Many retailers and businesses — online and off — look at Amazon in awe. There’s no denying the company is capable of incredible things, especially in regards to how they treat and handle their customers.
Take a good hard look, and it’s not difficult to see the company is revered by its customer base, and not just because of its competitive and low pricing opportunities either. Amazon offers incredible order fulfillment speeds, great shipping options — especially for Prime members — and lots of perks like add-on items. The company also delivers a variety of services from enterprise cloud storage and AI, to Alexa and smart assistance for consumers.
Most of it boils down to Amazon’s core philosophies which put the customer first.
How can any business hope to compete in a world where Amazon exists? No, Amazon hasn’t made it impossible, but just the sheer accessibility of their inventory and their excellent customer experience opportunities make it more difficult to stand out.
Managing Customer Experience versus Expectation
Amazon and online retailers like it aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon. That means you need to adapt and evolve if you hope to make your mark in today’s landscape. But it’s no secret that’s harder to achieve than ever before.
ECommerce and digital platforms, as a whole, have completely altered the way consumers shop. Control, personalization and variety are no longer a choice, they are an absolute necessity. In addition, people can open a browser or app and instantly buy what they want. It’s not just this act alone that shapes the current state of the market, however. It’s the fact they can make those purchases from anywhere, anytime, including from the comfort of their home. That’s tough to compete with.
But that concept of convenience is key. If you can manage customer expectations by providing them a pleasant, convenient experience you’re on the right track. Brick and mortar stores, for example, can deploy a system that allows customers to buy products and have them shipped to a local store for free, or pick up at a store that has items in stock all in the same day.
Creating a customer-centric service portal is one of the best places to start, even for small business. From there, you work on improving the rest of your processes to provide better and more convenient experiences.
Data Personalization and Analytics
One thing we could all stand to learn from a company like Amazon is how they handle the influx and collection of data, or more specifically how they put it to use.
Browse a series of products on the site, and next you’ll see similar recommendations, email alerts and even ads — on other sites no less — for what most interests you. This personalization also ties back into the overall experience. Before checkout you’re given additional item or accessory recommendations, the option to add items to a wish list and even multiple fulfillment options. You don’t have to buy from Amazon directly if you don’t want, and you can always buy a used or refurbished variant, as well.
All businesses, especially traditional retailers could improve their processes and customer experience opportunities by studying their audience directly. Modern customer metrics applications and tools are what will facilitate such opportunities, even giving pertinent information that can be used to experiment or roll out new support features.
Amazon has automated nearly everything about their operations, from warehouse organization and fulfillment, right down to dropping products on a customer’s doorstep — look into Amazon’s drone delivery service.
In comparison, traditional retailers — brick and mortar especially — will almost never achieve the same level of automation. Self-checkout kiosks, online ordering and in-store digital experiences are definitely helping to make this more of a reality, but they are not on the same plane as Amazon’s automation setup. That’s okay.
The key takeaway is that Amazon has mastered the art of efficiency, especially when it comes to customer service and over-the-top experiences. You, as a business, must find a way to replicate that, within your own operations and stores.
Subscription Pricing and Local Products
A more sustainable and guaranteed form of income is to establish a subscription-based service for goods or experiences that customers may need. Amazon offers their Prime service, for example, which provides free two-day shipping, access to online and streaming content, and many more perks. They also offer additional services to coincide with their Amazon Echo, Fire TV and Fire tablet product lines.
You don’t have to do something as grand, but it is a great strategy to keep up with the modern companies. Many retailers and customer experience providers offer subscription-based plans and services. There’s no reason why you can’t join in on the fun. Just make sure you deploy something that is desirable to your audience and warrants a continuous payment plan.
It’s also a great idea to sell or carry local products, which are indicative of the region or area where you’re established.
Replicating Amazon’s Customer Service
In reality, can you hope to compete directly with Amazon and similar retailers that adhere to customer-first business strategies? Yes, but only if you also adopt a similar plan.
Starting out the goal is to replicate what you can, but for your own processes and customer base. You won’t deploy the same opportunities and features, but that’s okay. Adapt and evolve your own strategies so they align more with a customer-centric approach. This can include managing expectations by offering more convenience, customizing your strategies through data analytics and automating intensive processes for better efficiency.