The following are some thoughts on how Amazon is impacting the business of golf, most based upon results from “The Amazon Impact”, a study of how Serious Golfers view the #1 Online Retailer in America, conducted by Golf Datatech and released early in 2018. Part I is a big picture view of Amazon’s impact, while Part II and Part III will be released in the upcoming weeks and address specific product categories like Golf Apparel and Golf Equipment.
Few topics create more passionate discourse in the golf business than bringing up the 8,000 pound gorilla (ten times bigger than the 800 pound one) that’s in the room.
To some Amazon is the devil. To others a savior. To American consumers it’s a habit that would be hard to kick, if you wanted to kick it, and most do not. Amazon is a complex layered selling machine designed to make the buying process simple and seamless to the ultimate consumer.
Point, click, and within a few hours or a few days your product of choice appears on your front doorstep, with the Amazon smiley face adorning the exterior of the package. From the consumer’s perspective it could hardly be easier to order and receive delivery. And Amazon is certainly not done pushing the envelope when it comes to making the purchase and delivery process as easy and timely as humanly possible. In fact, they even forgo humans and employ automated processes whenever possible, such as robotic driven pickers in warehouses, cashier-less grocery stores, and delivery drones. Amazon is always testing the outer limits of making the process simpler, faster, and more efficient, seemingly all the while investing in the future, eschewing short-term profits while always looking toward the far horizon.
While it’s hard to argue with all the benefits accruing to the consumer from using the Amazon platform, these improvements do not come without a cost to the broader fabric of America. After several years of relatively unfettered expansion and upward scaling of the business, Amazon has started to receive pushback from small segments of society that are concerned over one entity having too much power. While many doctoral thesis’ will likely be written about the impact of Amazon on society as a whole, our immediate concerns are with how it is impacting the golf business.
Amazon & Golf
First and foremost, Amazon’s model for engaging with the golfer works well, as golfers tend to be well educated with higher than average incomes, a good match for the Amazon selling platform. Golf Datatech just completed study on the Attitudes and Usage of Amazon by Serious Golfers, called “The Amazon Impact”, and determined that golf balls, gloves, shoes, distance devices and apparel are all well positioned to be purchased from the largest US online retailer, however those products that require engagement, interaction, trial and fitting (golf clubs in particular), are poorly suited for effective selling. It’s not to say Amazon may not look to find ways to overcome those obstacles, they’ve certainly done it before (think Whole Foods acquisition), but at the moment the lack of personal interaction have been too significant to overcome.
And to set the record straight, while Amazon has gained significant traction over the past year in consumables and packaged golf goods, it remains but a piece of the overall marketplace, not the dominant player. In golf balls and golf apparel the Green Grass channel is far larger than Amazon and in clubs the Off Course Specialty channel controls the bulk of the sales.
When Part II of this blog exploring Amazon and the golf business comes out, we’ll focus on Golf Apparel, followed by Part III which will address equipment in more detail.
Details about purchasing the full Amazon Impact study are available from Golf Datatech at firstname.lastname@example.org.