Retail Done Right
Market disruption tells two general stories; the rise of a small and agile up-and-comer, and the decline of a large, slow market leader.
For every Netflix there is a Blockbuster.
For every Airbnb there is a vacant hotel room.
For every Lyft there is a parked taxi.
One thing is certain. No one is safe at the top.
But let’s not forget the survivors – like IBM, Xerox, and Blackberry - who leveraged innovation to stave off disruptors.
AutoZone is telling its own survival story. One that can save it from future peril. And, like most market survivors, they’re thinking about innovation from the customer’s perspective.
Retail Is Not What It Used to Be
Shopping malls seem close by the minute as we order more of everything with free Prime two-day shipping.
Fifteen years ago, when conducting any level of car maintenance, you could pop over to the closest AutoZone for advice, the part, and often free assistance from a very helpful staff. The customer service experience was (and still is) well above board.
Today, out of sheer convenience, you can pop on YouTube to learn anything about cars, order parts online, and go about your business without leaving your driveway.
AutoZone, as a leader in the auto parts market, decided not to wait until they had one foot in the retail grave to give customers faster access to car parts. In a September press release, the company shared its decision to offer next-day delivery.
Bill Rhodes, AutoZone’s Chairman, President and CEO, Customer Satisfaction, says that, “Listening to customers and providing efficient and faster service is what we do, and we’re excited to find another way to deliver on that promise. Our industry-leading products and customer service now come with industry-leading shipping options. This is an incredibly unique offering."
AutoZone recognized the pace at which their online segment was growing and capitalized by investing in what the press release calls “technology-driven customer innovations.”
The technology in question involves a new integrated order management system, drawing from local inventories to fulfill orders online. The idea, along with the tech, has been highly praised for its convenience and speed after a successful pilot program.
Did We Mention It's Free?
AutoZone’s website includes detailed information for DIY enthusiasts in 83 US markets, (or 80% of the population) who now have access to free next-day shipping. Orders can be placed as late as 10 o’clock PM and arrive the next day via FedEx Express.
One must understand disruption and its stages to survive as stated in the 2016 McKinsey Quarterly article, “An Incumbent’s Guide to Digital Disruption.”
As Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, pointed out (right as his company was making the leap from DVDs to streaming), most successful organizations fail to look for new things their customers want because they’re afraid to hurt their core businesses. Clayton Christensen called this phenomenon the innovator’s dilemma. Hastings simply said, “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.”
The guide goes on to explain that listening to customer signals is the foundation of innovation. In the case of AutoZone, it involved a combination of the right customer response, timing, the right technology-driven solution, and the right partners to help pull it all together.