Janet can’t wait for her next holiday in the sun. Sitting at her desk, she tells her computer Bob to browse for swimsuits. Bob’s screen flashes, presenting her two options from her favorite webshops.
“Bob, go to VR changing room,” Janet whispers, careful not to alert her colleagues and Robot-boss. She tries on both swimsuits, opting in the end for the yellow bikini (her favorite color!) paired with the straw hat that the store seamlessly recommends.
1-click later and Janet is checked out. Two hours after that and a little drone delivers her purchases with the note: “Hey Janet, thanks for buying me! Enjoy your trip to Ibiza!”.
Janet puts the package quietly away before activating Bob once more - this time looking for a good old e-read.
This may look like a futuristic scenario, but actually, all of these technologies exist or are being piloted by Amazon.
Except for Robot-bosses. Unfortunately, we are all still left with very tangible, human executives.
So we get it. If you are an eCommerce store,
“there is no question that Amazon is your big red flag” (CEO of Crobox, Rodger Buyvoets)
But just imagine that you could compete with the likes of this business behemoth, and your customers browse with you first instead of Amazon.
This scenario is possible, just like Janet’s shopping experience.
Here I am, shattering fiction and giving you hard facts.
Throughout this article, we’ll learn about Amazon’s market share, and I’ll walk you through 7 steps to harnessing some of that legendary Amazonian customer-centricity.
“Relentless”: Amazon as the Largest eCommerce Retailer
Firstly, how is Amazon doing?
Type “relentless.com” into your browser and watch how it redirects you to Amazon’s webshop. Their message is clear: they are relentless retailers.
Proof of their expanding digital footprint:
- Amazon sells over 353 million products.
- In the US last year their sales reached 258.2 billion, 30% higher than in 2017.
- In 2018, Amazon accounted for 49.1% of eCommerce sales, followed by eBay which only has 6.6%!
- Amazon has more than 310 million active customers worldwide.
That’s a lot of facts and figures.
The fact of the matter (pun intended) is: Amazon is the Big that keeps getting Bigger. But I don’t have to tell you that, founder Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world!
How Did Amazon Get So Big?
Of course, Amazon’s success is driven by many things like harnessing the power of the internet at its genesis in the 1990s, experimenting with different concepts (like their 4-star bookshop in Seattle or Amazon Go), or even empowering small businesses.
But hang on a minute.
I’m not here to give you reasons to invest in Amazon stock.
I’m here to argue that one of the main reasons why Amazon got so big was because of their investment in their customers.
And not just “investment”, but “obsession”...
Amazon’s Leadership Principles: Customer Obsession
Amazon’s mission statement is “to be the earth’s most customer-centric company”, supported by their Leadership Principles, of which the most important is “Customer Obsession”:
“Leaders start with the customer and work backwards” [From Amazon Leadership Principles]
Customer needs, thus, drive innovation.
Bezos confirms that his secret to being Number One is the obsessive focus on the customer (instead of the competition).
With that in mind, let’s get down to business.
7 Steps Towards Customer-Centricity: Just Like Amazon!
Now that you know that the Amazonians ground their priorities in customer-centricity, here are the 7 Steps to becoming more like them.
1. Leverage Innovative Technologies
Many of you are drowning in legacy issues and probably have to deal with inflexible e-processes left behind by your predecessors.
So, I don’t mean investing in AI supercomputers like Bob (unless you have the budget for it), I mean leveraging the technologies from your pre-existing IT infrastructure.
Instead of transforming your entire ecosystem, make step-by-step innovations as you go along.
“True innovation is not an invention but an improvement” [Jeff Bezos Interview]
Amazon Prime features out of this, where customers receive “VIP” treatment should they pay more.
- 90 million people in the US are paying Amazon Prime subscribers.
Additionally, cloud computing is now commercialized (see: AWS), which means that analytics are available to everyone. Creating a flexible and sustainable enterprise-grade analytics solution using AI and machine learning can be easier than you think with these tools.
I told you it’s not about robots or shipment drones. Not yet anyway.
Therefore, invest in technology, leverage ML and AI, and this will allow you to take insights from the data and prescribe precise (and proactive) actions.
2. Create Intelligent Business Goals using Customer Data
In other words, make your customer analytics actionable: the basic description of customer intelligence.
We all know that data is tricky.
Therefore, make mined data structured, clear, and digestible for non-data-savvy departments to process and identify high-value customer segments for clear campaign strategies.
If you are the Head of your eCommerce, Marketing, or Customer Experience department, make sure you listen to the ideas of all your staff:
Diversity of data + diversity of staff and opinions = creative and diverse business solutions.
This will ensure the highest quality of your decisions, optimize the buyer’s journey, enhance customer exchanges, and in the end increase loyalty and retention.
3. Datafy Every Customer Exchange & Centralize It
Yes, data is important, but there’s just so much of it!
We strongly recommend centralizing your data using platforms like CDPs, CRMs, or DMPs.
