Despite recent dips in stock prices, it doesn’t look like Amazon is going anywhere any time soon, and the company continues to expand into new markets. Competition with Amazon is fierce, but the good news is that the company’s broad focus leaves many gaps in customer experience, allowing both large and small retailers to compete.
But how can your brand retain more customers and draw new ones away from online discount retailers like Amazon?
1. Offer Instant Gratification
When consumers shop on Amazon, they have to wait for their new purchase to ship to their homes, but delayed gratification just isn’t as satisfying. Retail Wire reported that in a recent study of Amazon’s limitations conducted by WD Partners, 79% of survey participants said that “instant ownership” was the most important factor in a retailer’s appeal.
Brick-and-mortar retailers have the obvious advantage over Amazon in immediately satisfying customers’ desire to take a product home, but many omnichannel retailers like Macy’s are also appealing to online shoppers by offering “buy online, pick-up in store” service.
Some chains are even shipping products directly from the consumer’s local store to reduce delivery time. By offering your customers convenient alternatives to shipping delays, you can capitalize on one of the major flaws in Amazon’s system.
2. Encourage Browsing and Impulse Buys
Amazon is a great resource for consumers who know exactly what they want, but the site’s design and search capabilities limit browsing and impulse buys.
Many online shoppers enjoy browsing, and regularly visit ecommerce sites without a purchase goal. By featuring appealing visuals and offering catalogue-style browsing like pages of current trends, you encourage customers to use your website for discovery rather than quick, premeditated purchases.
This tactic also works offline. Timely, eye-catching displays draw attention to items consumers may not have intended to purchase; for example, try playing a visually stunning movie to show off a new high-definition TV (with the movie for sale on Blu-ray next to the television, of course!).
Associates can suggestively sell items that Amazon’s algorithms won’t pair, such as by helping a customer complete an outfit with the perfect pair of shoes. When you train your employees to help customers “complete” their purchases, you ensure they always leave satisfied.
3. Create an Experience
Amazon is designed to complete transactions quickly with tools like “1-click” purchasing, but the process does not engage users. Your website can enhance the shopping experience with great visual design that sets the tone of your business and makes online shopping more fun.
Increase the customer’s time on your site and enhance user experience with unique features like the ability to change the color of a blouse in the image to demonstrate product options, or a function that helps customers visualize how a new couch would look using uploaded photos of their own living rooms.
Physical stores can use displays to engage a customer’s senses, demonstrate product use, and entertain visitors. When they visit the Apple Store and test an iPad, customers learn about the product and form an emotional connection with it, which makes them much more likely to buy than simply reading the product specifications online.
4. Make Shopping Social
Amazon does little to build social relationships with its customers. Sharing valuable content and responding to your customers on social media builds a relationship with them online, while friendly, helpful employees cement those relationships in-store.
By hiring great associates and training them to ask the right questions to get to know regular customers, you can manage customer perceptions of your brand. Rather than simply showing your customer where to find a specific type of dress, your employees can open up a dialogue by asking if it’s for a special occasion – potentially leading to more event-specific purchases.
By having conversations with your customers, whether on social media or in person, you make them feel valued and earn their return business.
5. Prioritize Brand Loyalty
Because Amazon offers such a wide range of products, it doesn’t make an effort to build brand loyalty. In contrast, you can build trust and long-term relationships with your customers by delivering a consistent brand experience and employing loyalty incentives.
There’s an important incentive for you, too – it’s around 7 times more expensive to get a new customer than it is to retain one.
Differentiate your brand by offering loyal customers preview sales, limited editions, and customization, which Amazon can’t do. This creates a sense of urgency and exclusivity that makes customers more interested in the products you offer, and you can further earn their trust with great quality and service.
Building a goal-oriented rewards program with special offers, discounts, exclusive access, and other incentives for loyal customers will encourage larger and more frequent purchases. When your customers equate your brand with consistently high quality, value, and service, you win their loyalty.
6. Be the Expert
Amazon lists key product information and reviews, but it does not answer all the customer’s questions, forcing shoppers to look elsewhere for more information.
By building a reputation as the expert in your market and anticipating questions, you can gain the trust of your customers. The products you offer automatically have greater value to them than Amazon’s listings, simply because of your expert endorsement.
You can also better support your customers during the decision-making process by providing them with the facts. Informational displays in stores and on your website help customers easily compare products and find the benefits of each choice.
Your associates are the ones who answer customers’ questions and help them make informed decisions in-store, so great training and tools that help employees understand your products or services are key. Your customers will appreciate your associates’ knowledge and feel more confident in their purchases, making them more comfortable with your brand and more likely to buy from you again.
While Amazon is stiff competition for all retailers, it isn’t unbeatable. Amazon’s focus on cutting costs and catering to a large market may drive sales, but it does not drive customer satisfaction. By strategically cultivating a great customer experience, your business can build a loyal base of consumers and counteract the threat of Amazon and other online discount retailers.