Amazon has set the global standard for retailing, web performance, mobile access and payment and customer service. No matter what service or product you are selling, you have to cope with Amazonification. Customers expect choices, speed, convenience, relationships and service based on their on-going experiences with Amazon.
And yet none of Amazon’s moves have been a complete surprise. They have logically taken the next predictable step. And while there have been a few tactical surprises, most of us saw their moves, but didn’t act to counter them. The result; we woke up one morning and realized that a 900-pound gorilla was eating our lunch and talking global domination.
Consider the key elements from the Amazon Playbook …
Selection, Scale & Price Competition
Jeff Bezos purposely lost money for years in order to scale up his product selection and the network of affiliated merchants and vendors. Simultaneously, he put the payments, fulfillment and delivery infrastructure in place. Competitive pricing plus free shipping was the key to the repetitive buying behavior which built his business.
Device & Channel Agnosticism
Amazon understood the interplay of devices and channels before they were a reality. It organized parallel universes so that customers would be recognized, empowered to buy and pay, and have the same seamless experience no matter how they encountered the brand. Creating a familiar and inviting design on desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile app, voice-activated assistant, embedded in display ads or by email reinforces the relationship and the reflexive buying impulse. Providing the same on-demand personalized experience created much more loyalty and Prime memberships than rhetoric ever could.
Amazon intuitively grasped consumers’ skepticism about marketing (What’s in it for Me?) and coupled it with the desire to accomplish tasks quickly and easily (Do it For Me). They made Amazon easy to use by building robust site search, pioneering the 1-Click buy button, refining center-tab navigation, providing reviews, and suggesting comparable or competitive products. Returns are easy and unquestioned. Credits are issued liberally. Personalized purchase histories prompt repeat orders and recommendations spark interest. Offers are sweetened with the option to have charities benefit from purchases. Anticipating customer anxieties and mindsets linked to the mechanics of digital engagement led a critical decision to make everything easy.
Seeking to avoid the out-of-sight/out-of-mind syndrome, Amazon developed cadences and business rules for outbound customer contact rooted in extensive data mining and predictive modeling. Transactional emails, including tracking numbers and requests for product and/or merchant reviews, follow purchases. Weekly newsletters, proactive recommendations or sale alerts based on purchase histories find their way to customer inboxes. Cross-selling of Echo/Echodots, music, video, credit cards and other branded products is regular and paced. Regular efforts are made to acquire and retain even more Prime members.
Aggressive Search & Promotion
Amazon aggressively uses Google’s latest and greatest search tools to facilitate optimal placement and purchases directly from the search engine results pages (SERPs). They backstop external search with robust site search, their A9 tool, to increase the likelihood consumers will quickly find what they’re looking for.
During holiday periods, Amazon becomes a monster emailer dropping hundreds of millions of emails often multiple times each day to carefully selected customer segments based on past purchases and predictive models. Metrics are carefully watched. Target lists, frequencies and offers are adjusted and optimized frequently, often in the same day. They understand that when people are in the mood to shop, you have to be present, on their minds and in their faces with relevant and compelling offers.
Ironically the most effective way to compete with Amazon is to simultaneously copy and differentiate from them. Copy the design, layout, navigation, payment, network, omnichannel approach and free shipping. Copy the thinking and planning that completely anticipates the experience. Design easy steps to affect what consumers think, feel and do. Differentiate by carving out a niche brand personality and a valuable loyalty strategy that contrasts your brand with this omnivorous global selling machine.
There’s an Amazon-Eats-Everything backlash coming. Savvy brands will establish and communicate unique brand personalities, emphasize loyalty programs in contrast to Prime and spotlight own-able product sets in ways to capitalize on the desire for smaller, easy, personalized, intimate, convenient and attentive customer relationships.