Thanks to its ugly spat with book publishers, Amazon has lately been cast as the abominable boogeyman of American commerce.As hundreds of authors took up arms against the giant, The New Republic declared in a cover article this fall that “Amazon Must Be Stopped,” insisting that the company’s unbounded retail ambitions would end up “cannibalizing the economy.”But there’s another theory about Amazon’s future, one for which evidence began to mount this year: Despite fears of Amazon’s growing invincibility, the company’s eventual hegemony over American shopping is not assured. It might not even be likely.That’s not just because investors began to question the company’s aggressive spending this year, or because its big new thing, the Fire Phone, turned out to be about as unwelcome as the flu.Amazon may face a deeper problem. Like many of the local and big-box retailers it has displaced over the last decade and a half, Amazon could itself become increasingly vulnerable to the threat of technological upheaval.
HT: Value Investing World's linkfestThe key to its vulnerability is the smartphone, a device whose scope and significance Jeff Bezos, the chief executive, has not yet managed to corral.Phones have already radically altered both the way Americans shop and how retail goods move about the economy, but the transformation is just beginning — and it is far from guaranteed that Amazon will emerge victorious from the transition.Phones are at the heart of the service offered by Postmates, one of several start-ups that are working with retailers and helping to change shopping experiences. “Everything that we’re doing is anti-Amazon,” said Bastian Lehmann, the co-founder of Postmates.Postmates runs a network of couriers who, like Uber drivers, are dispatched by phones to deliver food, apparel, toothpaste and other goods from local stores in 18 American cities. The company recently announced a plan for retailers to build Postmates’ technology into their own technology systems, a way to give small stores the kind of logistical efficiencies that were previously available only to giants like Amazon.
As local retailers adopt such mobile innovations, customers will be able to search stores’ inventories, purchase goods for same-day delivery, and navigate and search for help and reviews inside a crowded store. None of these technologies pose an existential threat to Amazon, but by giving physical stores some of the conveniences that Amazon has long had, they may limit its potential reach....MORE
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