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Amazon Doesn’t Just Want to Dominate the Market—It Wants to Become the Market

Amazon Doesn’t Just Want to Dominate the Market—It Wants to Become the Market

The company is a radically new kind of monopoly with ambitions that dwarf those of earlier empires.

By Stacy Mitchell

February 15, 2018     from The Nation

Illustrated by Nurul Hana Anwar.


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Chris Lampen-Crowell started to feel the undertow four years ago. Gazelle Sports, the running-shoe and apparel business he founded in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1985, had grown steadily for decades, adding locations in Grand Rapids and Detroit and swelling to some 170 employees. But then, in 2014, sales took a downward turn. From the outside, at least, it was hard to see why. Gazelle Sports was as beloved as ever by local runners. People continued to flock to its free clinics and community runs. And scores of enthusiastic reviews on Google and Yelp, along with an industry ranking as one of the best running-shoe retailers in the country, gave Gazelle Sports and its e-commerce website plenty of prominence in online searches.

The problem wasn’t so much that customers had made a conscious decision to buy their running gear elsewhere, Lampen-Crowell says. Rather, a number were doing more of their overall shopping on Amazon—and as the online giant became a pervasive, almost unconscious habit in their lives, they had started dropping into their Amazon shopping carts some of the items they used to buy from Gazelle Sports. Lampen-Crowell’s initial response was to double down on marketing his company’s own website. But while that helped, there were many potential customers who still had little chance of landing on it. That was because, by 2014, nearly 40 percent of people looking to buy something online were skipping search engines like Google altogether and instead starting their product searches directly on Amazon.

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