About the Marketplace

PASSIVE GUY POSTS (there’s that need for a macro again) some excerpts from a much longer post by Mike Shatzkin.

The main thrust of the piece(s) is to list and explicate the difficulties faced by would-be competitors to Amazon. And those are myriad.

What Amazon has done over the past 15 years or so has been to build a sort-of covered market within the wider, woolier “city” of Cyberspace. Under that roof, and within those walls, shoppers can trust that certain facts will obtain — ease, trust, selection, assurance of quality (or warranty), and serendipity. If you’ve ever shopped Amazon, you know what I mean. If you’ve never, you don’t know what you’re missing. My reaction all along has been my same reaction to laptop computers — this the way everything should be. Amazon is the way shopping should be, both online and off.

Yes, I have complained about their shelving policy. But, as I have become more familiar with the “layout” of the store, I find that less objectionable than before. I would still like to have the online equivalent of a twenty-foot shelf of mass market paperback spines, chock-a-block, fraught with promise and more than a little mystery and intrigue. But I’m becoming better adjusted to the somewhat less-dense (to my way of thinking) display of so-many face-out covers per page, and that it takes quite a bit longer to click through to the item page than it does to pull a book off a physical shelf and look it over.

But I also miss the smell of a bookstore. I deal.

What Amazon has done right — and the reason they succeeded and continue to succeed — is that they have always remembered that markets exist for the benefit of the buyer. Let me say that again:

Markets exist for the benefit of the buyer.

Businesses which forget that, and focus relentlessly on the bottom line without keeping that uppermost in their corporate minds, will eventually fail. And their failure will be ugly. But businesses which champion their product quality before all else, their customer service, their integrity, their SERVICE to the customer, those businesses will prosper, as inevitably as the day is long.

And, where PG and Shatzkin list ways in which businesses can succeed in competition with Amazon, THAT is the primary method. Make your customer king, and make that drive your business in all things, and you can win in competition with Amazon. Or, more accurately, in the same marketplace with Amazon. As thousands of chain franchisees can attest, the market is not a zero-sum game. Stores of competing chains sited near one another thrive, while others fail in splendid isolation. You don’t need to tear Amazon down in order to win competing with them.

What does this mean to a writer? As an independently-published author, you are a businessman. A manufacturer, a wholesaler, and a retailer all at once. If you remember that your readers are your customers, and treat them as the raison e’etre of your business, you will prosper. If you forget that and chase after the almighty dollar first and last, you will fail.

And your failure will be ugly.

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