At last week’s earnings call Amazon announced it was moving Amazon Prime from its historical 2-day shipping to 1-day shipping. Inevitably there were articles saying how Walmart or Target or whoever already had this. Or even better than Amazon, had same day delivery for some common products. All because they delivered from their large network of stores. I’m going to call BS on that, because “delivering from their stores” turns out to be more a symptom of a problem then a means of solving it.
Go back to Amazon’s origins as an on-line bookseller and Jeff Bezos’ recognizing that he could offer access to a vastly larger number of books (basically all those in print) than you would ever find in your local bookstore. Far more even than in the giant bookstores being built by chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders. This observation holds true more than ever in today’s retail environment. A retail outlet, even one as large as a Walmart Supercenter, only stocks a tiny fraction of the products, brands, styles, colors, sizes, etc. that are available. And in one of the most frustrating parts of the shopping experience, they frequently don’t have what you are looking for when you go into the store.
It is a very rare event when I go out shopping in local retailers that I come home with every item I was looking for. Even going to a store I know carries an item I want is often an unsatisfying experience. “Sorry you just drove 30 minutes and dealt with parking issues, crowds, etc. we are out of stock on that.” ^&%$(. “Oh, you like those shoes? Sorry, we don’t carry that size in store but you can order it on our website.” “We only carry the 2′ version of that cable in the store, if you want the 4′ you’ll have to order it on our website.” Brand of a particular nutritional supplement? Lets roll the dice and see if this store carries it and as it in stock at this very moment. My preferred brand/scent of antiperspirant? The Safeway stores in Denver seem to stock it, but not the ones around Seattle. And so on. As a result, I don’t bother going to stores. When I need something I just order it. Most of the time from Amazon.
While being able to deliver in one day, or same day, from a local retail outlet can be a very useful part of a fulfillment system, any attempt to make it the center of the experience replicates its bad characteristics to the online world. I don’t really care if Walmart or Target can deliver to my house in 20 minutes if neither carries the antiperspirant I want. Or if they are out of stock on the style, color, and size jeans I am looking for.
I’ve been living in an area where Amazon already offers free 1-day Prime delivery on many items for orders over $35. On Tuesday I realized I’d lost my Apple Pencil I had a new one on Wednesday, despite my SUV being in the shop. Amazon also offers various same-day delivery programs in my area, though I haven’t made use of those services. The news in Amazon announcing that they were moving Prime to 1-day delivery as the default is that they are building out their logistics system to support doing so for a very large portion of the items available on Amazon.com. And that is a whole different beast, both in complexity and in customer offering, than adding a delivery service from your local poorly stocked store. It’s the very same advantage that Jeff Bezos’ had over bricks and mortar bookstores on Day One. And not a surprise for a company where “it is always Day One”.