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Episode 308
June 20, 2023

Winner Sells All

Just in time for the release of his new book, Jason Del Rey sits down with Phillip and Brian and talks about his research in the histories of Walmart and Amazon, what he learned that matters to consumers today, and what he’d like to see in the future of commerce. His book, Winner Sells All: Amazon, Walmart, and the Battle for Our Wallets is being called “A riveting investigation of the no-holds-barred battle between Amazon and Walmart to become the king of commerce.” It’s a must-read, and it’s out TODAY June 20th! Listen now to hear more and get your own copy of the book everywhere books are sold!

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Just in time for the release of his new book, Jason Del Rey sits down with Phillip and Brian and talks about his research in the histories of Walmart and Amazon, what he learned that matters to consumers today, and what he’d like to see in the future of commerce. His book, Winner Sells All: Amazon, Walmart, and the Battle for Our Wallets is being called “A riveting investigation of the no-holds-barred battle between Amazon and Walmart to become the king of commerce.” It’s a must read, and it’s out TODAY June 20th! Listen now to hear more and get your own copy of the book everywhere books are sold! 

Tug of War

  • {00:04:02} “I'm a sports fan, and rivalries are something that I grew up on. And this was just sort of an epic one: Amazon and Walmart. And I really wanted to just go inside and explain to readers both in and outside the industry what these companies' ambitions are, how they look at each other, and hopefully, you get some takeaways on why that matters for you, too.” - Jason
  • {00:09:29} “Maybe the innovator's dilemma is becoming the imitator's dilemma and that this competition in the marketplace is beginning to create challenges for both companies in having to imitate each other and potentially to wind up chasing red herrings.” - Phillip
  • {00:17:40} “What's gone on in physical retail for {Amazon} is a good reminder that your DNA is your DNA as it was for Walmart. And it's really hard to execute well and have the right vision that isn't all about using the new channel or new business to just strengthen your historical business.” - Jason
  • {00:24:26} “The way that this new generation of shoppers, especially a Gen Z and Gen Alpha shoppers, who could be the most prolific purchasing power generation of all time, what they think about those physical in-store experiences matters more than what I think about it.” - Phillip
  • {00:46:01} “I have a chapter about Doug {McMillon} in the book because I do think he's sort of under cover for how important of a position he holds.” - Jason
  • {00:49:20} “ I'd like to think a piece of future of commerce is also really figuring out a way that this industry is not such a drag on the environment. I think physical retail actually can play a big role in solving at least some of the short term issues there.” - Jason

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Jason: [00:00:00] I just worry where this goes in the future. So I would just say I hope we're talking about a new company that does way more good than bad for society 20 years from now.

Brian: [00:01:19] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the next generation of commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:24] I'm Phillip. Today this kind of is a pivotal moment for us, Brian. When we started this podcast almost seven years ago, we made a list of people that we'd love to get on the show, and one of those people, at the time, an incredibly visible and brilliant communicator, somebody who has done the hard job of documenting the future of commerce as it was coming into being by investigating some of the world's largest businesses in the realm of eCommerce and retail is with us here today. It's such a pivotal moment for us and a great moment for him as he puts out his new book. It's called Winner Sells All: Amazon, Walmart, and the Battle for Our Wallets, available from Harper Business on the 20th of June. Welcome to the show, Jason Del Rey.

Jason: [00:02:13] Thanks so much, guys. I don't know that I agree with all of that, but I'll go along with the ride.

Phillip: [00:02:21] You are one of the people in our industry over a long period of time who has documented the rise of behemoth retail and the transforming tech that's powering the shopping experiences we've all come to sort of take for granted in the world. You've done so through publishing books, years at Recode, and then a podcast that I listened to with some frequency, Land of the Giants. Tell us why you continue this journey here in writing this new book and what you're trying to accomplish here. What's it all about, Jason?

