Customer experience: Amazon vs. everyone else

Customer experience: Amazon vs. everyone else

Your brand is competing 24/7 against every one of your customer’s best experiences across all channels.

In this article from international digital, innovation and consumer marketing specialist, Dr Geraint Evans, FCIM, we explore how marketers should use the best examples across the global market of a customer-first attitude to evolve their current strategy, reflecting the needs of a rapidly changing shopping environment.

A friction free experience

Marketers can access endless articles, whitepapers and events that talk about enhancing customer experience, particularly on digital channels. However, few are making bold changes to raise their profile and boost sales – as well as to help explain the urgency to act to their senior management team members.

However, in an exponentially changing market place, there is an increasingly urgent need for marketers to own a wider vision that puts customers first in all aspects of the company’s operations. Your company’s customer experience is now being constantly bench marked against their best encounters elsewhere. The modern customer is unwilling to compromise and does not understand why things do not ‘just work’.

Forrester’s seminal research tracking the development of the ‘Age Of The Customer’ has been the backbone to many discussions about enhancing customer experience, and began to build momentum behind the theme of being ‘customer obsessed’. It has been updated as the market rapidly evolves, and Forrester found that, not unexpectedly, consumers are increasingly ‘mobile first’ in terms of interaction with brands, much more influenced by reviews, and naturally buy more online rather than physically in many categories. That of course is not ‘new news’, but the need for companies to respond to this challenge is more urgent that ever - equally embracing the mobile mind shift, use of big data to create customer insights, and accelerating their digital business to deliver and compete in terms of customer experience.

However, in the report Forrester also found that only 13% of firms have achieved a competitive level of ‘customer obsession’, proposing that the number is so low due to it being extremely hard to do. However, it’s clear that there is growing urgency for companies to do so as we are in a world where your brand is consistently competing with your customers’ best experiences on a variety of channels, multiple times a day. This creates a pressure to respond, and a non-negotiable decision to re-engineer a company entirely toward the customer and their needs.

Striding towards customer obsession

US based brand consultancy firm, Brand Finance, have released their ranking of the most valuable brands in the world in 2018, measuring across dimensions such as marketing investment, stakeholder investment, and business performance, to measure how much each brand contributes to the company. This year Amazon took the top spot, reflecting the fact that increasingly the most successful of the 500 companies are technology companies with an overwhelmingly digital focus – and accounting for the same amount of brand value as more traditional sectors such as retail, automobiles and telecoms combined, with Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook all ranking in the top 10. As well as being up 47% from its 2017 value in the report, Amazon is not just the largest digital business in terms of market capitalisation and revenue, but also much more than that -  offering cloud infrastructure, electronics, music video, and now with the $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, a whole new physical service. 

This is all built on the foundation of what’s been dubbed the ‘Amazon effect’; where consumers have become totally used to a friction-free shopping process, from personalised recommendations, to rapid check out – and for those now dependent on it, rapid delivery with Amazon Prime. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, has been quoted as saying, “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.”

Creating a friction-free digital experience

For marketers, it is time to act, step up and embrace the challenge of competing with these companies - why? You don’t have a choice - your consumers are becoming more empowered, and this is only going to get stronger.

So, what can you learn to make a change from all of this? One area that consistently stands is many companies seem to be frozen, and looking at Amazon from the outside in, as if they are in some kind of parallel universe. However, the key to understanding how Amazon’s approach might help your customers is to study it. Ironically, due to its friction free experience, this is not too time consuming – go to the site, notice what is recommended to you, search for some products, see how the list is prioritised, unpick it, look at the importance of reviews, go to ‘my orders’ and look at the plethora of options. See how easy it is to get customer support – nothing is hidden from view, trying to lower customer enquiries.

Although achieving instant levels of Amazon slickness is going to be a challenge for any company, in my experience every company has a few well-known elements of ‘clunkiness’ on their website or checkout process. Focus efforts on resolving at least one of those in the next month and see how it affects your funnel completion statistics (you do personally check those every day, right?), then repeat for the next piece of functionality that needs enhancement – you’ll soon have a vastly improved site and a rationale to continue to invest.

For more insight and guidance on how to manage your customer experience operations, attend our dedicated training course

Dr Geraint Evans, FCIM Award winning marketing professional, writer and presenter

CIM comment

"The increased prominence of online experience and resultant decline in high street footfall has left many brands struggling to connect with their customers. Many organisations are simply not adapting quickly enough, failing to create a seamless transition between online and in-store experience. The result is that customer service has been left dislocated from real-time purchasing habits.

Brands should not blame the ‘Amazon effect’ for their woes, and instead recognise it as a warning sign that they might not be as close to their customers as they once were. By becoming customer obsessed and adjusting services in-line with the continuing changes to the customer journey, brands can prosper.”

– Chris Daly, CEO

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