I think the answer is an unqualified yes.

Certainly, the majority of what we buy today online comes through Amazon.

Luxury items like wireless headphones. Appliances like dehumidifiers and refrigerators. Sundries like Q-tips and toothpaste. Cleaning supplies, fast chargers, and cat treats.

Amazon does so much right and they have platformed new consumer behaviors equally as much as the social nets.

For both commodity sundries and name brand goods, they have won the war.

But in actuality, Amazon doesn’t have a lock on the future of retail.

I believe they will crush the aggressive but uninspired Walmart rollup effort and continue to own the massive volume, logistically focused, low margin part of online commerce. A huge market obviously, but not the most interesting one.

Remember, we go to Amazon to buy stuff we need. We buy little there we didn’t know about prior.

They are the truly the grandest automat of catalog goods, but not a platform for emerging brands and consumer communities.

The more disruptive future belongs to an ever-increasing number of brands who are transforming our buying habits in dramatic ways. We are already in a world where buying jeans and suitcases, socks, shirts and boxers, even shoes without trying them on first is the developing new norm.

These micro brands are cracking the really difficult puzzle of how to build emotive brands solely online, incubate communities and sell branded product direct to the end user. Figuring out how to make this digital process personal and scalable. How to inspire me as a customer so that I’m impelled to share my joy with others.

That is their true innovation.

To illustrate my point, these are new brands that I’ve become attached to:

  • The luggage brand Away, speaking to design, innovation, and quality at affordable prices with hand-holding customer service and no-questions-asked return policies.
  •  Allbirds, my new favorite, making $99 all-wool-footwear that fits literally like a glove, looks great, are every so light and machine washable.
  • FreeFly Apparel, making bamboo fibered, highly affordable casual clothes. Wearing their mid weight hoody right now as I write.
  • The now big one’s–Mott & Bo for jeans and towels, Mack Wheldon for boxers, tees and socks.

There are two key begging questions:

1. How can these brands rise above the deafening market din and ever shrinking consumer attention span?

All of these brands are manipulating the following pieces, each in their own way, exceptionally well:

 -Uniquely crafted product and authentic positioning tied together in one brand emotion from the onset. Invariably in tech products, positioning comes way later and is always a struggle which is often not overcome.

-Community as the key channel, morphing the genius of the Kickstarter innovation to have community exist across the web, not just on their site where the transactions take place.

-Highly customized and perfected, buy and return process. It is now much simpler to buy jeans online and return them seamlessly, then it is to buy them at a store and try them on.

 -Brilliant understanding that the brand narrative gets told differently in each different social channel and a redefinition of how best to use advertising, especially on Facebook.

-Embracing fully that they are lifestyle brands, an extension of what the fashion industry always knew and what early Apple did so well for its more innovative product launches.

-Superlative premium products, smartly priced to feel like it is a deal without always being on sale.

2. Can these brands scale large without the logistical machinery of an Amazon?

Free shipping. Multiple SKU inventory. Open return policies are tremendously hard logistically and require enormous capital.

Can any of these become a billion dollar brand on their own and the next gen household name clothing or accessories brand?

Or is the entire ecosystem in your Facebook feed, simply a feeder for Amazon or Walmart to buy up these properties and let them self-manage on top of their logistical backbones?

Friends who are experts in this world think that at the end, Amazon will simply suck up the best and platform them. Or more so, create copy cats and force them out of the market.

It’s too early to know in my opinion.

What I do know is that when core impulse behaviors across the global mass market shifts dramatically, pay attention.

When the web again feels agile, unbounded and optimistic, like an open incubator for emerging brands, applaud this loudly and dissect it fiercely to understand what is truly going on.

That’s what I’m doing.