Hatred and fear. Nothing better describes both online and brick and motar retailers' opinion of Amazon.com than those two words. As the company's commerce continues to expand beyond books and entertainment to encapsulate, well, pretty much everything, chain stores and mom and pop shops are getting nervous. And when Amazon gets aggressive, they get mad.
In late 2011, Amazon released an augmented reality app that encouraged shoppers to compare products on store shelves to an online listing, where it was probably cheaper. Bookstores got mad when Amazon offered its Price Check app users a $5 discount for using the app in a brick-and-mortar store and then buying something online. Target has petitioned vendors for exclusive goods to prevent its stores from becoming pricey air conditioned showrooms for a new generation of window shoppers.
Amazon avoids the retail taxes physical stores are forced to charge customers by keeping warehouses out of high profile states. Without a physical presence in most states, taxes aren't required on online purchases, so Amazon can sell products for less across the board. That's changing, now: Amazon has stopped fighting against state-driven legislation requiring online retailers to charge taxes, and will soon start taxing shoppers in major states like California and Texas. Retailers, with a sigh of relief, probably view that as a win.
Slate doesn't see it that way. In fact, they predict Amazon is shifting business models to embrace those tax laws. Their new focus: build warehouses everywhere, making extremely fast shipping the major selling point of its online shopping experience. Slate's prediction sounds dead on, as Amazon has already found great success with its Prime two-day shipping and subscription options for consumables like energy bars or toilet paper.
Slate describes a believable shift to a model where next day shipping is the norm and same-day shipping is a convenient upgrade. That kind of convenience, delivered right to your doorstep, sounds far more damaging to the traditional retail business than any price matching app ever could be.
With Amazon warehouses popping up all over the United States in the next few years, everyone who takes for granted the convenience of online shopping should read "I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave," an article published on Mother Jones this April. It's an eye-opening look at the immense volume of human labor that produces online retail's lower prices and fast shipping. The bigger Amazon gets, the more people we'll see in those sorts of back-breaking jobs.