Jason: [00:03:01] Sure. So I'll start with the admission that I long wanted to write a book if I felt like perhaps I would be the best or one of the best people to tackle that, whatever the given topic was. And so over time, I think a lot of business journalists who covered Amazon and eCommerce only covered sort of the new players or the digital pure plays, and then folks who covered "traditional retail" sort of stayed in that lane. And so people who covered Walmart tended to cover Walmart and others that began in the brick and mortar world. And so I was one of the few I thought that really paid close attention to both companies. And there's been great books written about Amazon. I cite Brad Stone's two books throughout. There have been some good books about Walmart as well. But I've just been, you know, [00:04:02] I'm a sports fan, and rivalries are something that I sort of grew up on. And I'm a business nerd now, too, and I love them in business. And this was just sort of an epic one: Amazon and Walmart. And I really wanted to just go inside and explain to readers both in and outside the industry what these companies' ambitions are, how they look at each other, and hopefully, you get some takeaways on why that matters for you, too. [00:04:27]

Brian: [00:04:28] Love that. Yeah, I love the of pitting up against of the two giants and the two approaches and you actually kind of go into why Walmart sort of found themselves in this position and maybe you could talk a little bit and just kind of give a little preview to our readers of some of the opportunities that Walmart looked at early and said, "Hey, no thanks. Thanks but no thanks." Why did they find themselves in the position that they're in now?

Phillip: [00:05:07] What is that position, by the way? What's your take on that, Jason?

Brian: [00:05:11] Yeah.

Jason: [00:05:12] Yeah. I'll speed through the chronology maybe, but start way back in the 90s and yeah, a little preview. One of my favorite parts of the book and the reporting process was finding a gentleman named Robert Davis who was a Walmart employee, helped roll out their new POS systems, really a technologist back in the, I think he joined maybe in the late 80s into the 90s and then was led the Skunk Works team that was really experimenting with eCommerce back in the mid 90s. So selling gift baskets during the holidays on Sam's Club's website. They really were the first team. And I'm talking this is like a handful of people, I think fewer than a dozen, who were experimenting in what walmart.com should be. And Robert was a real believer that eCommerce was going to be the pivotal next step in the retail, historical journey. And he went into the office of David Glass, the then CEO, and basically was asking David for just a top-down commitment, and really what Robert was looking for was if he went to another team or division around Walmart and said, "We kind of need you to prioritize this for this eCommerce stuff," that they wouldn't just dismiss it or tell them, "Yeah, we'll get to that in 2 or 3 years." And so Robert hadn't talked to any journalists about this since, but someone told me I should reach out to him. And so he told me this story. David essentially told him, "eCommerce is cool. We're going to experiment with it. But you're not going to you're not getting what you want from me right here." And Robert, like a lot of Walmart folks at the time who believed in eCommerce ended up going over to Amazon in the late 90s. I think he spent over a decade there in a variety of roles. And still to this day, I think he's in his mid 60s now, really regrets Walmart not sort of taking a big dive into the space back then because he thought it could have been transformational for the company and for online retailing overall. He's retired now, but the passion with which he spoke about this missed opportunity and to be clear, he still has a lot of respect for both companies. But I sort of found myself, you know, he really did a good job bringing me back to that time and the excitement for people who could see the vision and then the disappointment of Walmart not taking a big swing back then when really Amazon was still just a baby.

Phillip: [00:08:22] You're outlining what kind of is framed as like this classical innovator's dilemma. And you have this truism that I think that only long form media, something in this sort of investigative journalism, it's like we're going to really document the history of these two businesses and how they've come to compete with each other and maybe even compete over talent, compete with offerings, and what we often see, especially in trade journalism, is you get a very short form take on one side of the story that either positions a current news cycle around a new product offering or a business acquisition. One that comes to mind is the rise of DTC at Walmart as painting some sort of picture. What you outline is it's actually much more like a tug of war. And [00:09:20] what we've been talking about for about a year and a half here is that maybe the innovator's dilemma is becoming the imitator's dilemma and that this competition in the marketplace is beginning to create challenges for both companies in having to imitate each other and potentially to wind up chasing red herrings. [00:09:43] So you talk a little bit about that in the book. What's your take here on these key obstacles and challenges in that innovator's dilemma between these two giants?

