Should We Be Afraid of Amazon?

Thank you to the Advertising Specialty Institute, Norm and Suzanne Cohn and the entire Cohn family for hosting another successful ASI Power Summit.

Should we be afraid of Amazon? That was one of the hot topics at the recent ASI Power Summit, held in San Diego, CA. First of all, we would like to offer our congratulations to the latest members of the Power 50 List, who were announced at the event. This list includes some of the most influential people in the advertising specialty or promotional products industry. ASI also publishes one of my favorite trade publications, Counselor Magazine. The most recent issue featured an article by Chris Ruvo, titled, Should the Promo Industry Be Scared of Amazon?  I’ll let you read it for yourself and decide.

My thoughts? Instead of being afraid, focus on being prepared. Just like other online sources, Amazon’s decision to enter the custom printing market certainly substantiates the strength of our industry. It will be up to individual companies to provide the service that will be just as fast as Amazon’s and to make sure the quality and service are superior. You don’t want to give your customers any reason to go elsewhere.  According to team members from GroupeSTAHL who were able to attend the Power Summit, concerns about Amazon and other e-commerce competitors were brought up more than once by attendees. There was also a “Hot Topics Panel” titled Surviving in the Age of Amazon, moderated by Matthew Cohn. One thing all the panel members could all agree on was that things are going to be changing. After the panel, speaker Sai Koppaka of Bel USA, provided some very interesting content in his talk titled, Change Agents, Meeting the Demands of Shifting Markets. One thing that really stood out was his challenge to “stop protecting exceptions.”

If you’re offering custom printing services, you’re experienced with dealing with problem customers or problem orders. In fact, many of you may build your business infrastructure around dealing with the 15% of orders that are “exceptions to the rule.” Instead, we should all be focusing on the 85% of our customers whose orders are easily processed. In other words, we need to simplify our processes and gear them to the 85% of our business that is our most profitable and enjoyable to perform. When instead, many get caught up in jumping through hoops to serve 15% of customers who require extra care. This just complicates things for the majority of the customers who don’t require special care. I don’t think he’s saying we need to ignore customers with more complicated needs, but in order to move forward, like Amazon, we need to simplify all our processes, from ordering to shipping. Koppaka says they are already experimenting with a 3-hour turnaround time for custom mugs and have the goal of providing this “instant gratification” result to 100% of their orders in the very near future. So take that, Amazon.

It’s a good lesson for all of us to become more focused, and to have a better understanding of what our customers want and need. This includes faster shipping and better quality. Another very important lesson learned at the ASI Power Summit? Debrief. Review what works and what doesn’t work. It’s the only way you are going to improve. In fact, that’s how I learned all this great information, even if I didn’t attend the Power Summit myself…by debriefing those that did attend. You can be certain that we will share all we learned with everyone at the company.  The importance of debriefing was shared by former Navy Seal Chris Gomez who delivered the final keynote speech. You can listen to the presentation of the Power Summit Keynote final speaker, and learn why this is such an important part of your future success.

Andy Cohen of ASI interviews Sai Koppaka of Bel USA on dealing with change.

GroupeSTAHL attendees also heartily recommend visiting the website of keynote speaker Kindra Hall and learning why strategic storytelling is so important to your business.

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