“Amazon’s influence doesn’t stop with e-commerce”

What is the “political” message of your book?

I was touched by the loss of control over developing consumer markets. The positions taken by digital giants are disturbing. The intersection between digital and commerce has passed under the radar of public authorities. But as well as retailers who have remained passive in the face of this phenomenon, who have been naive, who have invested little … The problem is that Amazon’s influence does not stop with e-commerce. It is a point of support for the colonization of other aspects of consumption and lifestyle. Starting with physical commerce and even in entertainment … I would like, through this work, to contribute to the awareness of the need to act quickly to avoid the stifling consumption of a handful of world-class companies with foreign origin. It is a threat to our economic sovereignty.

“The intersection between digital and commerce is under the radar of public authorities.»

In what way does this topic of consumption platformization “concern” the economist that you are? What does this say about the evolution of our society?

The world of consumption was once disturbed by widespread distribution. This is being redefined by the emergence of virtual marketplaces. They quickly imposed a new rule of the game here. The new organization of markets is not a problem in itself. On the other hand, digital platformization and the entry into operation of new intermediaries worries me. If it is not managed, controlled, it is in danger of leading to dominant positions that, when installed, are very difficult to shake. We are far from getting rid of Microsoft and Windows …

You mentioned the staggering numbers: 62% of global e-commerce in 2020 was conducted in the 100 largest global markets.

There are two subjects. On the one hand, the influence of e-commerce markets and on the other hand, the place of leaders in this market. Marketplace activity has grown twice the rate of e-commerce as a whole. By 2020, Amazon will earn $ 386 billion. In comparison, CA. Carrefour’s world is 83 billion dollars. In China, Alibaba, created in 1999, has already made 109 billion dollars by 2020 (981 million Chinese customers and 240 million outside China). The next few months could see an intense clash between e-commerce titans in the land of Europe.

What can stop this evolution …

The ability to prevent the phenomenon depends on the ability to invent something else. There are alternatives to the dominant markets: “alone” in creating a merchant site (there are more than 200,000 active sites in France), the launch of expert or local markets, etc.

… the consumers themselves? These platforms are criticized for their working conditions, for their ecological footprints … Every project to set up an Amazon warehouse in France is subject to a lot of criticism. Will there not be a resurgence of consumer citizens?

This is really one of the limits of their influence. In society, we have gone from a complimentary tone regarding Amazon to a more critical look, especially in the working conditions of employees. In our studies on ObSoCo, we explicitly observed a decline to buy on this platform, but it only affects 10% of French people. However, one trend suggests that part of the American site’s clients have a sense of guilt. To be continued … because after this mea culpa, in general, the consumer dominates the people.

Only 10% of French refuse to buy on Amazon »

Sure they are leaders, but is the fight fair?

Of course not. They are the champions of tax optimization. They don’t pay taxes. There is a form of predation in the economic sense. The sale at a loss on Amazon is cloud funded, for example, another profitable business. By 2020, Amazon Web service (IT services activity) will weigh 12% in the digital giant’s turnover but 60% in its operating revenue. It’s not very fair game for independent book sellers who don’t play on equal terms … However, I acknowledge Amazon’s genius steps but I say we shouldn’t let it come to this.

The French favor local, French -made, CSR -focused companies … How would you evaluate this contradiction with consumers?

There is a double division in one part of the population moving towards responsible consumption and another in the grip of economic barriers. And more, there is a divide in each of us between consumer and citizen. Often, the first registers goals and the second reminds us of obstacles.

“The food game is still open, where having a dense network of stores is a strategic asset,” you wrote. Is a policy of concentration of players therefore more topical than before?

Probably, because when we look at the masses at stake, it is clear that our leaders are elves, eager to earn, little investment. However, Amazon never distributed 1 euro in dividends and made the choice, too early, to invest heavily. Walmart is the only one in the world to fight this, because the brand is investing heavily in new skills. In France, we still have a culture of power; however, there is a question of attraction to a culture of intelligence, of change.

Here too, Amazon’s food ambitions (including Amazon Fresh) along with its knowledge of logistics will join the competition …

Especially since the brand knows how to be patient. Although France had a slow start, he persevered. French players have little rest because country size is not made a priority for the American brand. But, despite everything, we are witnessing a beginning of major food distribution groups that, since the health crisis, have understood the importance of digital.

What is the recipe for the success of specialized markets (ManoMano, Zalando …)?

I believe in this because it must be recognized that the shopping experience on Amazon is quite challenging. What saves him is the 300 million references on his site. In performance, it’s great. But in consumption, there is a symbolic, insignificant non-material dimension. In a special market place, we can evoke a whole speculation of consumption. The shopping experience is richer and more meaningful, with the involvement of communities. This is the real difference with Amazon. But even the Decathlon or Leroy Merlin came a little late …

What are the strengths of DNVBs in this new form of organization?

There are many candidates and few elected officials who have the ability to see without being established in a marketplace. Some brands present in different sectors (Le Slip Français, Made.com, Loom, Tediber, etc.) enter the market from a narrow product category and want to keep full control over the distribution of their products and the customer relationship. PAmong their strengths, note a strong presence on social networks and with influencers and a form of consumer engagement.

What do you think are the alternatives for e-merchants to exist against Amazon?

They need to invent something else and be part of the next step. E-commerce has evolved in its forms and it will grow even more. The ones that can seriously challenge Amazon are obviously the other digital giants (Google, Facebook, etc.). To exist alike, the desire to buy must be aroused by responding not to the consumer but to the person. In this sense, social commerce is an alternative track. Social media can help small players. But we must be forward-looking and invest because we are far from the end of the re-invention of commerce using digital.

You also mentioned service models …

In this context, market relations are based on the supply of beneficial effects and the contribution of solutions to problems encountered by customers. This is the case of BMW-Daimler, which is moving towards “mobility as a service”, Leroy Merlin and Decathlon, and even Somfy, which is moving from motorized shutters to home automation equipment.e. These new services drive the consumer to stay in the brand ecosystem and therefore generate revenue streams over time.

What remains in the post-Covid period of consumption?

The opportunity to accelerate the transition to greater respect for the environment seems to have passed. With the return of inflation, the whole issue of purchasing power (and “buying power”) resurfaces, especially in this election period context. This will not help us turn the page into hyperconsumption. We are at the antipodes of the gentleness we will need.

His journey

1988: Doctor of economics from the University of Paris 1, Philippe Moati joins CRÉDOC

1998: professor at the University of Paris-Diderot, where he led the master’s degree “Consultants and responsible for socio-economic studies”.

2011: participated in the creation of the Observatory Society and Consumption (ObSoCo).

2014: joined the orientation council of BPI France “lab”.

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