Commerce entrepreneur Ron Johnson discovered the inspiration for his latest company by accident. After long successful runs at Target and Apple — and a short, disastrous stint as CEO of J.C. Penney — Johnson found himself dispensing advice daily to other companies.
“A couple people I talked to, like John MacFarlane from Sonos, came to me and said, ‘How do I go to market? Stores don’t work anymore,’” Johnson recalled on the latest Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “I said, ‘Just go directly to the customer. Bring it to their house!’ He said that’s a good idea, then came back and said, ‘Too expensive.’”
That led Johnson to found Enjoy, which hand-delivers premium tech products to buyers’ homes, via a savvy employee who sets up those products for free. Enjoy has since raised $80 million and worked with companies ranging from AT&T and Apple to the June Oven and the not-yet-launched Magic Leap.
Johnson praised the innovation and customer-first philosophy of Amazon and said big retailers need to copy those traits if they don’t want to get lapped. He argued that Walmart has the physical footprint and the money to beat Amazon — if it can focus on the right things.
“Amazon has this program called Prime, that locks people in, and they’re adding services all the time,” he said. “That gets you such incredible loyalty, you’ll always buy from them. Imagine if Walmart had its equivalent, Walmart Prime, but it offered benefits online and in-store. Every time you come to the store, you get free food, you get a discount on your purchases, you develop all these benefits.”
“Too many people are looking internally instead of externally,” Johnson added. “They’ve been focused on, ‘I’ve gotta become an omni-channel, I’ve got to get more people to my website.’ That’s like the Warriors going to play Cleveland in the NBA finals and not caring about LeBron James, but saying, ‘Let’s improve our zone defense.’ At some point, you gotta say, ‘LeBron’s the challenge! We gotta defend LeBron!’”
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.