Do what the competition won’t

Walmart recently unveiled a new website, built around online shopping. Probably not earth-shattering news, but what’s interesting is that the site is designed and built specifically to be the anti-Amazon. Every aspect of the look, the interface, the processes, and the entire experience is carefully massaged to be different than Amazon. (And hopefully better from their customer’s perspective, of course.)

It’s a fantastic example of just how powerful differentiation can be. Amazon is roughly a third of Walmart’s size in terms of revenue, but is growing a lot faster than Walmart. The largest company in the world is staking much of its future on doing what its main competition won’t do.

The best thing you can be is what the other guy ain’t. 

I’ll skip the detailed critiques and the speculation about whether and how Walmart can deliver on its promises – you can find that elsewhere, or just go look for yourself. It’s sufficient to say that no matter how deep you dive into these websites, it’s striking how the core principle of “not Amazon” carries through on Walmart’s site. It’s going to be interesting to see how Walmart will carry that through into their stores and marketing, and how Amazon and others will react (Target, for example, built a strong brand as the “anti-Walmart” – what happens as Walmart changes?)

So what can we credit union pipsqueaks learn from watching the titans arm-wrestle?

  • There’s always room to Be Different. Differentiation is something any organization can do, no matter how large or small.
  • Differentiation is pure market plutonium. The most powerful way to compete is to be genuinely different.
  • Differentiation has to be up-front and visible. If a prospective member visits your website and sees the same stock photos and the same words about the same products and the same boring blue as every other financial institution around, well, you’ve got a problem.
  • Think Big. Now Think Bigger. Get strategic, focus on the long-term.
  • Commit to being truly different. Bright, friendly colors are a great start. What about your lending policies for younger members buying their first car or home? Are they just as bright and friendly? You have to be authentic, be real. Follow through at every interaction. Modern humans can sniff out lip service a mile away.
  • Stop doing some of the stuff the competition is doing. This one can be tough. We all want to be everything for everyone, but not even Walmart can do that. There’s always a lot of overlap, of course, but actively look for things that should be dropped.
  • Stop doing some of the things you’ve always done just because they’ve always worked OK. This one’s even tougher.

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