Jason: [00:09:55] Yeah. So I'll stick on the Walmart side for a second. So obviously, for anyone paying attention to this space, they buy Jet.com, and I have a whole chapter about sort of the crazy... I was going to say crazy rise and fall of Jet.com. I don't know if fall is quite fair but crazy rise and plateau of Jet.com and then Doug McMillon and Walmart sort of being a savior for that company and think vice versa a little bit too. So Marc Lore comes in and they make the Bonobos acquisition and Andy Dunn comes in and sort of given these marching orders from Marc Lore of let's build out this portfolio of young brands that connect with a younger generation and also not coincidentally, don't sell on Amazon and maybe we can find some synergies and make these businesses profitable, but also just build out some real differentiation in our selection. And I won't give away too much but we know that didn't quite happen, and I get into some of the whys and there was you know stuff that happened pre-acquisition where Marc Lore and team were not hitting, not showing that they can consistently hit both top and bottom line numbers, which we can talk about more. But then there was also just not a real belief from some folks in Bentonville that these companies were as valuable as investors and founders would have liked to believe back then and I think, honestly, a lot of that played out in favor of that opinion. That thing sort of blows up. And actually, in the last few months, we've seen it really disintegrate by Walmart selling off some of these businesses, which I wish my publication date was just a tad bit later.

Phillip: [00:12:13] I was going to say, yeah, how much of the recent history has sort of caused you to maybe have some agita around the way that things tie up in the book?

Jason: [00:12:23] Yeah, I think you read this book, I think you should have an idea of Walmart not really being behind or firm supporters of that specific strategy. And I think it's clear in my book that by the time Marc Lore left, he had regrets about, I think he said as much about that play not really working out. So yeah it would have been nice to include the sales in the book but not too much. I have agita for other reasons which we could talk about, but those were not recent ones. There are ones, you know, you write a book and there's stuff, you know along the way that you're just not going to get to. And I'll get back to your question. But one of them just to get out in front is my initial plan was to have a chapter about the battle of these two companies in India. And I've visited India back in 2015, I think, so pre Walmart, way before Walmart acquired a stake in Flipkart and met with a bunch of entrepreneurs and investors and really was fascinated by what was going on there still am I reached a point in my reporting process with my deadlines and to write this chapter in the way I would be proud of with original reporting and really trusting that I'm bringing to the reader what is actually going on and not just what these companies are saying is going on... I just frankly, I just ran out of time. And there are... I'll just plug a couple of other books. Brad Stone's Amazon Unbound has a good chapter leading up to the acquisition. I think it leads up to sort of the Walmart Flipkart acquisition. So everything happening before then. There's also an India-based journalist who wrote a book called I think it's Big Billion Startup or something like that about the history of Flipkart, which is super interesting and really insightful. So if people are interested in that space long form wise, I would recommend those and maybe have another in a sequel I'll get to tackle that.

Jason: [00:15:53] You were asking about the Innovator's Dilemma. And I started with the Walmart side. I think it's been really interesting to me and get into this a little bit in the book. Amazon's exploration of physical retail and the many different flavors that have been taken so far and the stumbles they've had. And I don't think they're done yet, even with sort of some pullback there. But the anecdotes I do include in my book, I think show... So have some anecdotes about Amazon books and some of this frankly, some shadiness going on with employees and how they were signing up customers for free trials for Amazon subscription services and also some stuff about Amazon Fresh. I think it's just interesting for me as someone who it's easy as a journalist covering Amazon, at least historically, to get caught up in the idea that when they enter a new space the bet is they're going to succeed, or that was the bed for a long time. Wall Street, we saw it in the stock prices of competitors when Amazon would just even I think once I've reported on Amazon messing around with what's the service Best Buy runs... Geek squad.

Phillip: [00:17:18] Geek squad.

