6 Lessons to Learn From Amazon’s Triumphs and Failures
Amazon.com had its most successful holiday yet. The Seattle giant shipped more than 1 billion products worldwide, and the company accounted for 38 percent of online sales from Nov. 29 through the end of December. With Amazon Echo rising in popularity and Prime earning new members every day, it’s clear that Amazon will only continue to gain market share.
Amazon offers an incomparable product selection, streamlined user experience and excellent customer service. And with its internally owned and operated delivery logistics infrastructure, Amazon promises reliable and timely shipping. It’s no surprise the retailer has become a trusted one-stop shop for many.
Most e-commerce brands lack Amazon’s breadth of resources in terms of product line and fulfillment capabilities. However, if you’re eying Amazon’s success, you don’t need to throw in the towel. Amazon isn't without its weaknesses, and there are a few lessons from its triumphs and failures that e-commerce companies can capitalize on when strategizing for 2017:
- Maintain quality, honest customer reviews. With so many products to choose from, provided by endless online brands, customers often rely on peer reviews before making purchases. Of course, they expect these reviews to be unbiased and accurate. Amazon is dealing with a trust issue; specifically, paid reviews on product pages that boost ratings. Customers will hesitate to purchase items with padded ratings, and they’re less likely to contribute their own opinions when reviews aren’t honest. To avoid this issue, keep a close eye on customer reviews hosted on your website. Establish clear rules for rating and reviewing products, and allow customers to flag suspicious comments.
- Avoid shipping discrepancies. Amazon prides itself on speedy product delivery thanks to Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), but not every seller uses the service for shipments. This has led to frustration from customers that receive products later than expected, especially since they associate Amazon with speed and reliability. Learn from this by setting clear expectations about realistic shipping windows up front. Even if your brand can’t support two-day shipping, follow through on delivery promises upon point of purchase to avoid testing customer patience.
- Keep product information accurate and consistent. When ordering online, customers need clear, comprehensive and accurate information. Nothing is more frustrating for shoppers than receiving a product that doesn’t match up to what was described online. In fact, 86 percent of customers report they're unlikely to return to a retailer if this happens. And yet, this happens all too often — especially on Amazon. Your brand can do better by establishing firm standards for product information. Include size specifications, detailed descriptions and several visual references so customers aren’t surprised when they open packages.
- Streamline return policies. Accurate and complete product information will reduce returns, but exchanges are inevitable when customers can only view products online. While Amazon has a flexible return policy for its own products, third-party sellers don’t have to abide by the same rules. You can ease frustrations for customers by automating return policies and offering free return shipping so that shoppers who aren’t satisfied with a product will still respect your brand.
- Focus on the shopping experience. Retailers need to understand what differentiates their digital offering in a crowded marketplace, and make sure to emphasize their key value offering. This also needs to be a constant across every digital touchpoint, as today’s consumers are very aware of brands that present different faces on different platforms.
- Excel at customer service. To bring all these strategies together, retailers must have responsive, helpful and intuitive customer service capabilities. No one wants to be stuck on the phone for hours. Offering live chat, quick email responses and genuinely helpful options can make the difference in customer retention.
Maintain focus on customer shopping experience and offer exceptional customer service. You have to find your unique business differentiators and amplify these throughout all digital touchpoints.
As Amazon continues to change the world of e-commerce, customer expectations are rising across the board. But rather than being discouraged, focus on improving your strategy to provide consistent, unique customer experiences so that customers have a reason to shop with your brand, rather than Amazon.
Igor Gorin is the CEO of Astound Commerce, a global e-commerce agency.