Steam, combustible engines, automatic rifles, steel mills, railroad, breaking the sound barrier – these disruptors change the way people live. Disruptive innovation refers to a advanced process, tool or apparatus that creates a new market and network that disrupts the flow of the established market. A disruptive innovation changes the way people think, work, behave, learn, do business and live every day. The disruptor technology has paved the way for hundreds of other disruptors over the last two decades that have completely transformed life – existing established markets have been displaced with new, efficient and exciting ways to communicate and thus creating a more connected and global society.
Disruptors can be traced back to primitive society, i.e. fire, and serve as catalyst for dramatic deviations from old ways of living. For instance, demand for new ways of traveling and create multiple streams of income in a recession-recovering society gave rise to Airbnb. Demand for transportation options, and also for increase economic opportunities, made Uber and Lyft possible to transport thousands of people every day, many in areas not serviced by traditional taxi service or even public transportation, while offering living-wage job prospects. Digital streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu have changed the way people enjoy entertainment, allowing them to stay at home and enjoy theatre-quality shows from the comfort of the sofa.
When it comes to comfort and convenience, one of the most significant disruptors of the 21st century is Amazon. The impact of Amazon is so substantial, that the phrase “Amazon Effect” has been coined as it pertains to the giant’s effect on the economy and the everyday lives of consumers. The holiday season boasts the largest segment of retail shopping, starting with Black Friday through the rest of the calendar year representing more than 30 percent of sales (National Retail Federation, 2017). A 2014 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP described the power of retail on the American economy. As the nation’s largest private employer retails directly and indirectly supports 42 million jobs, provides $1.6 trillion in labor income and contributes $2.6 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) annually (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2014). In 2017 alone, Macy’s closed stores laying off more than 10,000 workers. The Limited closed all its stores, laying off more than 4,000. Kmart and Sears closed another 150 stores (Nutting, 2017). Last year, nearly 130,000 retail jobs were lost; retail clothing employment has fallen three years in a row (Thompson, 2017). Online retailers, and most especially Amazon is negatively impacting the availability of jobs in the retail sector.
Retail jobs have long been ways for young people to earn their first wages, learning valuable customer service and communication skills, sales and team work, organizational and time management, problem solving and even crisis management skills and leadership development, working in retail equips people with transferable talents and abilities useful for the rest of their professional careers (Targetjobs, 2017). In addition to serving as an employee training ground and supplying options for supplementing the income of older retired population, retail offers the longevity of a career for those dedicated to customer service and the retail experience. Today, though people are looking for ease in their growingly busy lives and opting for the convenience of online shopping, severely impacting the demand for stores and jobs to manage those stores. A convenience that Amazon has capitalized on, disrupting the entire brick-and-mortar shopping experience and eliminating thousands of jobs each year. The impact is not only eliminating thousands of jobs, it is changing the landscape of cities leaving malls and store fronts vacant.
From books to diapers, electronics and now even food, Amazon has revolutionized the way in which people consume goods and products (Anderson, 2017). While there are hundreds of online stores, nearly half of all online purchased are made on Amazon. Amazon’s buying power allows for lower prices, along with its convenience, yet serves as a critical hazard to retail workers. Since launching in 2005, Amazon is experiencing steady year-over-year increases (Fig. 1).
Market studies confirm this shift in shopping patterns; in 2016, online sales accounted for nearly 12 percent of total retail sales, $394.9 billion, up 15.6 percent over 2015 numbers (Gesenhues, 2017). While the 2017 total numbers have not been officially released, it is estimated that Amazon garnered four percent of the country’s total retail sales figured (Thomas, 2018). This may seem like a small percentage of the total shopping picture, it represents a significant shift in dollars that takes revenue away from traditional retail brick-and mortar. Yet, rather than the time and expense of traveling to shop; trying on clothes, battling traffic; parking woes, standing in line, from the convenience of their home or office, or the train, the beach or cruise ship, consumers are purchasing a large percentage of their needs from online services. To many of these consumers, the additional charge for shipping far outweighs the time and sometimes hassle of purchasing items in person.
With online retail, companies also save money – selling merchandise without the need of a physical address and the expenses associated with managing the location. Retailers are able to sell customer, often to more customers who may not have physically had access or known how the store or products and thereby increase their bottom line. There is argument that with many retailers or sellers, quality has become a factor, as shoppers are unable to see the item prior to purchasing and there are instances of buyers receiving items that have been used, of poor quality, and simply do not match the picture and/or description, yet this has not stopped people from shopping online. The incidents of poor quality do not prevent consumers from shopping online as the benefits of online shopping, convenience, better price, variety, avoiding crowd, and the ability to also make discreet purchases, outweighs the occasional quality control issue (Miller, 2012).