Jason: [00:17:19] Yeah. And when I published that in Best Buy stock went down like 7% or something. And anyway, I think it's been easy for the media and in the past, I'm to blame as well and investors to just think there's a good chance they're going to get this right. And I think  [00:17:40]what's gone on in physical retail for them is a good reminder that your DNA is your DNA as it was for Walmart. And it's really hard to execute well and have the right vision that isn't all about using the new channel or new business to just strengthen your historical business. [00:18:00] I think I just learned a lot about Amazon struggles and why they're so great at what they do well and why that could be sort of an impediment to nailing some of the really hard stuff about physical retail.

Brian: [00:18:20] Because physical retail is hard. And in fact, I'm going to paraphrase because I'll butcher trying to quote this out of the book. But you talk to Doug McMillon and you asked him like, "What are the ongoing challenges with online?" or something to that effect, and he's like, "Yeah, online is really hard and so is physical. Retail is really hard." {laughter}

Jason: [00:18:42] Yeah. And yeah, so coincidentally, I went down to Bentonville to see Doug and was thankful for the time he gave me. And that was, I think it was within a week or a couple of days of Amazon announcing they were shutting down the bookstores. And so, I was maybe kind of hoping he might throw a dig at his competitors. So I asked him about it. But I really wanted to know what he thought about Amazon pulling back. And yeah, he gave a quote that was something along the lines of like, "eCommerce is hard. Stores are hard. Try something new, and if it doesn't work, you cut bait." I think his term was like, you cut bait and you move on and that's kind of who he is as a leader. So I don't know why I was expecting something much different. But we all hope. But so we'll see. I mean, I'm curious about you guys. When it comes to Amazon and physical retail, are you skeptics overall looking forward? I think they'll keep at it. And whether that's just licensing technology services may be long term versus operating their own, putting aside Whole Foods, which is a whole nother beast.

Phillip: [00:19:58] That's a whole other. Yeah, that's a whole other chapter of this story. Brian, I'd love to hear your take on this.

Brian: [00:20:03] So let me actually start with Walmart really quickly before I answer the question about Amazon because I think the thing that Phillip and I have been actually very hot on recently is Walmart and their app and the experience between in-store and app.

Phillip: [00:20:23] Yeah.

Brian: [00:20:23] And I've realized that I have shifted my spending significantly recently not necessarily to Walmart but away from Amazon in that there are certain types of purchases that I feel very comfortable making at Amazon that I'm very happy to do. A book or something small that I know I'm not going to return that I need quickly. And so it's easy to just be like one click and go. I don't have to worry about it and I know I'm not going to return it because it was a small enough purchase where I know I'm not going to return it. But for things that are a little bit more like, there's a chance I might return it, there's maybe a larger purchase, it'd be difficult to put in a box and the physical footprint gets way more important. And Walmart's done a very, very good job of making those purchases feel a lot more confident in them. And of course, I'm a big Costco fan and that hasn't even entered your story because Costco lives outside of time and space.

Jason: [00:21:34] I love Costco. We actually just... Should I admit this we just canceled our membership though, strictly for convenience. And we have another members club maybe four minutes from our house. Costco is about 15. And those 11 times two, that's 22 minutes. My kids have a lot of needs and activities. So anyway.

Brian: [00:22:05] I want to come back to that in about three months, and I want to hear about your experience.

Jason: [00:22:10] Okay.

Brian: [00:22:11] That aside. So I think back to your original question about Amazon and stores. And the reason why I brought all this up is I actually think it's essential that they do succeed in physical retail because there are certain types of purchases that are just getting unwieldy and the return cycle is brutal. And customers are getting fed up with it. I think Amazon's getting fed up with it. I think everyone's kind of getting fed up with it. And so if they don't nail physical retail, they're actually going to be a little bit in trouble. That is an edge that they're going to lose. I don't know if it's all going to get ceded over to Walmart necessarily. Some of it will. But we're looking at the return policy story that came out about Target recently. And people are making purchases, especially in tight economic times where they have flexibility and confidence that if they made the wrong decision, they're going to be able to get their money back because they need it.

