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In Seattle. Photo: George Rose/Getty

In the last year, Amazon earned 50 cents of every dollar spent online in the U.S. At nearly $1 trillion, its market cap grew to triple the combined value of Sears, JCPenney, Best Buy, Macy's, Target, Kohl's, Nordstrom and Walmart.

Driving the news: As I learned at a conference in New York yesterday, Jeff Bezos' tech giant has quickly become the existential crisis facing almost every e-commerce and brick-and-mortar firm, whose CEOs are faced with a singular question: How do I beat — or even survive — Amazon?

Three top retail and e-commerce CEOs — Tobi Lütke of Shopify, Binny Bansal of Flipkart and Jeff Gennette of Macy's — fielded that same question at Recode's Code Commerce conference. Amazon seemed to be mentioned every few minutes even though the company sent no speakers to the event.

  • Venture capitalists and other conference participants seemed less interested in what retailers were working on than in how they were responding to Amazon.

What they're saying: It's "impossible" to beat Amazon at its own game, says Scott Galloway, a professor at NYU's Stern School of Business and author of "The Four," a critique of Big Tech, including Amazon.

But each of the CEOs argued that there are chinks in the e-commerce king's armor. Here is how they are attacking the threat:

1. Be friendly

Lütke says that Shopify champions its business clients while Amazon thinks "merchants don't matter."

  • Shopify's model is to provide small businesses the tech to sell online. It relies on the success of these brands — large and small — to succeed itself.
  • According to Lütke, Amazon conversely terrifies brands, who worry it will wipe them out with super-low prices, selection and convenience.

2. Know your (foreign) market

Amazon and Flipkart, its homegrown rival in India, are locked in a fight for the world's fastest-growing e-commerce market. But Bansal thinks he can win, relying on intimate knowledge of the country.

  • "We had to build out our own last-mile delivery system. The kind of logistics reach we have in the country is almost unfathomable," he says.
  • To defend against Amazon, Flipkart has teamed up with Walmart, which owns 77% of the Indian company.

3. Play to your (physical) strengths

Macy's physical presence gives it deceptive power, Gennette says. To put this in context, about 90% of U.S. retail sales still take place in physical stores, not online.

  • "All retailers, even Amazon, are going to need an omnichannel presence," Gennette says. "A lot of customers still want a guide that will help them on their way to their purchase."

Go deeper

Mark Meadows will stop cooperating with Jan. 6 panel, attorney says

Photo: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows will no longer cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, his attorney told Fox News Tuesday.

Why it matters: Meadows, who failed to appear before the panel last month, is believed to have insight into former President Trump's role in efforts to stop the certification of President Biden's election win.

Updated 4 hours ago - Economy & Business

The billionaire balloon

Data: World Inequality Report 2022; Chart: Axios Visuals

The super-rich are getting stupid rich: New data out today shows the share of global wealth held by the richest slice of humanity swelled by almost a full percentage point during the pandemic.

Driving the news: The top 0.01% of individuals now hold about 11% of the world's wealth, compared to just over 10% in 2020, according to the "World Inequality Report 2022," written by Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Omicron gives a shot to boosters

Expand chart
Data: CDC; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Vaccination rates have ticked higher since the discovery of the Omicron variant, CDC data shows.

By the numbers: The seven-day average for vaccinations in the U.S. reached about 1.8 million on Monday, up from an average of about 1.3 million a month ago.