact that Bezos has decided to up the challenge with Apple in the tablet and hardware market shows he is ready to be competitive with anyone.  He is also selling his products at a fraction of Apple’s prices.

The most accurate description I can find for Jeff Bezos comes from Fast Company Magazine’s Austin Carr, who wrote about Bezos’ attempt to retrieve a rocket engine from the Apollo 11 mission that was lost in the Atlantic Ocean.  Carr wrote, “(Bezos is) the guy in work boots, who always seemed willing to go anywhere and work harder than anyone at the jobs no one else really wanted to do.”

And that leads me to our supply chain.  The question now turns to when Bezos is going to really be serious about competing with us for what is expected to be a successful year economically for us.  If there is a significant amount of money at stake, Bezos is going to compete for it, because that’s what he does.

We already know the reasons why Bezos and Amazon Business cannot compete with us.  He can’t provide the value-added services that we provide.  He can’t provide the customer service opportunities that we provide.  He can’t provide the delivery times and specifications that we provide.

But here’s the thing.  He’s trying to launch a rocket that will travel to Mars, land, and then take off again and return to Earth.  He’s is challenging the single biggest tech company in the world today to grab a significant share of the computer tablet market.  He’s searched an entire ocean to find a rocket engine that no one could find for 44 years.  Now, how hard to you think it will be for Bezos to open a few more distribution centers that are a lot closer to you?  How hard do you think it will be for Bezos to staff those centers with enough people to sort, kit and deliver anything in that center the way the customer wants it?  And how hard do you think it will be for Bezos to hire experts, maybe some who are right out of college, to handle customer complaints, questions and returns?

I’m not guaranteeing that Bezos and Amazon Business will do these things. But you have to admit this:  if Bezos wants to be more competitive in this arena, he can, and, he will.  Just last month, Bezos bought an entire fleet of trucks for marketing and potential delivery purposes.  Plus, his e-commerce strategy is already ahead of many of us, based on the time and effort he puts into his data.  Like it or not, Bezos is going to compete.

That’s one of the reasons why we launched a series of e-commerce stories at www.tedmag.com to kick off 2016.  We are going to help you prepare for any competition that may come your way and disrupt the traditional supply chain. We all ask that you make sure you check out our stories and ask any questions you may have so we can be just as competitive as Amazon when it comes to the future of our industry.


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