If your brand is afraid of Amazon, then you should be terrified of Alibaba

Now begins the North American battle of Amazon vs Walmart, with the winner to take on Alibaba on the world’s retailer stage.

alibabaI love watching the Kentucky Derby, especially those horses that start off slow, then pick it up on the back straight, and then basically fly past everyone on the last turn, like they are standing still. That’s how I feel about watching the Alibaba brand.

The joint venture between Walmart and Google is a signal that both might be a little bit scared of Amazon. 

But, Alibaba is using their dominance in the world’s largest market (China) to pick up all that speed in the back straight and likely beat both Amazon and Walmart.

Walmart is a tough competitor. They won’t go down without a fight.

Obviously, Amazon has a huge advantage in the US, but things are about to get really ugly as Walmart and Amazon attempt to destroy each other. 

But, if you have ever dealt with Walmart, you would have to be an idiot to ever count them out. Their culture focuses on the relentless fixation on fast-moving items that helps drive cash flow. Sure, Walmart beats up their vendors over price–but that’s mainly to drive sell through. If your brand moves slow, there is no debate–you are told to speed up your sales, and if you don’t, you are gone.

I remember when Walmart starting sending us their weekly sales data. My first thought was “Wow, this is true partnership, amazing data, thanks Walmart”. Then the questions started to come. “Your 250ml cherry flavored cough syrup is not selling fast enough, what will you do to accelerate turns”. We lowered the price. Or even worse, “Your Listerine Pocketpaks product accounts for the highest theft of any product in our stores, fix it”. We changed the packaging, just because they asked us.   In the bricks and mortar space, while most department store retailers sell through their inventory in 130-150 days. Walmart sells through their inventory in 29 days. That’s cash flow.

I expect Walmart will go lower on price than Amazon can tolerate. What retailer owned the low price positioning before Walmart?  Sears. If you go compare prices at Walmart and Sears, you will see why Sears stores are empty and about to go bankrupt.

Does the Google partnership help Walmart?  A little. But both better step it up fast. If Walmart loses to Amazon, the case study class starts off with “Walmart should have started their on-line war with Amazon in 2002, not 2017.”

Even if Amazon can tolerate lower prices and eventually beats Walmart, it will do some damage to their profits. Amazon will experience lower margins, squeezed cash flow, and a divided consumer base. It will further open the possibility of seeing Alibaba entering the US market.

Why Alibaba will win

Alibaba, valued at $420 Billion has seen an 80% increase in the market capitalization in the past twelve months. In the same period, Amazon has seen a 20% increase, still with a slight lead at $465 Billion. 

Here are 5 reasons why Alibaba will eventually win the global e-commerce retail space:

  1. Alibaba can utilize their home-field advantage. Alibaba is dominating the Chinese market, which is the #1 e-commerce population in the world. China has 500 million active on-line users, is twice the size of the US market. Walmart and Amazon will divide up the US market.
  2. Alibaba has a business model that delivers higher profitability. Alibaba’s business model, with no listing fees, with the bulk of their revenue coming from keywords and digital-advertising is closer to the social media model. This gives Alibaba significantly higher margins than Amazon. 
  3. Alipay payment system.  Alibaba launched a digital payment system in 2004, just for their own customers. Along with WePay, it has become the accepted method of payment in China. They have moved to a cashless and even cardless payment world. 
  4. Alibaba will ride the growth curve of the Chinese Economy. Despite the recent slowdown, China’s economy is still growing at almost three times the rate of the US – around 7% over the last couple of years, compared to less than 2.5%.The US has a growing trade deficit – it imports more than it exports – while China imports significantly less than it exports, resulting in a trade surplus.
  5. Alibaba’s sales will benefit from the growth of the Chinese Middle Class. In the last ten years, the average income for China has tripled. It is expected that from 2012 to 2022, those in China making more than $34K US will increase from 3% currently up to 9%, and those in the growing middle class ($16K to $34K) will increase from 14% up to 54%.

So when will Alibaba move west? Likely after the Walmart vs Amazon dust settles. By 2020, I would expect both Walmart and Amazon to be weakened. Whoever wins will have to take on a very healthy, highly profitable, cash-rich Alibaba. Realistically, Alibaba could end up two or three times the size of Amazon.Then it will be like watching that horse in the Kentucky Derby, with Alibaba rounding the final turn on the way to the finish line.

To read more on competitive strategy, click on this link: 

Competitive Brand Strategy

 

In retail, the smart money should be on Alibaba for the win.  