Phillip: [00:23:14] I have a bit of a different take that I think goes more to the irrationality of the way that consumers behave because I don't think it's so simple. Jason, as we follow price and convenience, I think that's part of it. I also think there's some muscle memory in the channels we've learned to shop in that's really hard to break and it leapfrogs generations. I have to give an anecdote. My 12 year old for her 12th birthday... Do you know what she wanted to do? She wanted to go to Walmart because she's never been to Walmart. And Mr. Beast drove her there. And when you think about the way that our... You want to talk about this digital to physical pipeline, I think the cachet of the brand aligning with Amex it's changing our perception of Walmart as a brand through the eyes of a new generation who has no prior experience with them and what they used to be. Where in my mind I remember the Walmart of the 90s before supercentres, before what we have today. And that is a thing that is, I think there's an opportunity there. So how important is physical retail? I think it's vital. But [00:24:26] the way that this new generation of shoppers, especially a Gen Z and Gen Alpha shoppers, who could be the most prolific purchasing power generation of all time, what they think about those physical in-store experiences matters more than what I think about it. [00:24:48] But I have to see it. I have to see it through that lens. But like getting back to what you were talking about, there is an innovation story at the core here. Part of that innovation is providing more services to a consumer. You can't really talk about that without talking about how both of these brands, both Amazon and Walmart, have made investments in things like health care.

Brian: [00:25:12] Hmmm.

Phillip: [00:25:13] Truly the Everything store at that point. When you're thinking about that sort of an investment, does this also have bearing on not just how we think of these brands in the future and how much of our life and control as consumers they're asking for us to give over to them, but does it also highlight a new era for concern over regulatory oversight for these companies?

Jason: [00:25:44] As in, should there be more?

Phillip: [00:25:47] {laughter} Yeah.

Brian: [00:25:48] {laughter}

Jason: [00:25:50] Listen, I'll start with, I have a chapter about each company's healthcare ambitions and motivations in this book. And really, it was both the toughest one to report and write out because I had not covered it closely prior, I hadn't paid attention, obviously, as someone covering the companies but had not dug in. And also because it's a complicated space. I mean, I used to cover the payments industry early on in my eCommerce coverage and thought that was complicated. But health care, I mean, beyond just physically mattering to all of us is really a complicated space. But it turned out to be my favorite chapter, and I'll give a little shout out, which I do in my acknowledgments. There's a great former journalist in the space named Chrissy Farr, who's now an investor in health tech. And she gave me a lot of her time just to get me up to speed on a lot of what matters in the space related to these two companies. So health care. My favorite chapter, Chapter 11. I won't be angry if you want to start the book there, but it's probably better to start at the beginning. Each company, I think, has had some failures so far for sure. Walmart seems to really not be able to get out of its own way with leadership turnover in that part of the business. But I think they both see the huge opportunity. I think their motivations, I don't know that they're the same. I won't give it away, but I think Walmart leadership is looking at the cash flow that could come from a health care business at scale and thinking about how that could help them really directly in the battle or to stave off Amazon in other areas of their business. I think Amazon sees what Jeff Bezos has talked about for a long time, which is industries that sort of seem to have at times just a blatant disregard for the consumer, fragmentation, something that's hard, and also maybe some margin there that can be targeted. And I think they do think there has to be a better way and obviously I go a little bit through the history of Amazon taking a shot with ownership of Drugstore.com back in the way. That didn't work out. But then again with a DTC brand or company Pillpack, both companies wanted it badly. Walmart kind of fumbled it there, like they did with Quidsi way back in the day and now it's in Amazon, you know, sort of the foundation of Amazon Pharmacy. I am not serviced in any way through either company when it comes to health care in my personal life. I have a tough time trusting Amazon. I am an Amazon Prime member. We are also Walmart consumers and Target consumers. Trader Joe's is our grocery chain store of choice. But when it comes to... And Brian, I thought you were going here before. There are certain purchases I'm comfortable with on Amazon. Anything that goes in my body or on my body and I should say on my skin, not clothing necessarily, but washes or shampoos, I don't feel comfortable with because...

Brian: [00:29:45] You don't trust it.

