Amazon and Plastic Straws: How Staggering Statistics Can Change Behavior

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A Bloomberg article published earlier this year included a truly staggering statistic:

$0.44 out of every dollar spent online is spent at Amazon.

Nearly half of every dollar spent online. Online! The entire internet! Nearly half of every dollar spent on the entire internet goes to Amazon. Granted, the Bloomberg article didn’t outline their methodology or assumptions for obtaining this number (for example, are Amazon Prime movie rentals considered an online retail purchase?), but that is still a show-stopping piece of data.

I, like many others, already know that Amazon is a retail powerhouse. But I honestly didn’t know to what extent until this statistic – one that most certainly applies to my own household spending. My path to fall in line with this number is likely similar to many others – expectation of free shipping, fast delivery, competitive pricing, diversity of products in one shopping cart, and more. Amazon changed my personal consumer behavior and approach towards retail – at least for now. But, with their sights set on financial institutions, home security, shipping services, and even healthcare, this one data point reveals the need for so many organizations to transform if they want any portion of that online dollar – or even if they just want to survive.

This reminded me of another statistic that I read over the summer: 500 million plastic straws are used, and thrown away, in America – every day. Every. Day. And yes, this statistic has become an internet meme, but that didn’t diminish its impact. Just like this statistic quite literally stopped me in my tracks and sparked an internal dialogue every time I bought an iced coffee (do I really need that straw? Do I even need the lid? Actually, don’t I have a reusable mug in my bag that they can fill up? Should I just order it “for here,” get it in a ceramic mug, and take 10 minutes to sit down and enjoy my cup of coffee while I call a friend to catch up or take a moment to reset?), it also enacted city-wide ordinances to ban plastic straws, caused multi-million-dollar businesses to change their products, and prompted investigative journalists to look into the history of plastic straws.

The jury is still out on its environmental impact, but hasn’t it already made an impact? That one statistic, brought to light by an ambitious 9-year-old in Vermont, caused people to change their behavior – to act with intention and approach an ingrained routine with a clear mind and a new perspective.

It is amazing what we can do when we can take a critical step back and then move forward with intention. That is what change and transformation are all about – snapping out of cruise control and acting with a renewed perspective. And sometimes, to get us there, we need those stark, mind-boggling realizations that will motivate us to look at something through a new lens.

Have you experienced something similar? What was that one piece of information that caused you to hit the pause button? What are the ways in which your organization could use a piece(s) of information to enact change?

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