Amazon Go & the Need for Speed

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Surprise, surprise – Amazon has raised the bar again. The company that introduced you to buying things with a single click has once more found a way to fundamentally alter consumer’s expectations for what it means to purchase something. With one-click purchasing, Amazon vanquished the most time-consuming step of the online shopping process: entering shipping and payment information. One-click was easier than PayPal and Autofill; it leapfrogged the other solutions that are still years from being released. With Amazon Go, the company is essentially creating one-click purchasing for the physical world. It’s the most disruptive thing to happen to brick-and-mortar retailers since the bar code, and it renders obsolete the combined efforts of Verifone, Visa, Amex, Apple Pay, not to mention your chip card.

Other solutions have been attempted to solve the supermarket quandary, like self-checkout and express lanes, but no idea has been transformative in the way Amazon Go has. The line itself was a bottleneck alongside the checkout process. So they looked at how to remove both of those factors from the shopping experience. No lines, no checkout, no friction.

When it comes to speed and efficiency in retail, Amazon was already way ahead in the race. So why did it just decide to speed up?

Google and AMP and Facebook Instant Articles

Amazon is not the only company to double down on speed despite being light-years ahead. Both Google and Facebook have made significant inroads when it comes to speed, even as they run away with the lion’s share of digital ad spend. Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Facebook’s Instant Articles represent two ideas for creating one-click-level innovation to content consumption.

Google AMP requires you to build a version of your site using their own specifications—what Google considers to be the lightest-weight website possible—and place it at a separate address. Google finds those versions and serves them up to mobile visitors who find the site on Google search. And the positive results have already been pouring in, for both viewability and click-through rates. And so far, more than 70 ad tech companies, 25 analytics companies and 13 video platforms have created AMP-enabled products, with more being announced all the time.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Instant Articles provide an ultra-quick loading experience for publisher content, by bringing content and assets directly from a publisher’s feed into its own servers, then serving the stripped-down, high-speed reading experience to mobile users. A simpler solution than AMP, but one that keeps mobile visitors inside the walls of Facebook’s curated experience.

What’s remarkable about Facebook’s Instant Articles is not the tech, but its implications for the value of speed in the world of journalism. The demand for speed is so great that established properties like the New York Times have been pressured into abandoning their own online properties in favor of publishing directly to Facebook.

Both Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP achieve their results by reducing the amount of extraneous content that loads on any given webpage. By reducing sites to meet their criteria for “essential” content, they reduce the amount of time it takes for that content to load.

Why? Look at the impact of a single second of load time on publisher properties. It’s one of the main reasons for ad blockers, which have been growing in popularity and eating into revenues.

Small amounts of time mean big money.

Disrupters disrupted? Why Steph Should Play the 4th Quarter

When the Golden State Warriors play, they typically bench Steph Curry and their other stars in the fourth quarter. Steph and the others have usually established a 30-point lead, and the strength of the bench is enough to maintain (or increase) it. The stars have a chance to watch the end of the game unfold and toast their victory with their electrolyte beverage of choice.

Google, Facebook, and Amazon are the stars of tech. But it was not long ago that they were the disrupters. They were forged in the heat of disruption, and they’re keenly aware of the risk a new disruptor poses. So they push, and keep pushing. For them, no lead feels safe, despite the fact that they are already way ahead. Innovation is how they carved their now-gargantuan niches into the lives of consumers worldwide; it’s how they became competitive. Now, that same drive to innovate is what they do to ensure no one else can compete.

If Silicon Valley were more like the NBA, we might see the stars sit back and watch their existing products dominate the market. But in tech, there’s no good time to sit back and play the bench while the starters ice their knees.
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