Over the last several years, Amazon has made no secret of its larger-than-life ambitions.
You’ve almost certainly heard of the e-commerce juggernaut’s plans to deliver packages via drone. Then there’s Amazon Go, the cashier-less brick-and-mortar grocery store that’s already popped up in the Seattle area. With the company’s June announcement that it plans to purchase Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, it’s not hard to imagine Amazon bringing the technology that powers the Amazon Go store to each of Whole Foods’ 468 locations—and likely displacing at least some cashiers. If that weren’t enough, Amazon is also investing in the original-content game; in 2016, the company’s shows nabbed 14 Emmys.
But Amazon isn’t stopping with these diverse projects. In fact, the online retailer is now targeting a new set of customers: business owners. Just recently, the company announced that it had reached 1 million business customers in its venture to compete against Staples.
You’d think that Amazon might be content with how wide it’s spread its wings since it launched as an online bookstore in 1995. But you’d be wrong.
It seems as though Amazon’s desire to take over the world is finally coming to the surface for all to see. For example, just a few weeks after the Whole Foods acquisition announcement, there are already rumors that indicate Amazon may acquire popular business messaging app Slack.
Amazon also has its sights set on conquering another significant small business market sector: small business lending. The company recently announced that it had issued $1 billion worth of small business loans to entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan during a 12-month period.
According to Amazon, these small business loans are designed “to make it simple for up-and-coming small businesses to efficiently get a business loan.”
That’s great and all. But if Amazon can’t be considered a monopoly already, many prognosticators are predicting that it’s only a matter of time before the label applies. Once that happens, the government will step in to split up the enormous conglomerate—at least in theory.
Most people would be lying if they said they didn’t like Amazon. The platform provides amazing convenience, a seamless user experience, and low prices.
As a country, however, we need to be very mindful about letting Amazon become even bigger than it already is. While the e-commerce company might currently offer comparatively good prices on small business loans, for example, what happens if Amazon makes further inroads in the small business lending space and puts even more of its competitors out of business? Suffice it to say that Jeff Bezos and company could theoretically jack up interest rates as much as they wanted—and because they already made their competitors close their doors, small business owners wouldn’t have many options left when they needed a loan.
While it may be tempting to shop Amazon for a small business loan, do so at your own peril. Not only could the company ultimately leave small business owners without any other choices for financing, but it’s unlikely that Amazon’s reps would be able to provide the level of service that many smaller lending outfits pride themselves on. In the event you’re in a pinch and need to talk to your lender, do you really think that you can simply call up Amazon and get a timely response?
There’s nothing wrong with using Amazon religiously to buy products as a consumer. There’s also nothing wrong with using Amazon to buy products for your business. These are the areas where the company inarguably shines.
But as for small business lending? And grocery stores too for that matter?
We’d probably all be better off supporting the businesses that have already proven themselves capable of delivering exemplary experiences in these areas. Otherwise, Amazon may end up taking over the small business lending and grocery sectors, leaving customers with much fewer choices and ones that are lower-quality offerings at that.
If you’re in need of a small business loan, don’t jump on the Amazon bandwagon. Partner with a non-bank lender instead. You’ll get the speed you’re used to on Amazon with the human touch only a small business can provide.
We look forward to hearing from you!