July 01, 2024

Tolls vs. Tribes

I will paraphrase the conversation to protect those involved.


Person A:  I think I want to get the Zero:2 iems. They're $15 on AliExpress and $25 on Amazon. Anybody else had an experience with AliExpress?

Person B:  Get them on Amazon. It's only $25. Why take a risk with somebody you don't trust?

Person A:  $10 additional dollars is important to me.


The world seems to change slowly, then it changes all-of-a-sudden. The conversation above (which happened three times in the past two weeks) is an example of the world changing slowly (it was an exchange between two individuals 1-2 generations apart). Person by person, day after day, new habits are formed. There will be a day ... maybe 5 years from now, maybe 12 years from now, when all of a sudden old-school folks will say "what happened to Amazon?". They'll realize Amazon became Montgomery Wards. They'll have no idea how it happened, they'll just look and go "wow".

It happens one fifteen year old at a time, trying to save $10, seeing that Amazon is too expensive.

Think about the last half of that sentence:  "... seeing that Amazon is too expensive". A sentence unthinkable twenty years ago when the argument was that Amazon could never be profitable being so inexpensive.

I've been waiting for something to happen since the death of "omnichannelism" nearly a decade ago. We're there now. Something is happening. It's the end of catalog-style print marketing from the 80s/90s. It's the "e-commerce is now mature and at risk" situation that ultimately happens to all incumbent business models - e-commerce is now old-school, ripe for disruption. 

We're transitioning from tolls (paying Google/Amazon/Facebook for access to customers) to tribes (Seth Godin would be so happy).

From tolls to tribes.

The older individual at the start of this post is willing to pay Amazon a $10 toll because he trusts Amazon.

The younger individual is part of a tribe that needs to save $10. This individual will form habits that send commerce in a very different direction.

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