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This online giant is starting to stretch its entrepreneurial fingers into every retail segment, both online and off. Are you ready for an Amazon-centric world?

Last month, I stated it on Google+ and I will say it again: “ will own the retail world soon.” Amazon founder Jeff Bezos introduced Amazon’s new Fire Phone amid a flurry of excitement and the usual smartphone comparison speculations. (The phone officially launched on July 25.) While the “wow” factor of the new Fire Phone can be argued back and forth, the very act of developing the phone tells you something about the company’s understanding of the digital revolution and the opportunity it affords to capitalize on the relationship marketing model.

If you want to find out when, why and what people are buying and from whom, if you want to make sure your customers’ mobile buying experience is the best it can be, if you want to be accessible at all times, what better way to do it than to have them buying from your store on your phone? Your phone that consumers carry with them everywhere, loaded with apps to make their lives more informed, connected and just plain easier.

Recipes, health and fitness recommendations, news, email, next week’s schedule, all right there along with your storefront ready to provide everything they need and some things they don’t even know they need. Oh, and throw in a value-rich Prime membership to sweeten the pot. Tomorrow is here today!

The Future Is Now

Even without the phone release, Amazon is poised for the next generation. A recent article on TechCrunch reveals that the online giant’s tentacles are reaching into our homes in various ways:

“Amazon has been tipped to launch a local services marketplace this year to rival the likes of Thumbtack, Angie’s List and Yelp. Now one part of that effort looks like it’s about to go live: The company is now rolling out a food takeout service, a direct competitor to GrubHub, Seamless and DeliveryHero.”

Combine this new service with Amazon’s reach into grocery delivery and even its merchant services acquisitions, and I see a big-picture pattern here that should have the likes of Walmart quaking in their boots. The company is leveraging its agility in the digital space, and it’s distribution at its best, systematically reaching into the future of retail from all angles, affecting how we buy everything–what we want, what we read, what we wear, what we eat—and connecting us to that new world (and to each other) with a mobile platform and every form of delivery available, including one that currently is not.

It’s brilliant! It’s ubiquity designed to grow and cement the consumers’ relationship with the brand (and with each other as well). Its only real competition in this shift is Google, and that online giant is even starting to lose to Amazon with regard to retail search.

Will big, retail location stores become a thing of the past? Will our way of life change dramatically? Well, maybe not tomorrow, but I think it’s coming. Amazon’s drones might not be ready to deliver yet, but the distribution system is already in place—ready and waiting for the next evolution. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out, won’t it?

How Small Businesses Can Compete

So what does it take to get the small business involved and competing? Well, extra time (possibly the biggest barrier), money (but really not much) and people. Make it personal and make it special, and the consumer of today will stay interested. With social media and mobile being so time intensive, the barriers to entry get higher as a business gets smaller, but are not insurmountable for those willing to put in the time, especially since it can be done at all hours.

With social media, the bang for the buck can be enormous, but the results are hardly immediate, and a long-term outlook is necessary. My vote is to study up on the cause and effect, tools and concepts. Develop a basic strategy of what utility or value you want to offer. Get started on your own and build a thorough understanding of how to interact, engage and connect. Then empower your employees to help and allow them at the same time to build their personal brand. Hire a smart young intern to help execute a lot of the basic time-consuming functions … with your hands-on guidance, and you, the owner, always being the voice.

As far as the bigger picture, my prediction—and feel free to share—is this: Amazon’s global sales will surpass Walmart’s within the next seven to 10 years.

Photo: Getty Images

Originally posted JULY 30, 2014 American Express OPEN Forum blog

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