It should come as no surprise that respondents to the RBC Annual User Survey reported an increase of 22 percent in online shopping from January through April as compared with the same time period last year.
Just as important, 54 percent said yes when asked if recent events would permanently increase their willingness to purchase online rather than from brick-and-mortar retailers.
Walmart, Etsy, and eBay all benefited.
So, of course, did Amazon. Prime subscriptions are up 28 percent. So is purchase quantity and volume: The number of customers who made at least three purchases is up 10 percentage points from 2019 levels, and the number of customers who say they spent more than $200 this year is already up 9 percentage points.
In short, good news for Amazon.
But then there's this: Customer satisfaction is at an all-time low. According to the RBC report, "Our survey results showed declining and record low satisfaction levels across Amazon customers."
Only 64 percent of survey respondents reported being "extremely" or "very satisfied" with Amazon's service. If you're wondering, Walmart hit 70 percent, Etsy 77 percent, and eBay 60 percent.
To make matters worse, 11 percent of respondents reported being "slightly" or "not at all" satisfied with Amazon's service.
That's the problem with rapid growth. Grow faster than your infrastucture can handle and problems arise. For Amazon, that meant longer than expected delivery times, widespread product shortages (which is why I made my first online orders from Walmart this year -- Amazon was out of stock, Walmart wasn't), and employee-relations issues that created national headlines.
That's why some small businesses, as odd as it might sound, will at times choose not to grow.
After all, more sales usually mean more everything: More employees, more inventory, more supplies -- and often more cash-flow problems, especially when costs are incurred before payment is received.
For Amazon, the recent dip in customer satisfaction is likely to be only a blip. Amazon is rapidly expanding its infrastructure and workforce; it has the required cash -- and data, and systems optimization discipline -- to do so.
But for your business, too-rapid growth could create problems with long-term consequences.
Even your most loyal customers may look elsewhere when they become dissatisfied with your service. Your best employees may struggle to maintain the culture you've built when you're forced to hire too many employees too quickly. Your business, no matter how financially sound, may struggle to support the increased demand without raising capital -- and, as a result, cause you to give up some measure of control.
Growth is good -- right up to the moment when it's not.
If possible, make sure you're ready. And if you do experience unexpectedly rapid growth, take a second to be grateful -- and then work hard to overcome the problems that will naturally follow.
Because while the three keys to a successsful startup are often growth, growth, and growth, what really matters is how well you and your business handle that growth.
Especially to your customers.