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亚马逊须警惕偷鸡不成蚀把米

Dan Mitchell 2011年11月23日

亚马逊押注“剃刀和刀片”的营销策略,自信以赔本价卖出Kindle Fire平板电脑能够占领市场,极大地推动亚马逊商店电影、音乐、书籍等产品的销售,从中获得丰厚的回报,弥补平板电脑硬件销售的损失。但它可能忽视了这一策略存在的重大缺陷。

    上周五发布的一份报告显示,亚马逊(Amazon)首款平板电脑Kindle Fire的生产成本居然比199美元的售价还要高出数美元。这份报告使得人们开始重新关注亚马逊公司坚持的“剃刀和刀片”策略。这种理论早已有之,并不新鲜;在新科技兴起的最近几十年中,人们对这一理论也有过很多讨论。但它是否能在亚马逊公司身上奏效,目前还是一个未知数,但可以预见的是,可能性不大。

    这种理论认为,如果以赔本价卖出一只剃刀,可以通过卖出大量的刀片来弥补损失。亚马逊公司“送出”的是Kindle Fire平板电脑,但它希望通过亚马逊商店向Kindle Fire用户提供更多其他商品。

    一般认为这一理论是吉列公司(Gillette)创始人提出的;然而,吉列公司是等到专利期满之后,才开始出售廉价剃刀。而在此之前,竞争者已经在这么做了。实际上,安全剃刀被发明之前,这一策略背后的营销理念已经存在了很久,没有几百年,也有几十年。比如,标准石油公司(the Standard Oil Company)为了向中国销售石油,曾经主动为中国市场提供低价煤油灯。

    那么,问题何在?标准石油公司是一家垄断型企业,这是一个关键性的事实,因为“剃刀和刀片”理论在只有一家刀片(或石油)卖家的前提下才会产生最佳效果。如果其他卖家进入市场中,价格就会下降。最重要的是,无论是刀片、石油,还是通过销售平板电脑带动的其他商品,必须要有很高的利润,才能保证这一理论真正奏效。

    但亚马逊的地位并非如此有利。当然,备受推崇的亚马逊商店处于市场垄断地位(或者勉强称得上是垄断),能够最大限度地利用Kindle Fire平板电脑,但亚马逊商店提供的电影、书籍、音乐、视频游戏和其他产品并不具有垄断性。恰恰相反,这些产品所在的市场竞争激烈,且利润如同刀片一样微薄。

    A report Friday that the Kindle Fire costs a few dollars more to make than its $199 selling price is drawing renewed attention to Amazon's adherence on the "razors and blades" theory. That theory has been around for a long time and has been much discussed with the rise of new technologies over the past few decades. Whether it will work for Amazon is an open question, but the odds may be against it.

    The theory is, if you give away a razor, you can make up the loss by selling lots of blades. Amazon (AMZN) is "giving away" the Fire tablet so that it can sell lots of other stuff to Fire owners through the Amazon Store.

    The founder of Gillette (PG) is often credited with this idea, but that company didn't start selling razors cheaply until after its patents had run out. Before then, competitors were already doing it. And anyway, the marketing idea behind it had been around for decades, if not centuries, before safety razors were invented. For example, the Standard Oil Company gave away kerosene lamps in order to sell oil to the Chinese.

    So what's the problem? Standard Oil was a monopoly, which is a crucial fact because the razors-and-blades theory works best when only one vendor is selling the blades (or the oil). When other vendors enter the market, prices fall. At the very least, margins have to be high on the blades or the oil -- or on the stuff you sell through a tablet computer.

    Amazon's not in quite such an advantageous position. Certainly, it has a monopoly (of sorts) on the highly regarded Amazon Store for which the Fire is optimized, but it certainly does not have monopolies on the movies, books, music, video games and other goods the store makes available. Quite the opposite: The market for those products is highly competitive, keeping margins razor-thin.

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