Roberto CoelhoBy Roberto Coelho|July 12, 2022|5 Minutes|In Opinion


Disruption as Amazon lands in Africa.

Steve Jobs was known for instructing his team of engineers and product designers to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology. Jeff Bezos similarly claims Amazon’s success is due to an “obsessive compulsive focus on the customer.”

I imagine there is an interesting case study hidden in those words, however, as a customer, it looks to be true.

After purchasing a good, the premium paid or discount received often fades with months past, but a poor experience is never forgotten.

Amazon’s customer obsession is in focus as it is rumored, they will be opening shop in South Africa. To clarify, South African consumers can buy products from Amazon’s US store, but it seems likely Amazon is opening a ‘South African store’.

To analyze the impact on the South African l market and why Amazon is a force to reckon with, Billionaire Tomorrow spoke to  Jonathan Cherry, who is a strategy facilitator, writer, and entrepreneur who met and worked with Jeff Bezos over 20 years ago, to debate the effect.

“I think when a major global competitor comes into a marketplace, there will be some kind of consequences.”

South African consumers are spoilt for choice, local retailers such as Checkers, Woolworths and Pick n Pay, fight it out for suburban customers. From lowering prices to innovative delivery techniques, the competition is hot.

Traditional bricks and mortar retailers were already grappling with Take a Lot and new online stores, breaking on to the scene.

Just as these retailers battled and innovated against online retailers, the same will be done against Amazon.

“I think this will be good for the customers.”

Checkers, Woolworths and Spar are well established businesses with strong South African roots. Take a Lot is a rapidly growing online retailer with Naspers’ backing. They will not allow Amazon to ‘eat their lunch.’

Thus, the consequences of Amazon’s arrival are difficult to predict but Amazon’s relevance may be understood when examining their strengths.

“Amazon is an incredibly powerful brand with an enormous pile of cash.”

Depending on which source, Amazon is ranked as the world’s  third most powerful brand.

The excitement and inherent trust Amazon demand’s, allows it the privilege of being the first-choice retailer in numerous developed economies.

If one says, online shopping, what do you think of?


For a digital brand, Amazon possesses valuable real estate both on our smart phones and in our brains.

This powerful brand exists for a reason, customer satisfaction.

“I think it will be difficult once you have done business with Amazon to go back.”

It appears everyone has a story of how Amazon made the shopping experience more pleasurable. Especially the least pleasurable parts, for example returns.

More so, most consumers compare their experiences with Amazon, to more frustrating experiences with alternative retailers.

“The thing about a customer centric organization is they fine tune the things which really annoy people.”

The approval of consumers and the strongest brand in the world was not created by accident. It was a culture purposefully designed and implemented by Jeff Bezos. Furthermore, the culture flowing through Amazon is indorsed by the current CEO, Andy Jassy.

“The way Amazon approaches business is quite different to the way a lot of other brands do.”

This approach will be tested and proved in South Africa, notorious for over regulation and bureaucracy.

“Amazon has the ability to innovate no matter what the environment is.”

Innovation, together with a strong customer focus, is most likely Amazon’s customer acquisition strategy for South African consumers.

“The entrance of Amazon in South Africa is a disruptive force; it is not necessary that one will be taken out of business, but that business processes will be disrupted.”

South African retailers, media houses and businesses of all kinds, consider yourselves warned!