Amazon’s disruptor ability was further increased by its $13.4 billion purchase of Whole Foods. This upscale grocery chain with 473 stores across the country (Whole Foods, 2018), caters to customers who seek healthier and organic food choices. Whole Foods had been considered treat shopping for many consumers, as many of the products were higher priced due their specialty nature. This is changing to change since Amazon’s acquisition; Amazon’s buying power will allow for greater quantities that will reduce prices, a win-win for customers and especially Amazon as it delves in to the direct-mail meal service industry with Amazon Fresh.
Just as people are shopping online for clothing, electronics, books are other items, another modern convenience is meal services. Services like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and now Amazon Fresh are providing boxes of groceries and the recipes for three meals a week (for two or four people) that allow purchasers to cook homemade meals, learn new dishes, without traveling to the store. Healthier that prepared, frozen dinners, these services are appealing because they are fresh ingredients with hardly any preservatives. Modern day disruptors are all geared toward making it easy for people to have the things they want without the need to go out and get them. Meal kit services hold $1.5 billion of the $800 billion grocery business and while grocery stores are seeing less of an impact on their employee and location needs as these services are costly for the average consumer, the concept is creating a buzz in the industry with brick-and-mortar stores, Kroger, exploring its own service to keep customers (LaVito, 2017).
While grocery stores are not as affected as other retail establishments, the increase of online shopping is evidenced in the closing of stores and dozens of vacant buildings of former retail stores. For retail stores, nearly half of their operating costs is attributable to rental expenses (AMP Capital, 2014). Declining sales coupled with high rental costs, which are often raised due to other vacancies in shopping malls, and shopping and strip malls, which once dotted neighborhoods are empty reminders of the way shopping has changed creating gaps in the tax base and economic viability of the communities where they once operated (Reonomy, 2017).
Online shopping is changing the landscape of shopping. People enjoy arriving home to happy mail – brown packages holding a wanted or needed treat. Online shopping offers conveniences for buyers, these conveniences are extended toward thieves who scope neighborhoods for packages left unsecured by delivery drivers. Dubbed ‘porch pirates’ (Wingfield, 2017), unattended packages offer a variable shopping mall for thieves who confiscate packages that can be used or sold. The advent of video surveillance door ringers is helping to deter these porch pirates, as well as delivery companies utilizing access points at local establishments, where buyers are able to retrieve their purchases rather than risk them left openly at their homes.
Amazon is also looking to disrupt the delivery game, with its own delivery personnel and the Amazon Key, a coded door keypad and camera that will allow delivery drivers to enter one’s home and leave packages securely inside. Amazon is cornering the market on convenient shopping for consumers. It works to offer consumers ways to simplify their lives and have time for other activities. In its wake, along with other online retailers, thousands of jobs are being eliminated and neighborhoods are struggling with high retail vacancy rates. As consumers demand and embrace greater convenience in their lives, many other vehicles are disrupted. Time will tell how the markets will adjust to this disruption. In addition, its food delivery services have disrupted the grocery retail industry as well, especially in terms of convenience for consumers. Allowing for groceries to be delivered within the hour provides supreme convenience for those who are strapped for time, do not enjoy shopping and even those who are disabled and unable to make the public excursion to buy groceries. Other delivery services such as UberEats, GrubHub, Door Dash and more have contributed to changing the future of shopping outside. In decades before, shopping was a human experience that involved leaving the house and even making a day out of it; now, customers are looking for convenience over all. Now, the entire consumer shopping experience happens at the tip of people’s fingers without ever having had to leave their homes.
Industrial companies and the entire sector are operating in a new digital and ever-changing technological world. In many countries, the industrial and manufacturing sectors are in a state of transition and should focus on creating new technological features, products and services. Industrial manufacturers can provide from innovation and new strategies. New models and products should be created by industrial companies to connect consumers, integrate operations and make for the optimal customer experience. The desire for efficiency from consumers is paramount and crucial to a company’s success. They can build upon manufacturing concepts and ideas, hoping to improve quality and getting visibility in their supply chains.
