Tobi Lutke on succeeding in an Amazon world

Amazon will never win all of online shopping, “even in Bezos’s wildest dreams,” Lutke said. The Seattle-based web retailer will exist for everything people need on a regular basis, like food, toilet paper and batteries, but for the stuff they desire rather than need, most people still want to shop, whether it’s in physical or online boutiques.

This is an interesting view of Amazon’s positioning in online retail, and the gap that it leaves for independents (and Shopify).

As for Facebook and Google, Shopify could be an e-commerce appendage that helps these companies keep a foothold in the space even as Amazon rolls on. Shopify has been building the operating system for independent merchants to sell online for years, and even if Instagram were to get over its hesitance to turn itself into an online mall, Shopify would still theoretically be powering all the boring, difficult stuff that comes with selling, like order tracking and logistics, Lutke said.

This is quite ambitious, and a bit too hopeful. Lutke has correctly identified the opportunity for Facebook and Google. However, his belief in F/G turning to Shopify, instead of enabling the independent merchants directly seems tenuous.

There may be an opportunity with Facebook, but Google has quietly been pursuing shopping, money, and commerce related products for a long time. Google does lack capabilities in order tracking and logistics, that it could offer merchants. But these aren’t capabilities that Google, or the merchants, couldn’t buy from other third parties. Logistics-as-a-service isn’t a category lacking in providers.

Irrespective of my qualms, I really like the thinking that Lutke has presented here. His view of the opportunity space, him using Amazon’s dominance into a selling point for Shopify both display the clarity of his mental model. I love that in a (not-anymore) startup CEO, all the more in one from a core developer background.

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