If you read what we discuss about competition and innovation around here, it's no surprise that we believe that a company that is simply resting on its laurels is going to eventually be in trouble. That's why one of the most interesting things a company can do is cannibalize its own offerings. Intel famously does this on a regular basis. Basically, the lesson is clear: if you aren't willing to cannibalize your own offerings, someone else will do it for you. It's a lesson that plenty of big companies don't like to learn -- but they all learn it eventually when the competition eats their lunch. That's why it's always fascinating to see the ways that companies try to stave this off. One of the more interesting ideas that probably makes sense for some larger companies is to build a separate group, whose job is effectively to act as the competition. Let them develop the next great competitive advantage -- and if it destroys your existing business, better that it's done by your company than someone else's. It looks like Amazon may be practicing a bit of this concept by launching a brand new shoes and handbags store
, that looks like it has nothing to do with Amazon.com. They named it something different (Endless.com) and built the site up from scratch, not relying on Amazon's e-commerce or search tools (they do use Amazon's distribution and warehouse system, however). Looking at the website, you'd have no idea it was related to Amazon at all.
While many people will point out that this is really more an attempt to compete with marketplace leader Zappos in the shoes and handbags e-commerce world, it's even more interesting as a case study of Amazon competing with itself. Amazon already has a shoes and handbag store on their main site -- but this is entirely different. It's also interesting because Amazon is still often considered the e-commerce company that has the most advanced e-commerce system. Despite years to try to catch up, few other sites offer nearly as much functionality. In fact, Amazon has made good money over the years reselling their platform to other sites who want to just leverage Amazon's expertise in e-commerce software -- yet, Amazon itself decided to build a new system from scratch for this offering. It's definitely going to be worth watching how this evolves, and whether Amazon and Endless learn from each other, or continue down separate paths.