Blog Post - Hugh Fletcher, May 13 2019

What Amazon Can't Do and how to stand out from the giant - Part Two

What Amazon Can't Do and how to stand out from the giant - Part Two

Retailers spend far too long thinking of new ways in which they can keep pace with Amazon. Instead, they should be thinking about how to perfect what Amazon can't do (WACD). In my last blog, I shared three changes that retailers could make to try and tackle the ecommerce powerhouse. This included being ethical, specialists, and creating a community.

In this second part, I will look to explore further changes that retailers could make to elevate themselves above the retail giant. I have pinpointed three more services that Amazon do not offer: effective communication during longer delivery times; an inspiring delivery box; and a more personalised service.

Our 2019 survey found that many consumers expect a speedy delivery service, with a quarter (26%) of respondents expecting delivery within a day. This rises to almost a third (31%) among Prime members. But many retailers simply can't compete with Amazon's one-day delivery model without increasing the price of the product. Yet, it is not the be all and end all, particularly if the customer is buying something that is worth the wait. By putting the customer at the forefront of operations, retailers who are simply unable to offer 24-hour delivery to the same effect as Amazon still have a chance to compete.

Amazon's success in the ecommerce space does not mean its model is flawless. There are aspects of the online shopping experience that Amazon does not offer, as its mantra of speed and convenience is not complimented by a tailored service. New innovations should look at what Amazon can't do, so that retailers stand a chance in an ever-competitive market.

1) Communicate in the waiting phase

When something gets to you in 24 hours or less, it's clear that there's nothing bespoke about it. It's been sitting on the shelf, in a warehouse near you, and has been quickly and efficiently picked, packaged and shipped to you.

However, some things really are worth waiting for. But no one wants to be kept in the dark, so taking advantage of this period of waiting can be used to your advantage. Keeping a customer up to date with how the production of their product, stage by stage may add to the feeling that it is being built and made for them.

This is particularly relevant for products which are made bespoke but is still applicable to those that are not. Updates, images, alerts all help to make a customer feel like they are valued in that quiet period between order and product reception.

2) Don't forget delivery, or more specifically the box

While Amazon may have the logistics of delivery down to a fine art, what you actually receive can be quite underwhelming - whatever product you've ordered, it all arrives in the same Amazon box. Efficient; yes. Inspiring; no.

Apple made an entire industry out of the box, so why can't you? Amazon's operation, built on size and scale, just can't offer bespoke packaging for each of its items. But perhaps you can. In fact, JD.com is already thinking about how products are packaged and delivered and has recently launched its White Glove Delivery service for premium products purchased on its marketplace.

And in addition, don't forget that the box can be an invaluable up-sell and cross-sell tool. Samples, inserts, booklets all help the customer to appreciate the experience of receiving your product a little more and may even increase the likelihood of repurchase. Take Huel as an example... with its "How to use" inserts, as well as its £10 refer a friend voucher - this food substitute brand has managed to revolutionise breakfast and lunch-times in our office!

3) Create CRM and loyalty benefits

It's important to ask yourself the question, why would the customer deliberately choose a more difficult customer journey to purchase your product directly, when they might be able to do it at significantly less hassle to themselves through Amazon? The answer could be CRM, loyalty benefits and personalisation.

This has long been held up as a chink in Amazon's armour. However, it's important to remember that while many people view Prime as a delivery service, it is increasingly being used as an effective CRM tool, with extensions to membership added following complaints from customers as an incentive to stay, and additional benefits such as content.

But really, this loyalty scheme is, as with most Amazon interactions; transaction based. You pay us for Prime, and we'll deliver you additional benefits.

So how can other brands use CRM to increase loyalty? As far back as 2011, Heinz came up with the concept of its "Get Well" soup cans which it promoted and sold via Facebook - one of the first forays into social commerce and intro individual personalisation, This showed the desire to extricate a staple of a supermarket grocery shop, make the journey more convoluted, and encourage customers to interact directly with the Brand.

What this shows, is that in order to encourage a customer to take the "special journey", there needs to be a reward beyond just transaction at the end of the experience. Again, this is not something that Amazon would do.

So, what next?

Creating the ecommerce experience that offers consumers a superior experience, and something different to what Amazon can is now the aim. If you plan and deliver an experience which incorporates having a strong sense of what you stand for and standing for something; being the experts of the area you are in and creating products and services that feel curated for the individual; creating a sense of community that will have your customers feel that they belong to something special; and making the most of the delivery and presentation, will set you apart.

No plan is fool proof. However, by thinking about how your brand can be the best version of itself and giving consumers a reason to shop with you beyond the transaction, it is more likely that you will survive and maintain direct relationships with your customers, and ultimately retain their data which you can use for insights and to future-proof the business. Because remember, it's not really WACD, it's What Amazon Does Not Do Now But Potentially Will In The Future.

Find out what Amazon can't do