 

To learn about strategic thinking, follow this powerpoint slide presentation. 

 

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It is our fundamental belief that the more loved your brand is by your most cherished consumers, the more powerful and profitable your brand will be. We also believe that better marketing people will lead to smarter strategy choices and tightly focused marketing execution that will higher growth for your brands.

With our workshops, we use our unique tools force you to think differently and help unleash new strategy solutions to build around. I believe the best solutions lay deep inside you already, but struggle to come out. In every discussion, I bring a challenging yet understanding voice to bring out the best in you and help you craft an amazing strategy.

We will help you find a unique and own-able Big Idea that will help you stand out from the clutter of today’s marketplace. The Big Idea must serve to motivate consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal connection with your brand. Equally, the Big Idea must work inside your organization, to inspire all employees who work behind the scenes to deliver happy experiences for consumers.

We will help build a brand plan everyone can follow. It starts with an inspiring vision to push your team. We then force strategy choices on where to allocate your limited resources. With our advice on brand execution, we can steer the brand towards brand love and brand growth.

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At Beloved Brands, we deliver brand training programs that make brand leaders smarter so they are able to drive added growth on your brands. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

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Graham Robertson Beloved Brands

 

Retailers are destroying Black Friday

Black-Friday-LineFor the past 20 years, it has been a tradition for american families to plan out their friday after US Thanksgiving by hitting the malls as the kickoff to Christmas season. For us too lazy to get up at 5am, it has been fun to watch on TV, seeing doors flung open with screaming people trampling each other trying to get to those door crasher specials. Whether you like the idea of “Black Friday” or not, retailers are doing what they do best:  taking a good thing and messing it up.  

Last year, we saw “Black Friday” ads on the Monday of Thanksgiving. This year, we saw them the week before. The problem when you mess with Black Friday is that you lose the buzz and excitement. You also lose the irrational consumer behavior brought about by the energy of the moment. So Black Friday used to mean getting up at 5am, running through the store to grab that Samsung TV for $179 by 6:15am and then adding a TV stand and gold-plated cables at full price on the way out of the store. Just like any emotion, causing consumers to feel more and think less puts the power into the hands of the brand. Retailers were winning this transaction. That’s gone if you do your sale over 10 days. You are just giving consumers time to think, search other websites and come to a rational decision. Now with time on their side, consumers can shop around for a week, review the specs on the TV and figure out that it has been down-graded with a lack of features, determine the gold-plated cables are a waste of money and just go to IKEA for the TV stand. Maybe they can even talk themselves out of the TV!!!  Why? Because now they can use their brain. After all, that buzz is gone.

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Another crazy trend is the idea that retailers open on Thanksgiving evening. Retailers are always trying to get a leg up, so they are now all trying to open when no one else is open. And yet with a low barrier to copy, they all just follow each other and negate any advantage. Last year the trend started where major retailers including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Sears opened on Thanksgiving Day–the night before Black Friday. This won’t mean a jump in revenues it just means revenues will be brought forward one day. Yes, retailers have this belief that it’s a constant dog-fight for sales, and if one my competitor gets a leg-up, that means a loss to me. Retailers are facing such pressure during these economic times so I’m somewhat sympathetic. Margins are shrinking and many retailers basically make or break their year during Thanksgiving and New Years. So I can understand the temptation. Before we get into the ethical part of opening, let’s look logically at the 8 ways a brand can make more profit: 1) increasing prices 2) getting consumers to trade up 3) lowering your cost of goods 4) lowering your marketing costs 5) stealing other users 6) getting users to use more 7) entering new categories and 8) getting new users. I realize it’s all about stealing other users. But if both competitors blink and open at 8pm on Thanksgiving, no one really wins over the consumer. The only thing I see here is a slight increase in the costs of increased wages and store opening costs. Net net, no one really wins.Slide1

So at the year end, no retailer will really be saying “we had a great year because we opened on Thanksgiving Day”. But come on guys, while your press releases are saying that you’re really just “catering to consumer demand”, we business people know that’s BS. I’d rather see all Americans sitting around the dinner table and watching football (go Patriots) with family and friends. If families are your main target market, you should be making a big deal out of the fact that you are closed so that all employees can spend time with their families. That’s a great way to establish love for your brand. My Hope is the Retailers Announcer Early that they will be closed on Thanksgiving 2015!!!

To all our American Friends, I want to wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on strategy, here is a workshop on HOW TO CREATE A BELOVED BRAND, click on the powerpoint presentation below:

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We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential. For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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