Once upon a time, a business would speak. And people would listen. But in 2020, the opposite is true.
It’s no longer sufficient for a business to offer a clearly defined brand identity backed by a clever marketing campaign. It needs to offer a total experience for customers—not so much a product as a way of life. And for the past 25 years, Amazon has helped pioneer this shift from product to consumer.
But what does the Amazon model mean for your business? How does the customer-centric experience reflect on your brand? Is it necessary for your brand to survive? And how can you adopt it without even a fraction of Amazon’s budget?
Let’s look at just how Amazon got to be Amazon in the first place.
The Digital Landscape—The People’s Landscape
When Amazon launched in 1995, the Internet was hardly the ubiquitous phenomenon it is in 2020. But it was ruled by an ethos that distinguished it from traditional media. It represented the voice of people. Their values. Their lifestyles. Their needs. And their habits.
As frustrating as it can be for companies to try and navigate the peculiar ecosystem that is Amazon, it’s to Jeff Bezos’ credit that he recognized a void in this emerging digital landscape. Realizing the need for an entirely new re-imagining of the marketplace as being entirely customer-driven didn’t just help define Amazon. It helped define the nature of digital media as we know it.
That doesn’t mean that there weren’t risks. When Amazon first went public in 1997, its revenue was only approximately $15.75 million—and that was with an accumulated deficit of close to $6 million. In 2019, the company’s reported net sales were in excess of $2.8 billion. In comparison, a recent report from Credit Suisse predicts a sharp decline of 25 percent of America’s physical retail shopping malls by 2022.
Amazon didn’t just change retail. It changed the very dynamic between consumers and businesses.
The Amazon Template
Amazon may command the lion’s share of eCommerce with 49 percent of all digital purchases being made through the platform, but they’re hardly the only marketplace in town. Simply the most consistent one. To understand just how Amazon became synonymous with a customer-centric approach, it’s important to review some of the key elements in the Amazon formula.
Design: Even as early as 1995, Amazon was able to recognize that consumers aren’t going to purchase what they can’t understand. That’s why the continue to maintain the most responsive, user friendly and image-rich platforms; a design which set the standard for online retail as we know it
Exclusivity: There may be a host of other online retailers offering free two-day shipping, bundled savings and even one-click ordering. But consumers always remember the originators. And Amazon was far ahead of its competitors’ time.
Diversification: It’s easy to forget that Amazon initially began as nothing more than a virtual bookseller. Today there are over 500 million different products being sold on Amazon each day, to mention nothing of their own proprietary line of electronics and—in sharp distinction to its major competitors—their very own algorithm.
Trust: Why do customers continue to rely on Amazon as opposed to their competitors? Consistency. Not merely in service, but in competitive pricing and reputation. Where other retailers consider profit to be the sole definitive benchmark, Amazon knows that customer trust and loyalty are fundamental keys that define long term reputation.
Retention: Customer retention may be vital to the success of any business. But Amazon Prime has perfected the model with the most recent estimates indicating a retention rate of 98 percent after a two year subscription.
What Your Business Can Learn From Amazon
Cognizance Customer experience begins even before the customer reaches out to you. Packaging, design and curation aren’t simply marketing tools. They’re an integral part of the overall customer experience and should be tailored specifically with that end experience in mind. Even the smallest interaction with customers will affect their overall perception of your brand. And if you want them to remain customers, be prepared to understand their needs and not your own convenience.
Communication Amazon’s user experience doesn’t shape the customer. It’s shaped by the customer. What this means is a clearly defined line of communication which isn’t just responsive, but actually transforms direct customer feedback into actionable operating standards Amazon doesn’t simply listen to customers. They interact directly with them, creating a focus that’s reflective of the customer—not their shareholders.
Community By providing a platform driven by customer reviews as opposed to advertising and marketing, Amazon builds a community organically. While it’s a model that’s been duplicated by other retailers, there’s still more than a few hold outs. And it’s a focus your business can’t afford to lose out on. Whether it’s your own site or your social media presence, your customers aren’t simply customers. They’re your tribe—and tribes are quick to defend their leader. Your customers aren’t passive consumers. They’re an extension of your brand itself.
Color More Lines provides white glove, global account management of your eCommerce platforms so mission-driven companies can focus on new product development, branding and growth strategies. Find out more at Color More Lines.