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Marketing in the tech titan era

What’s next from Amazon, Apple, Google, eBay and Facebook?

Every now and again, a company or technology comes along that dramatically shakes up an industry – or makes it obsolete (just ask the good folks who used to be at Kodak, Blockbuster, or Borders Books & Music).

Over the last decade, five companies have emerged with the potential to aggressively reshape the landscape of multiple industries – and to change life as we know it. They are the tech titans: Amazon, AppleeBay, Google and Facebook.

Collectively, these five companies are worth more than a trillion dollars. Their growth, their cash and their vision make them formidable competitors and complex partners. And while some of their conquests are already in the history books (Apple’s reinvention of music sales, for one), other potential conquests are just emerging.

“The tech titans are in an all-out war with each other, and the fallout will affect society in ways we haven’t yet imagined,” said Lori Schafer, Executive Advisor for SAS’ Retail Practice in a webinar hosted by Skuloop, a retail systems supplier.

“These organizations don’t recognize borders; they feel no qualms about marching beyond the walls of tech into retailing, advertising, publishing, movies, television, communications, financial services, and eventually into health care and insurance,” said Schafer. During the webinar, Shafer discussed current developments at the five companies — and the resulting impact on retail, marketing and life as we know it:

Amazon –   The company’s ability to sell virtually anything online helped coin the term “showrooming,” the practice of customers visiting a traditional retailer to view a product, and then ordering it from Amazon. Together with Apple, it has reshaped book retailing.  Now it’s taking a swing at the publishing industry, producing TV shows and experimenting with its own showroom stores. Its cloud service has changed how companies purchase storage.

Apple – Have you been to a record store lately? Probably not. Apple changed the way we buy music. Together with Amazon, it is making the paperback obsolete and reducing the importance of PCs. So what’s next for the Silicon Valley giant? Maybe we can use Apple’s mobile wallet to buy an Apple TV. The company is also reshaping how retail stores operate. The minimalist, quick in/quick out features of an Apple store bring in $6,000 a square foot, vs. $330 a square foot for the traditional mall store. Is it any wonder Apple has a bigger market cap than Exxon Mobil?

Google –  When you’ve got the world’s No. 1 search engine, you’ve got insight into everything – from where the flu is circulating to where people are looking for comprehensive car insurance. Google is using its search capabilities to move into the sales aggregation world with its Google insurance shopping service — and is even advising healthcare providers.  The company has also decided it’s not enough to be a search engine, as Kansas City residents dwelling in Google fiberhoods can tell you. Google Fiber is designed to provide Internet service that is slated to be 100 times the speed of current connections — and local entrepreneurs have taken note.     

eBay   – If you still think of eBay as a site for people selling their used kids’ clothes, think again. The company has branched out, setting up online marketplaces for companies like Neiman Marcus. And Home Depot is testing eBay’s PayPal service as an alternative to cash and credit cards. Along with Amazon, eBay is venturing into same day delivery services.

Facebook —   Like Google, Facebook knows what you and everyone else is talking about. And it’s poised to use that information – whether it’s selling targeted advertisements or putting traditional market research firms out of business. Either way, the popular social media site is a huge resource to companies willing to think about advertising differently.

For more, check out the webinar or read the Retail Touchpoints article “All Retailers Can Succeed in the Tech Titan Era

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