business news in context, analysis with attitude

Fortune has a story about yet another way in which Amazon's "technological prowess is helping it dominate the retail competition" - this case, the ability to thwart the bots that its competition uses to check on its site. An excerpt:

"Earlier this year, engineers at Walmart Stores who track rivals' prices online got a rude surprise: the technology they were using to check several million times a day suddenly stopped working.

"Losing access to's data was no small matter. Like most big retailers, Walmart relies on computer programs that scan prices on competitors' websites so it can adjust its listings accordingly. A difference of even 50 cents can mean losing a sale.

"But a new tactic by Amazon to block these programs - known commonly as robots or bots - thwarted the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer. Its technology unit, @WalmartLabs, was unable to work around the blockade for weeks, forcing it to retrieve Amazon's data through a secondary source, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly."

The bottom line is this - Amazon's "mastery of the complex, behind-the-scenes technologies that power modern e-commerce is just as important to its success. Dexterity with bots allows Amazon not only to see what its rivals are doing, but increasingly to keep them in the dark when it undercuts them on price or is quietly charging more."
KC's View:
What this tells us is that the battle for retail supremacy is going to be fought on a wide variety of fronts, some of them almost incomprehensible to those of us of limited technological knowledge. But if you're going to learn the lessons of Jaws - that in any battle, you have to have a big enough boat - it means that you have to have weapons for every battle.

Makes me glad that I only have to write about retailing, and don't have to actually do it.