In terms of the online shopping experience and its effect on the industrial industry, the markets are eager to get access to the income streams of e-commerce users. E-commerce is dominating several industries and completely changing the retail landscape. New investments into technology are not enough, especially for consumers. Manufacturers must use technology to their advantage by taking data and analytics and applying it within a new business model. Operating in this technological, yet slow-growth environment that it is, it is important and impertinent for success that organizations get an advantage in productivity. Many executives and higher-ups of these industrial companies are pessimistic about the world economy in relation to their organizations and services. Industrial manufacturers are operating within a world of uneasiness, as global demand for fast service and products is expanding while the demand for manufactured products is growing, yet very slowly. Growth is also dampened by a decrease in foreign trade, economic concerns worldwide and government restrictions on industrial and manufacturing growth. One major factor that can hinder gains in productivity and obtaining a leg-up on the technological economy is the fact that the industrial and manufacturing industries are risk averse and unwilling to make fundamental changes to their operations, develop new machinery and software, and obtaining talent during slow growth. These risk factors can be prevented with the willingness of executives to improve their operations and take a chance on technology instead of resisting change. Industrial developers can make the change by utilizing products such as drones, delivery vehicles and other Uber-like services to serve as delivery methods that improve the customer experience.
Online shopping has several benefits and advantages, especially for consumers. It presents an unfiltered, unrestricted and unlimited shopping experience that can happen all from the comfort of the individual’s home. Online shopping and e-commerce have irrevocably changed the retail industry. However, the experience itself is not perfect aside from its obvious disadvantages that occur without being physically present in a brick-and-mortar store. It, and residential deliveries, have generated a large and disproportionate amount of emissions, which include greenhouse gases that are responsible for global warming and the overall pollution of the environment. As beneficial and convenient as delivery services are, they are making residential areas into congested ones as they were never designed for high freight traffic, making for noise problems, privacy issues, theft and even infrastructure damage. As consumers purchase more and more things, problems build upon one another from gridlock to double parking to noise pollution. Consumers’ conspicuous consumption is high and with the benefits of purchasing anything from anywhere, the profit incentives for retailers and convenience for consumers are making for damage to the environment and economy. However, eliminating physical shopping completely is both unnecessary and unlikely. Shopping products have varying degrees of involvement and interaction with those products, like cars, homes and appliances, are necessary to make informed and educated purchase decisions.
Online shopping makes for breaches and violations of consumer privacy via hacking, something that has happened to several companies across several industries. Their information that often includes payment information is being compromised by hackers who steal said information for future fraudulent purchases. In addition, when purchasing clothes and personal items online, there is a loss in experience of personal interaction with those products. If a consumer is unhappy, they can of course return the product, but the online component which includes shipping lengthens the process as opposed to simply returning the product to the store. This makes for unhappy customers and additional work for businesses, who can dupe consumers with a lack of product quality. Another safety component in the online shopping experiences happens concerning the most vulnerable of people—children, who can buy products often without parental supervision and access. They are targeted and often the prey of companies who are looking to take advantage not only of their parents, but of their personal degree of freedom and access to the Internet. Without supervision and proper regulation, it puts children at risk not only for being victims of consumer and retail fraud, but it puts their physical safety at risk as well.
- AMP Capital. The impact of online shopping on retail property. 15 November 2013. https://www.ampcapital.com/site-assets/articles/insights-papers/2013/2013-11/the-impact-of-online-shopping-on-retail-property.
- Anderson, George. Has Amazon fundamentally changed the way Americans shop? Retail Wire. 2017, http://www.retailwire.com/discussion/has-amazon-fundamentally-changed-the-way-americans-shop/.
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- LaVito, Angelica. Grocery stores are fighting back against meal kit companies. CNBC, 8 August 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/08/grocery-stores-are-fighting-back-against-meal-kit-companies.html.
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- National Retail Federation. Holiday FAQS, 2017. Available from https://nrf.com/resources/consumer-research-and-data/holiday-spending/holiday-headquarters/holiday-faqs.
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- PricewaterhouseCooper LLP. The economic impact of the U.S. Retail Industry, 2014. https://nrf.com/sites/default/files/Documents/The%20Economic%20Impact%20of%20the%20US%20Retail%20Industry%20REV.pdf.
- Reonomy. The Rise of online shopping and the effect on retail stores. 4 January 2017, https://www.reonomy.com/blog/post/rise-of-online-shopping.
- Target Jobs. Ten skills you’ll gain from working in part-time retail jobs. 2017, https://targetjobs.co.uk/internships/advice/275105-ten-skills-youll-gain-from-working-in-part-time-retail-jobs.
- Thomas, Lauren. Amazon grabbed 4 percent of all US retail sales in 2017, new study says. CNBC, 4 January 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/03/amazon-grabbed-4-percent-of-all-us-retail-sales-in-2017-new-study.html
- Thompson, Derek. The silent crisis of retail. The Atlantic, 8 April 2017. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/04/the-silent-crisis-of-retail-employment/523428/.
- Wingfield, Nick. ‘Porch Pirates’ steal holiday packages as they pile up at homes. The New York Times. 10 December 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/19/technology/packages-holiday-season-porch-pirates-strike.html.