Jason: [00:29:46] I don't trust co-mingling in their warehouses of what's coming from a seller. Do we know who that seller is? Do we know that Amazon is buying the inventory they think they're buying? I mean, I simply don't trust it. And that actually, that advice was given to me. I won't blow up his spot by saying his name but by a former Amazon executive. And so trusting, I'm very interested to see how much trust there is among consumers at scale when it comes to their health care needs and these brands. I think Walmart really in a lot of communities has a real good shot with the physical Walmart health facilities, sort of the super center of care. But the reviews of those so far have been sort of mediocre. And like I mentioned up top, they've had just a ton of turnover at the top of that org and I quote on the record a former Walmart health leader in the book. And he says plainly, "Walmart's biggest obstacle in health care is Walmart itself." And just that it's not the core of what they do and historically it's been treated as such. Maybe that's changing. I'll be following it.

Brian: [00:32:15] It's interesting. I think you can see a little bit of a parallel for their digital transformation and also for their health transformation. There was a lot of burning through people on the digital side of the business as well. And you can look at some of these things as failures, like Marc Lore. Do you, Jason, consider Marc Lore's tenure at Walmart a failure or a success, or somewhere in between?

Jason: [00:32:49] I'm going to say what I say in the book, which is that it depends really on what your definition of success or failure is. And you may think that's a cop out. I think it's sort of nuanced. And so I'll explain a bit. I think one of his goals and his team's goals from the start and they set it back then, and then he said it to me for this book was to change the narrative of who Walmart was in digital. Not only yes, on Wall Street because that's very important to that company among the investors, but also in the technology community and eCommerce community. And I think I have a hard time believing today that Walmart would be able to hire some of the leaders they currently have. So a guy, Seth Dallaire, who's leading their advertising and membership and all of that. If not for Marc and team coming in, doing a lot of things, making a lot of noise quickly, a lot of stuff didn't work out, but I think they tried. They saw stuff that was table stakes and made sure Walmart was doing it. And I think frankly, they just made some people uncomfortable inside the Bentonville Home Office, which I think was necessary and was far overdue and made them think, at least consider, the upsides of younger brands and really meeting consumers where they want to be. The downsides of that tenure, there are many. So we talked about the foray into buying digitally native brands not working. I think Marc and team had a really hard time making money and that followed Marc from his Diapers.com days and I think it's probably following him right now as he can't believe he's still working but he is with his start up, Wonder, his food delivery slash now food pickup business.

Phillip: [00:35:09] City of the future. There's a lot of... Yeah.

Jason: [00:35:12] Minnesota Timberwolves... I haven't looked into their finances but I am interested in that. Listen, I think that really tough time as outlined in the book, hitting their internal goals. And I think they lost a lot of credibility because of that. Their team has their own take on that which I relay in the book as well. I think it also felt like there was a lot of missed opportunity during their tenure. I talk a little bit about the idea of the smart cart from Jet.com, which there was a lot of public talk that we would see that on Walmart.com in some way, and Walmart lifers were like, "How can you give people a discount if they order more and then say, "We're still going with the everyday low price guarantee for in-store shoppers?" And that never quite worked itself out. And the idea of the smart cart, which was really just if you're going to make a more profitable order, we're going to give you some benefit and it should be a win/win. I thought there was some way that could manifest itself in the Walmart family and it just never really did. And it's sort of in the weeds, I guess. But this is what conversations like this are for. I just thought and have some leaders in the book just reflecting back that that seemed like a big missed opportunity. I explain why it didn't happen. But if success is Walmart's credibility in the space is better than it was before, Wall Street believed that Walmart was a better player in digital and gave them a stock price bump for it. And Walmart no longer was instantly hung up on when they made calls, their headhunters made calls for some really well-respected leaders in the space. I think that's a success. On the other hand, do you look back and see any area that just seems like slam dunk home runs that were Marc and team's doing? You know that's a harder one to answer and a lot of the omni, the real omnichannel momentum that we see at Walmart today, I think came out of the pandemic. And Marc and team I think did do a good job trying to create urgency when there were moments even in the news like the Whole Foods acquisition, to try to say hey like our speed at rollout of curbside pickup or grocery delivery needs to pick up. I think they had success there. But as you could tell by my two sided answer, I think it is nuanced, and I'm not comfortable just saying success or failure because I think it really matters what matters to you. So can I turn the table on you two on this one?

