Turning Internet Competition into an Opportunity



Remember when the realization set in that Internet retailers, with their low-ball prices and offers of low-cost or free delivery, could crush independent brick-and-mortar retailers and small businesses throughout the land? And remember when it seemed Amazon would be the worst offender of them all in this onslaught of entrepreneurial-spirit-crushing competition?

Yeah, well nothing has changed. The threat continues to loom large. Amazon with its recent offering of same-day, before-you-can-even-close-your-web-browser delivery service—for free—seems poised to make in-person, on-foot shopping seem like a quaint tradition of days past. That is, at least, as it relates to many product categories and last minute must-haves, like gifts for nearly forgotten birthdays and lost phone chargers.

For sure, pet specialty stores are not the most vulnerable on the brick-and-mortar retail spectrum to the developments of companies like Amazon. However, as Internet retailing becomes increasingly nuanced, nimble and convenient, other businesses will find that in order to thrive and grow, they will have to compete using a set of competencies their Web-based counterparts cannot replicate.

Thus was the drift behind one of the predictions listed among Forbes magazine’s top business trends that will drive success in 2016. Coming in at No. 5, Forbes predicts, “Commodity Products Will Continue To See Margins Erode. Services Will Extend Value.”

Acknowledging the retailing prowess that is Amazon, contributing writer Ian Altman says companies that prosper will do so by differentiating themselves based on expertise and skills. Sound familiar? Many pet specialty retailers have embraced this concept wholeheartedly, knowing that it is their expertise, customer service and even add-on services, such as grooming or boarding, that set them apart.

Altman, however, has other ideas about how this differentiation of expertise and skills can work for businesses, going on to say that companies need to take advantage of consumers’ increasing ease with buying products online by using the Internet to sell their expertise and proficiencies online. This extension of the concept may not be immediately applicable to pet specialty retailers, but still, the heart of the matter remains—with so much sheer product just a click or tap away, smaller, brick-and-mortar businesses must continue to adapt and find a way to increase their value to their customers.

Which brings us to No. 6, on the Forbes list: “Leaders Will Invest In A Corporate Culture Of Customer Service To Grow Revenue.” But that is a subject for next time.


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