Have a “Day 1” Attitude

Jeff Bezos always includes the famous 1997 Letter to Shareholders with each Amazon Annual Letter as a reminder of their “Day 1” attitude.

In 1997, Day 1 was symbolic of the internet and getting everyone to think about shopping online. Bezos foresaw that if they could make the “search for” and “delivery of” some product easy and convenient via the internet (like ordering books), then in time they could potentially compete with every physical franchise in the world.  It was crazy-talk at the time.

So here we are, decades later in 2018, and they’ve largely succeeded. Who knows how high their ceiling is, but they haven’t seemed to bump into it yet. The past seems so obvious and the future still feels like crazy-talk, yet Bezos still keeps that “Day 1” attitude.

Where does that leave the rest of us? How are we supposed to compete? Walmart famously had a sign in their corporate headquarters that said, “you can’t out-Amazon Amazon.”  If that’s Walmart’s mindset, do we just raise the white flag now? No. We have to embrace this reality. We need our own Day 1 attitude.

If Amazon wants to be “the everything store,” then we just need to focus on “some-thing.”

Amazon (and Walmart) can get you bleach and batteries for cheaper than anyone else. Every commodity product is by definition the same, so as a starting point – don’t be the company selling the same commodity goods as Amazon. For the record, that includes both selling the same stuff AS Amazon and selling commodity goods TO Amazon (your margins are their opportunity, which is one painful way to understand what “customer obsessed” really means).

Instead, pick a non-commodity good or service as your some-thing, or even your one-thing.

Look at the retailers who have thrived since Amazon’s Day 1 and ask why? Why Home Depot and Best Buy, and not Macy’s and Sears? It goes beyond the limits of what you can ship in the mail.

User interfaces (website, phone apps, etc.) still have to compete with consumer preferences that you “use your face.” That’s still (in 2018) an anti-Amazon move. That’s a pretty noteworthy some-thing aspect of the consumer experience, right?

Custom, distinct, personalized, one-of-a-kind, luxury, etc., these are the words to focus on.

Think of things that you can use a keyword to find a category, but that you can’t get to that last step / final product without telling someone a story. Amazon is great when you already pretty much know what you’re looking for, so we need to be great at being visible AND curating whatever we do.

The world is changing fast, and the competition isn’t getting easier. The good thing is that saturation makes differentiation easier. It’s never been a better time to think about how you can stand out from a pack that looks increasingly the same.

No one said it was going to be easy, but after all, that’s what Day 1 is all about.