Ask any Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) competitor about the strategies they use and tell you that the company is a big bully. Competing with Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and its low prices as one thing but when you face a company of Amazon’s size that does not seem to care about losing money for several years on certain segments, it can become very tricky to compete. Time after time, Amazon has entered areas, offering extremely low prices in order to weaken and eventually eliminate competitors. Since the company does not break down its financials much, it’s difficult to say how bad it is but there’s no doubt that Amazon is ready to lose money in order to advance its long term goals.
Already, Amazon has been a major force in getting companies such as Barnes & Nobles, Best Buy and so many others to go further down the road to bankruptcy. There are few public companies willing to take such a long term view and I’d argue that perhaps none takes it as far as Amazon. Is the company making money selling its Kindle devices? Most analysts strongly doubt it.
In Come GroceriesAmazon has been running Amazon Fresh, a grocery delivery service for a few years now and is apparently ready to start scaling to other regions in the US and abroad. On the surface, it doesn’t look like a very attractive business:
-margins are already low
-many established competitors
-keeping and delivering “fresh” food will be a challenge
-such a local service that it will require warehouses in many more locations
-will require dealing with thousands of local producers (as opposed to dealing with a few international companies)
Of course, if you know how brilliant Jeff Bezos is, it makes sense to figure out why he could be doing it. As others have pointed out, and I’ve argued in my post about owning Amazon as a long term play, the main competitive advantage that Amazon has revolves around its warehouse, distribution and sales process which is as streamlined and efficient as you’ll find. Google and a few others are looking at competing but I just don’t see that happening. At least not anytime soon. But if Google wants to build on that advantage, it needs to make sure that more users use it more frequently. The best way of course is venturing into areas such as Groceries where scale matters, where others will not venture because the margins are too low and where consumers spend a significant amount of money every month.