Of late, Amazon has been running a new strategy to promote its own product range – even above competitive brands also selling on its marketplace.
This experiment takes their recent push of private-label brands in recent years to a whole new level; it’s a whooping nine-fold increase since early 2016 to 120 brands; said a representative from bank holdings company Softbank.
“For example, the link under the product listing for Huggies diapers takes you to a page for Mama Bear, an Amazon-owned diaper brand. The link below a Dove body wash listing directs you to a product page for P.O.V., a personal care brand owned by Amazon.”
Image Source: CNBC
However, Amazon selling their products is not new. The company debuted this initiative in 2009 with their Amazon Basics line. With Amazon’s economies of scale and extensive distribution networks, the e-commerce giant can compete with lower prices and detailed data on competitors and consumer search behavior.
Is Amazon competing against their sellers?
As expected, merchants on the Amazon seller network are not happy. But we still don’t know the impact of this policy shift for the over 2 million sellers on Amazon Marketplace.
“Amazon has shifted away from being an impartial, may-the-best-product-win distribution partner to being a direct competitor to those other vendors.” (The New York Times)
Merchants are therefore in a tight bind. Amazon’s platform gives retailers access to millions of potential customers, but Amazon themselves are also becoming a competitor for smaller merchants.
The key takeaway here: Don’t build your house on rented land
How should merchants respond to this?
They should not start competing on price with Amazon, given their economies of scale and distribution networks.
However, there are other, more effective ways to compete with Amazon. Merchants can start doing these three things to start owning your store’s customer experience and thrive regardless of Amazon’s presence.
1. Genuinely care for your customers and make them feel special
Amazon’s focus on the customer has already reinvented the wheel for the online and offline retail landscape.
Same day shipping, low prices and detailed data on their customer’s search results allow them to drive down customer shipping costs, lower expectations on shipping time and offer personalized suggestions on customer’s wants.
However, Amazon’s sheer size and scope also mean it’s challenging for them to offer personalized, warm, one-to-one customer experiences as a smaller merchant can. You need to go above and beyond to remind your customers why they should buy from you and not bigger players like Amazon by making them feel special:
Gary Vaynerchuk puts this concept across succinctly:
“You have to be no less than a customer concierge, doing everything you can to make every one of your customers feel acknowledged, appreciated, and heard. You have to make them feel special, just like when your great-grandmother walked into Butcher Bob’s shop or bought her new hat, and you need to make people who aren’t your customers wish they were.’
— Gary Vaynerchuk, “The Thank You Economy”
How does taking care of your customer look like? Some examples:
- Send handwritten thank you cards (or unexpected swag) with your deliveries to thank them for their business
- Engage with your customers online on social media; follow up with customer questions on Twitter and reply promptly to people talking to your social media handles
- Be transparent with your customers when your customer service team is available to help
- Respond quickly and with empathy to your customer service requests.
Remember, taking care of your customers and delighting them doesn’t need to be expensive. It just requires a little personal touch, willingness to go the extra mile and to be careful about it.
All these are building blocks to retain your customers and drive customer loyalty for your e-commerce store!
2. Identify and leverage on your superfans
Genuinely taking care of your customers by going the extra mile and giving a personal touch creates a superfan community for your brand.
Consider the dedicated fan who attends every concert her favorite band plays, even flying out to neighboring countries to watch them. Alternatively, the person who is always sporting an Under Armour shirt and is still raving about why he loves Under Armour to everyone within a 10-meter radius.
I’m sure you know someone like that. Alternatively, maybe you’ve been that person.
How do you identify your superfans? You need to be watching and listening to your customer community:
- They are the people who randomly tweet about how much they love a product that you’re carrying
- They are excited to wear and use your merchandise
- You’ll start seeing their name pop up all the time in your customer communications because they interact with you so frequently
In return, you also need to cultivate those customer relationships. If they’re putting themselves (and their social following) on the line for advocating your brand, show them some love back!
Retweet them, engage with their conversations on Twitter, and participate in the discussion. You could even mention them or tag their names regarding a previous discussion your superfan had with your brand.
Consider giving superfans some form of VIP or loyalty program for their continual engagement. Reward them with exclusive access to new products, discounts and they will love you for it.
If you can’t think of any superfans for your shop now, don’t worry. Think of how you can consistently add more value to your customer relationships by proactively solving their problems or making them smile.
3. Take care of your customers in the last mile fulfillment process
The customer relationship doesn’t stop after your customer puts in their card details and checks out from your store.
It ends when the customer receives their order.
Here is where the last mile fulfillment process comes in. How well you communicate the location of your customer’s parcels, set and fulfill delivery expectations determines whether your customer stays with you after their first purchase.
Fulfilling these last mile expectations is vital. Up to 82% of customers say it’s important that a retailer communicate tracking status also expect to know where their parcels are at any given moment and check for tracking updates multiple times a day; whether by mobile or email updates (Metapack).
Being able to receive deliveries on time and have flexible delivery options available also works wonders for your customers.
Here’s what you can do to fulfill these customer expectations:
- Create your own branded tracking environment for customers to view their tracking details in your brand image instead of using a generic carrier page. Your customers will appreciate the consistency in branding, and mood.
- Set up proactive email notifications to readily update your customers as their orders move through different delivery stages.
- Understand how your logistics carriers are performing to optimize delivery setup and forecast delivery times more effectively.
Tip: Parcel Perform allows you to access these powerful customer experience tools and more. Get started for free here.
Having these in place reassures your customers that you care for them, reduces customer service inquiries and ensures a holistic brand experience throughout the customer journey.
Amazon has done wonders for the e-commerce space. They have revolutionized the need for customer experience and redefined what it means to have an excellent delivery experience. Furthermore, Amazon Marketplace enables retailers to access their network of available customers and is an excellent place to start for fledging e-commerce brands.
However, putting your business entirely in the hands of a single channel makes you vulnerable. As we’ve discovered, if you don’t own your customer channels, you are subject to the whim and fancies of the owner. They could one day impose changes that drastically affect your business.
Avoid this situation by building your channels of communication with your customers, taking full ownership of your store’s customer experience. Taking care of little (but important) details like these like nurturing customer relationships, leveraging superfans and taking care of the after-checkout customer experience is how you can start owning the customer experience from start to end.
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