Take Uber’s impossibly large data capture process: they predict everything from waiting times to which roads the driver should take (and, of course, which times the prices will shoot up, which is what I personally care about the most) all by synthesizing and learning from customer data.
In these omnichannel days, your shoppers have a myriad of touchpoints. Data platforms are necessary for that 360-view, and ML algorithms like Uber’s are important for predictive modeling and customer profiling.
One more thing:
Don’t lock your data in silos. Instead, make it available across all departments using these platforms.
I can’t stress this enough:
Centralized data will help plan future marketing strategies, optimize campaigns, grow your customer base and control advertising strategies - the latter something that Amazon offers as well.
Well of course they do...
“Google, Amazon, Apple, eBay and Facebook have built their global business models on customer data.” [In Data We Trust, Bjorn Bloching]
4. Design the Retail “Experience” For Customers
It’s not always possible to go DTC. In Europe, there is no legal price-binding, so I know that it can be hard to swallow if Amazon sells your 120 euro bag for 9.99 euros.
Therefore, if you can’t beat them at price, beat them in “Experience”.
Let’s be honest:
The Amazon “Experience” is not the greatest. It doesn’t, for example, look like Patagonia’s webshop where social advocacy videos are integrated into the shopping process.
Patagonia even has a video-feature in their bag section that shows how the bag is used - all its secret pockets - and even how it fits on a live model!
Of course, the Amazon “experience” boasts of frictionless customer journeys (i.e., 1-click check out, low prices, 2-day shipping, Alexa reminders), information-rich product recommendations, and honest reviews*...
But Amazon is still just a yellow and black inventory. You can do better just by using different colors on-site.
*In consumer psychology the “Blemishing Effect” is when honest reviews - including the bad ones - elevate a products’ credibility and thus influence the purchase decision.
The bottom line?
You need to get to know your consumers on a deeper level.
Understanding psychology will help choose the technology.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
5. Leverage Consumer Psychology in your Decision-Making
68% of customers stop using a service because they believe that the brand or shop “doesn’t care about them.'' Amazon understands this and leverages psychological tactics in every step of the online buyer’s journey to engage, attract, and eventually convert, customers.
Therefore, connect with your customers on a personal level.
At Crobox we help eCommerce stores understand their customer’s needs and desires by underpinning product tags with the psychological principles of, for example, The Endowment Effect, Scarcity, or Social Proof.
“A remarkable customer experience starts with heart, intuition, curiosity, play, guts, taste. You won’t find any of it in a survey.” [Jeff Bezos 2016 Letter to Shareholders]
This ties nicely into the next Step...
6. Personalize Your Products and Foster an Intimate “Experience” of Your Brand
Our Chief Data Officer here at Crobox believes that for smaller retailers to cope in the future, personalizing products will be key.
“I would advise smaller retailers to have a better understanding of their products.” [Leonard Walters, CDO Crobox]
Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Customers come to your webshop for the product, after all.
Yet, this advice is data-centric. To do this, you will need to run badge experiments on your products (e.g., “waterproof”, “real leather”, “sustainable”) and analyze their performance to understand which product attributes are most effective in driving purchase behavior.
You may need the help of a psychologist, but these kinds of insights will lead to future proof strategies from marketing to merchandise.
But wait - there’s more:
Fostering intimacy with your brand in a highly personalized and creative way keeps your customers involved and delighted.
Amazon is unable to foster such intimacy because of its scope across different industries and markets: herein lies your competitive advantage.
Be authentic, unique, involved, and listen and engage with your customers continuously (through loyalty programs (kind of like Prime!), regular communications (e.g., Emails), subscriptions, social media, influencers, etc.).
Brand engagement will increase customer loyalty and retention, reduce churn, and educate your audience about who you are which will make them feel closer to you and keep them coming back for more.
7. Delight Your Customers Across All Touch Points
Our last Step towards customer-centricity is probably a combination of everything we have hitherto discussed.
Streamline your digital marketing to get closer to your customer to increase ROI: i.e., “Check-in” with your customers every so often to show them that you are thinking about them.
This can be achieved through email reminders displaying discounts, or the simple “We Miss You” copy tailored for each individual.
Amazon employs a full UX team who collaborate with engineers, product managers, and executives, delivering unified decisions that drive customer conversions.
Last Warnings and Words of Wisdom
I know you are striving to be more like Amazon (why else would you be reading until the end?) but here are some warnings about placing this retail tech giant on a pedestal.
Amazon’s Controversial Working Conditions
If you want to expand, the most important thing to keep in mind is fair working conditions and equal opportunities for all staff.
When dealing with customer data on such a large scale, it is important to stay transparent.
I know we’ve already mentioned this. But it doesn’t hurt to iterate.
Stay true to yourself and your brand, and you will continue to delight your customers.
Bezos himself says:
“Brands are for companies like reputations are for people...hard-earned and easily lost” [Bezos Interview]
Instead of striving to be more like Amazon, maybe you should strive towards your own brand identity to gain a competitive advantage.
But it doesn’t hurt to use these 7 steps towards customer-centricity to achieve this!