I had a great conversation yesterday with an omnichannel apparel manufacturer and retailer. This company – which primarily makes and sells footwear – sells them differently in different markets. In some cases, a product or brand might be sold 100% retail; in others, it’s 100% wholesale; and in the majority, it’s a blend of retail, wholesale, and e-commerce. What was interesting in the context of The Entitled Consumer, is that the head of marketing referred to experiencing the “entitled” phenomenon in some of their retailers – especially smaller, specialty retailers that have a niche focus and physical presence. These merchants don’t have huge stock rooms and they don’t want to hold inventory of every style in every size in the hopes that a customer will wander in. But, they do want the manufacturer to be able to get them the specific product they want as soon as a customer wants to buy it. Compare that to the typical four month process that the manufacturer’s typical large retailer follows. The manufacturer is having to rethink their processes, systems, and relationships to adapt to now-entitled sales partners.
And, then today, news emerged that Amazon is requiring merchants that sell through their site to adopt the same consumer-friendly policies as Amazon offers its direct customers – mostly relating to making returns easier and way more convenient for the consumer. In some cases, Amazon is even eliminating the need for a return. Yep, with “returnless refunds,” consumers will get their refund without having to send back a product that is expensive to ship or hard to resell. Small businesses are up in arms. They fear that the new policies will ‘crush’ their businesses. And, while some will look for new distribution channels, others will adapt to the new Amazon requirements.
What’s interesting is that CNBC in their coverage pointed out that “It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos’ first, second and third objectives are to please Amazon customers, giving them more stuff at the lowest prices and at faster speeds.” But, can they do that and maintain their relationships with sellers – and if those sellers leave will others just quickly take their place?
One thing is for sure, Amazon is one of the companies that will continue to raise the bar of what an Entitled Consumer expects from their relationship with a brand. The challenge for the rest of us is to do the same, but also to do so profitably, and to maintain a healthy and sustainable ecosystem (manufacturing, supply chain, and distribution chain).
If you haven’t started to adapt to the Entitled Consumer, don’t wait too long – or Amazon might have completely undermined your business model while you weren’t watching.