The Amazon Effect

Amazon continues to amaze. I’ve worked with them as both a customer and a business partner in the past and never cease to be amazed at how far ahead of the rest of the world they are when it comes to defining three essential things:

  1. Online commerce. They may not have been the first online merchant, but they sure seem like it. Any ecommerce user experience is, by default, stacked up against Amazon’s and compared.
  2. Cloud: Amazon Web Services has had more of an effect on startups, SaaS, and the notion of cloud services than any other single provider.
  3. Devices: the Kindle was and is brilliant.

What inspires this post was a recent shopping experience I had at my alma mater, Lenovo.com. I was buying a new battery for an old computer (an X61 tablet) and was surprised to see, alongside the familiar PayPal option, a new way of checking out using my Amazon credentials. This is basically the ecommerce analogue to using Facebook or Twitter credentials to log into Foursquare or whatever.

Amazon is rapidly extending its infrastructure from the servers to the warehouses to third party merchants. The old hosted store front, Amazon merchant model that saw brands like ToysRUs abdicate their brand in order to spare themselves the infrastructure investment that a full ecommerce platform demands is slowly giving way to an ala carte menu of ecommerce enablement options such as Lenovo taking advantage of Amazon Payments, and others using Amazon’s fulfillment capabilities to pick-and-pack and ship their goods.

Will Amazon Payments increase conversions for merchants such as Lenovo? Doubtlessly. The days of digging out the wallet and entering CVN numbers are definitely numbered and just as PayPal is turning into a major element of eBay’s recent success, having Amazon enabled in the cart is going to become de rigeur for other merchants.

Note the omission of three key icons in payments: there’s no Visa, Mastercard or American Express option in Lenovo’s list of checkout expediters — just the two that make it the most convenient.

Embracing the Suck

Today’s trip to the gym was brutal — a fast intense workout called “Fight Gone Bad” which was developed for a UFC cage fighter, who, upon completing the routine was asked how it compared to an actual fight: “That was like a fight gone bad” was the reply, and so the name stuck for 18 minutes of fast paced work involving a rowing machine, a 20 lb. medicine ball, a 75 lb. barbell and a 20″ high box.

As the clock counted down from ten seconds to kick off this morning’s FGB I had impending empathy with the masochism of those who do sports that have nothing but suffering to offer. Rowers know that every 2,000 meter race ends with a bad case of oxygen debt so bad you have to fight the body’s autonomic impulse to stop and save itself. A cyclist starts the Tour de France knowing that nothing but three weeks of hell lies ahead. I imagine no one starts the Boston Marathon expecting a good time to follow. A few days ago I watched a Crossfit video that profiled a top competitor; in it he uttered the great line that he guessed his success came from his “embracing the suck.”

Defining the “suck” is a matter of individual taste. For me it involves accepting the fact that the gallon of sweat that is pooling underneath me is fine, natural, and to be expected. Yes I will develop tunnel vision, hear roaring sounds between my ears, get slippery hands and electrolyte-depleted leg cramps for hours afterwards. But, in comparison with anything else life will throw at me today, nothing will come close to sucking as much as a Fight Gone Bad.

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