As readers of my blog posts know, I am a huge Amazon fanboy. After competing against them for 10 years at Barnes & Noble and being a heavy customer and Prime member for the last decade, I feel it is not hyperbole to say that they are the best operation and execution company in the world, and their growth is truly mesmerizing. Think about it:
- Amazon’s annual sales grew 31 percent in 2017, to $177.9 billion.
- Amazon now grabs 44 percent of all U.S. e-commerce sales, and that percentage has been increasing over the last few years.
- Seventy percent of American online shoppers with incomes of $150,000 or more have Amazon Prime memberships, and more than half of all U.S. households will be Prime subscribers in 2018. These customers spend 4.6 times more than non-Prime customers.
That said, all is not lost for those who must compete with Amazon. There are ways to differentiate your products and experience and there are pockets of success where companies have been able to do this well. Here are a few new tools and strategies that make the job easier.
Google Shopping Actions
Announced this past Monday, Google has put together a new platform to help retailers (and Google) take on Amazon and try to slow their growth. This is particularly important for Google as Amazon has managed to become the search engine of choice for shopping, diverting the most lucrative search traffic from Google. Shopping Actions allows retailers to list their products across Google Search, in the Google Express shopping service, and in the Google Assistant voice app for smartphones and Google Home speakers. Most importantly, Shopping Actions allows online shoppers to have a universal cart that works across mobile, desktop, and voice-powered devices. Early retail partners include Target, Walmart, Costco, and Home Depot.
Selling products is great, but selling subscriptions is much better. Recurring revenue is more predictable and can greatly improve the value you deliver to customers, and the value of your business as a result. Amazon knows this and has ramped up their own subscription services (Amazon Prime, Amazon Web Services, and their Subscribe and Save program for automated replenishment). Think about your eCommerce experience and what you sell that could be turned into a subscription. One option is a subscription box service, now big in the gift, food and pet spaces. And there are now companies that will run the whole program for your brand (see Cratejoy as an example).
High-level customer service
Can you name the best experience you’ve had with an Amazon customer service representative? Probably not, because their model does not rely on customer service reps. Their customer service phone numbers are hard to find and they do everything possible to keep people out of their service equation. This works well for Amazon but does leave an opening, particularly if you are selling higher-ticket items. Giving your customers their choice of online or telephonic customer service, and making sure it is a superior experience can give you an advantage and turn your customers into promoters and advocates.
I’d love to hear more about what success you’ve had hitting the Amazon Goliath with your slingshot. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.