The one thing retailers can offer their customers that Amazon can't

By Michelle McSweeney

Let’s be honest - can online retailers ever really compete with Amazon? Of course, they can follow all the tips and tricks in any of the countless online articles on how to ‘one-up’ Amazon, but when it comes down to brass tacks, the reality is this…

There is no competition, as far as Amazon is concerned. In many ways it’s unrealistic for retailers to think that they can go up against Amazon and come out on top. Take delivery, for example. The fastest delivery on record for Amazon Prime Now is just 8 minutes. Are most retailers able to match this kind of speed? Our guess is probably not. Or what about having a payment process that’s so easy, customers can literally make purchases in their sleep (true story). Can retailers beat Amazon on this? Unlikely.

At the end of the day, it’s not about competition. At least, it shouldn’t be. Online retailers should be using Amazon (among other online marketplaces) strategically. Maybe it’s to break into new markets. Maybe it’s to get rid of overstock at the end of a season. Maybe it’s listing a best-selling product to establish a presence on the platform. Rather than focussing on trying to compete with Amazon, retailers should be working on differentiating themselves from Amazon. But how, exactly?

Customer experience

We’ve become so fixated on customer experience from a technical perspective - making navigation simple, streamlining the payment process, speeding up delivery times. And let’s not make any bones about it - these are all essential elements that retailers should be applying to their ecommerce strategy.

But ‘customer experience’ goes beyond removing friction from the customer journey. It’s about how you make your customers feel. And that right there is the sweet spot for getting customers to buy directly from your store rather than from Amazon.

So how can retailers tap into their customers’ emotions to differentiate their brand experience from that of Amazon’s?

Flow chart

Think inside the box

As a retailer, you can look at packaging in one of two ways. Either, it’s nothing more than a vehicle that gets your products from A to B without getting destroyed in the process, or it’s an opportunity to make a lasting impression on your customers.

We can all agree that receiving a package is one of life’s little pleasures. It ignites the same kind of joy in us that we experienced as kids opening presents on Christmas Day. As a brand you can tap into this emotion by getting creative with your packaging. Steve Jobs once famously said, ‘packaging can be theatre; it can create a story.’

So, tell a story through your packaging - one that is completely unique to your brand. That could mean customising your shipping boxes with a quirky design, or including a personalised note, or using branded tissue paper - the options are endless. Here are examples of just some of the brands who have mastered the art of packaging:

Havaianas flip flops

Havaianas

Happy Socks beach gear

Happy Socks

Birchbox summer collection

Birchbox

Dollar Shave Club box

Dollar Shave Club

Not only does creative packaging create a memorable experience for your customers, it’s also a really effective way to encourage user-generated content organically, keeping in mind that 93% of customers find UGC to be helpful when making a purchasing decision.

Just remember that more certainly isn’t more when it comes to packaging. In fact, 61% of online shoppers take into consideration how green a brand’s packaging is before they make a purchase, so if you’re going to up your packaging game, make sure that you’re conscious of the materials you’re using and aren’t just throwing the kitchen sink at it!

The human touch

Man sitting at a computer

While there’s much to be said for all the advancements in technology that make it easier for customers to make purchases, you should never underestimate the power of the human touch in ecommerce. That means offering an unrivalled customer service experience that supports customers throughout their entire journey with your brand.

Sure, reviews are great for helping users decide whether or not an item is right for them, but what if a customer has a very specific question before, during, or after a purchase is made, that they can’t seem to find the answer for? Having a live chat option on your site means that they can quickly and easily chat with an actual human to get the information they are looking for.

The same thing goes for social media. Having a digital team that is hyper-responsive when it comes to answering queries, making suggestions, and dealing with feedback across all of your social media accounts is key to offering your customers a positive experience.

Social Media networks

However, there are two VERY important things to remember if you want to make an impact on your customers by playing the human-element card:

1.   It’s just as easy to make a bad impression on your customers as it is to make a good one. You’re going to need a stellar customer service team and a seamless process in place if you want to make the right impact on your customers!

2.   If the above applies, then you need to start shouting it from the rooftops! On your website and in your email campaigns, make it clear that your team is on-hand to help, and give details of all your various customer service channels (social media handles, email address, live chat, etc.). Create some ‘Meet the Team’ posts across your social networks, introducing users to your customer service team by name.

By doing this, you’re developing a layer of trust and comfort with your customers where they know that if for any reason they ever need help from your brand, they will be in good hands.

Options, options, options

Stack of shoes

As customers, we love nothing more than having choices. There probably isn’t a retailer out there that can trump Amazon when it comes to the sheer volume and variety of products available to them on a single platform. However, how you can differentiate your offering to that of Amazon’s, is to offer your customers choice around how they can buy your products.

Let’s say that I need to buy a birthday present for my sister, and I’ve decided that I want to get her a new pair of trainers. Only, I’ve left doing this to the last minute, her birthday is tomorrow… oh, and I’m not 100% sure what her exact shoe size is (whoops!). What am I going to do?

On my commute to work, I’m going to order the trainers online from a brand that I know offers click and collect, and I’m going to pick the order up on my lunch break. Then, I’m going to give them to my sister for her birthday tomorrow along with the receipt, so that if they don’t fit she can return or exchange them by post, or in store. Whatever suits her best. Crisis averted.

Shop entrance

If you’re a retailer with a bricks-and-mortar presence, there’s no better way of amplifying your customer experience than by implementing omnichannel into your ecommerce strategy.

Omnichannel is all about options. Giving your customers the option to click and collect their orders, check stock availability, buy online and return in-store, or order in-store and have items delivered to their home. Omnichannel connects online and offline in a way that retailers can tap into, in order to offer the kind of experience that is completely different to that of Amazon’s.

Remember, customer experience is an incredibly broad term. And while every retailer does need to keep one eye on what Amazon is doing at all times, it really doesn’t mean that they have to run themselves ragged trying to replicate that particular customer experience. Because as it turns out, they can offer their own customer experience that’s also pretty damn great, and just as effective in the long run.

Michelle McSweeney, Content Marketing Speciality, Kooomo

The Online Retailer's Guide to Click & Collect

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