Let me start by saying I am a big fan of amazon.com. I am a prime member, and I order pretty frequently. I use Amazon to order things I can't find elsewhere, to purchase something specific I know I want, and when I need something quickly and don't have time to stop by a store to buy it. I have purchased everything from baby wipes to contact paper to books to pillows to shelves on Amazon. So when I heard that amazon.com bought my other favorite go-to online shopping site, soap.com, I wasn't alarmed in the least. For the first few months of the transition, things at my beloved soap.com seemed to be continuing on in a business-as-usual sort of way. But then the cracks began to surface.
Soap.com used to deliver the same day if my order was placed before 9am. When Amazon took over, sometimes I got same day delivery, and sometimes I didn't. I never complained, because it would have taken more time than it was worth to let someone know, and luckily, I was never down to my last roll of toilet paper or my last drop of toothpaste, so I let it slide. But I did notice, and if I really was about to run out of something, I would make my way to the store to grab it on the way home instead of chancing it--something I had never done with soap.com.
Then some of the things I considered staples on my list started showing as out of stock more frequently. I was frustrated, but still not dissuaded from using soap.com. I either picked an alternative, pushed it off until the next order, or again opted to stop off at a store near home to grab the missing item. Soap.com was still a big time saver, and a great way to avoid having to carry home heavy household supplies, which is never fun in a walking city like New York.
Some of the prices seemed to change and it didn't go unnoticed. My gluten-free oatmeal that had always been less expensive than at my local supermarket went up. My husband compared the prices on some shampoo to a local store and also discovered it suddenly cost more. Yet, loyal to the core, I continued to order. Soap.com made my life easier--and I was willing to pay more to keep that convenience. As a busy mom, CEO, writer, and consultant, I had very few extra minutes in my day, and I considered that time to be far more valuable than the bit of extra money I had to shell out to keep from spending it on running errands. Soap.com literally allowed me to shop for all my household stuff in 10 minutes--which was considerably less time than it would have taken me to walk to the drugstore just 4 blocks away and shop for it.
But then, the merger was complete, and Amazon did the unimaginable. It made soap.com disappear, and with it, my reorder list, which was their #1 useful and time-saving feature. I couldn't believe it. Somehow, someone over at Amazon had decided that all that shopping history--each and every item I had quickly, easily, and without a moment's hesitation ordered with the click of a single button-- was worthless and in an instant, wiped out my patience, my loyalty, and ultimately, my monthly spend at soap.com. The kings of convenience, the masters of the one-click buy, the organizational gurus that had built their reputation on creating a shopping experience devoid of resistance screwed the pooch in an unfathomable, and frankly, unforgivable way.
I took this moment in time as a warning for my own company. Study what makes you great in the eyes of your customers. Scrutinize it, specialize in it, safeguard it. Protect it like it is the most important asset your business has. Understand that without that magic potion, your company becomes one among many, instead of the only possible choice. And even when you think you have a way to make it better, don't do a thing to alter it, unless you are damn sure your customers agree.