Phillip: [00:39:01] You could. I think I'm on record at least as saying that what matters the most is the narrative that holds trust and continues to see an acceleration in trust from a stakeholder perspective, markets matter, especially to Walmart and the markets mattered for the time that it mattered. And they quietly dispensed over time with a lot of those investments. But what we have today, the counterfactual is like would we have today the technology stack of today without it, it's hard to say. So also, I got my start 20 years ago as an engineer in the commerce ecosystem. And so having built software at scale for solving a lot of these problems, both in middle and back office softwares, you can't discount the amount of investment Walmart made through Jet.com into an open source ecosystem that helps to power the rails that we all run on today. Prolific contributors to commerce as a whole. And so you need corporate underwriting and investment at that scale for us all to succeed. And the pie has to grow for everybody. That means beyond Walmart and Amazon. I do want to ask here. You outline a number of interactions between Doug McMillon and Jeff Bezos. And in fact, the way you open the book sort of helps contrast your first interaction with Jeff backstage at an industry event. And I think that that set the tone from the beginning as who you are, how you approach your natural curiosity in the space and your awareness of the dealings of these two companies. You secured a long form interview with one of them. Tell me how you would contrast those two leadership experiences from a journalist's perspective.

Brian: [00:41:13] And let me add just a little bit to that, just my little note on the Marc Lore success thing. I don't think you can talk about Marc Lore's success without talking about McMillon's success and the role that McMillon played. Marc was a tool in his tool belt.

Phillip: [00:41:34] It's about a total vision.

Brian: [00:41:36] Right, exactly. So yeah, with that answer Phillip's question. But I wanted to get that in there.

Jason: [00:41:40] Yeah. And just lastly on the Jet acquisition. One, I discovered something I didn't know even covering the acquisition very closely for Recode back in the day which was the role that I mean it makes sense but Walmart's head of corp dev at the time, her name is Lori Fleece played in that deal. And I won't give it away but I talked to her for the book and part of the reasoning Walmart had for making the move both are logical, but well, I'll just give it away. I mean, she essentially said, "I kept telling leadership we've evaluated a lot of different options to accelerate digital. If we don't do this deal, what are we doing? What is our end?" It's clear she didn't think they had another good option. Right? And I don't know. I've never run a corp dev department. Is that a is that a great reason to buy a company? You don't have another option? Anyway... My interactions with the leadership at both companies. Jeff Bezos did not talk to me for this book. I don't think he's gone on the record with any journalists for any book since I've been covering the company.

Phillip: [00:43:11] Sure.

Jason: [00:43:11] So that's a decade. That was not a surprise. I do start my prolog off with an interaction with Jeff in which I asked him what he was wearing. This happened. It was real. I don't know what I expected his reaction to be, but his immediate reaction was not great. He came back and we had a nice chat about, essentially styling, digital styling services. So that and I've met Jeff a couple other times since then, mostly in gatherings with other reporters. Doug McMillon, Walmart, both companies gave me some access to some executives and Doug I had asked about from the beginning and he was not on the initial list of confirmed interviewees. I continued to report on the companies and I never asked Walmart leaders this specifically, but I think I published this story that was sort of an internal memo about Walmart+. And I feel like within a couple of weeks of that, I had outreach from Walmart saying that Doug agreed to speak to me. And so I'd like to think that me showing that I was going to continue reporting about the company and learning things that they didn't necessarily think the world should know about or want the public to know about might have, that could have gone either way, but I'm not sure why they said yes, but Doug did say yes. And I flew down to Bentonville, met with some others, and met him in the same office that Sam Walton and David Glass and the others once worked out of. And we had 60 Minutes scheduled and we ended up going 90 minutes, which one hand doesn't sound like a ton of time, but we really... I was happy with that discussion. I tried to get a lot of it into the book because I do think Doug is good at he knows what he's doing. He's leading one of the most powerful companies in the world. Anything he's saying is for a reason. But what almost everyone I talked to at the company told me, even ones who left under not great circumstances was like, "He's an authentic guy. Yes, he's a die-hard champion of the Walmart brand." And maybe you'd say to a fault if you think there are a ton of criticisms of the company that they don't like. But I really enjoyed that chat. And [00:46:01] I have a chapter about Doug in the book because I do think, again, I'm a retail nerd, like you guys. I do think he's sort of under cover for how important of a position he holds. [00:46:18]

