It’s not easy being a retailer. That’s always been the case, but with the advent of e-tailing it’s even harder than ever. Amazon.Com – a company where I buy everything from books to music to (now that I live in Seattle) my groceries – has upended the conventional retail model. American retailers from Home Depot to Wal-Mart are afraid that consumers will walk their brick and mortar shops, figure out what they want to buy, look the item up on their smart-phone and – if it shows up cheaper on Amazon.Com – simply buy at Amazon even though they researched it inside a competitor’s store.
That’s part of why I am curious to learn more about Amazon.Com’s India strategy. Earlier this month, Amazon announced Junglee.com. Through this site, Indian consumers can purchase a variety of products from Amazon.Com in what is an interesting work-around of India’s limitations on 100% ownership of multi-brand retail. I’m very curious to see if this strategy by Amazon gets flagged by the Indian government, or whether it is yet another advantage virtual retailers like Amazon have over conventional brick and mortar retailers. If so, it might suggest that emerging economies will be a battlefield between conventional and electronic retail.
My bet is on brick and mortar retailers in these battles, if only because the consumer needs a lot more education and engagement with products they remain unfamiliar with. However, it needs to be said that one of the ways emerging economies surprise companies is how quickly they can leap frog paradigms, something that could favor the on-line shopping companies.