Brian: [00:46:18] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:46:18] That's true.

Jason: [00:46:20] And I think that's partly by design, but in that chapter I talked to some folks who say, "Man, we actually wish there was more Doug in the outside world because we think he is such a champion and like can connect with all types of people and talks with people, not down at people," and all of that. And Sam Walton, there's still a lot of talk inside the home office of what would Sam do, which blew some...

Phillip: [00:46:49] That's incredible. Yeah.

Jason: [00:46:50] Blew some eCommerce folks away when they joined the company and I imagine now maybe is a little less pronounced as it was five years ago. But still, there's a lot of Sam talk inside that company and so I think there are a lot of people who are just like see what a great leader Doug is or they believe Doug to be and just wish he was even more available or made more available to the outside world and both the inside world because of that.

Phillip: [00:47:26] Thank you so much, by the way, for sitting for this. I can't wait for people to read the book. Out June 20th. Winner Sells All: Amazon, Walmart, The Battle for Our Wallets. Jason Del Rey. What an incredible force you are. We always end this by asking what is the future of commerce. And maybe you can make a prediction on who wins in the end.

Jason: [00:47:51] Oof. My hope is for consumers and for the economy that we're talking 20 years from now and maybe we're all retired and just having a good time talking about this, and we're talking about a different company that has come out of nowhere, and upended these two. I think there's a lot of good that these two companies have done for the world. I think during the pandemic they were essential for a lot of people. But I think there's a lot of problematic stuff that is baked into these two businesses that barring a real worker uprising that seemed like might happen at Amazon and now I'm not so sure, barring regulatory intervention, I do fear will accumulate too much power and I don't think there are bad people at the tops of these companies by any means. But I think the incentives are sort of built into the companies. I just worry where this goes in the future. So I would just say I hope we're talking about a new company that does way more good than bad for society 20 years from now. I don't know if that exactly answers your question.  [00:49:20]I'd like to think a piece of future of commerce is also really figuring out a way that this industry is not such a drag on the environment. I think physical retail actually can play a big role in solving at least some of the short term issues there [00:49:39] and I think about it a lot. When I look around my neighbor's stoops, I think about it a lot with the idling trucks and vans outside our homes. And so I'm not smart enough to have an answer all the answers to that. But I think there are a lot of smart people thinking about this and working on even if incremental improvements and I'm excited over the next decade to hopefully chronicle some of those advancements because I think it's on all of us.

Phillip: [00:50:14] Incredible. Well, thank you so much for your time. Go buy the book if you're listening to this again, Winner Sells All. Harper Business. Jason Del Rey, thanks for coming. I need you to get you to sign this, man.

Brian: [00:50:25] Yeah. Thank you.

Phillip: [00:50:26] Next time I see you.

Jason: [00:50:27] I would love to do that. And I guess people won't hear this in time because I was offering personalized copies through my friends at this independent bookstore called Word Book. But I'm really proud of this thing, and I'm happy.

Phillip: [00:50:42] You should be.

Jason: [00:50:43] I am so grateful for everyone who's already supported me with preorders and just kind words. And I love this industry. And so I'd be happy to sign anyone's book. Whenever I see someone at an event or wherever.

Phillip: [00:50:59] I'd love to do it. Thank you so much and thank you so much for listening to Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce properties at FutureCommerce.com. And yeah, if we ever get the chance, man, we got to do something together. I appreciate your time. Thanks for listening.

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