How To Compete With Amazon? Create An In-Store Customer Experience That Rivals Theirs
By Bob Phibbs
Amazon is the company retailers love to hate. Amazon’s arms continue to weave and curl around your customers.
And while shoppers shop at both Amazon and local businesses or department stores, the fact is any trip saved by shopping online is a trip not made to a brick and mortar retailer.
While it is easy to feel the danger Amazon poses, the way to deal with that fear is to analyze what it is that makes them so easy to do business with.
Amazon is a technology company rather than a retailer. They began as a discount book seller, but it has progressed where it isn’t the cheapest option on the web… but don’t let that fool you, they command 49% of online search.
Their understanding of data and innovation makes them easily adaptable to go after any product category.
Instead of moaning and groaning, try fashioning your business by stealing from Amazon’s stranglehold on customer loyalty.
Here are 7 Ways To Create An In-Store Experience That Rivals Amazon’s:
Convenience. Between Amazon’s delivery service to your car’s trunk, which keeps your packages safe from front-porch thieves, to their Amazon Key program, which hand-delivers your packages to the inside your home, Amazon is all about making their customers’ lives easier. Walmart is testing delivery services inside your home too, and they will actually stock your refrigerator with groceries you purchased online.
OK, most retailers can’t offer those services, but what could you do to make shopping with you more convenient? One of the most obvious, most talked services you could offer from a shopper’s point-of-view would be to expand your hours of operation.
Quite simply, people who have jobs don’t have the luxury of strolling down to Main Street to buy something between 10 am and 5 pm Monday-Friday.
You could also make it a point to grab a customer’s bags at the counter and walk with them out your door, then offer to continue to their car. On a rainy day, you could grab an umbrella and meet them in the parking lot or escort them out of the store so they didn’t get wet. You get the idea but it all revolves around convenience.
Free shipping. Amazon offers Prime for $119 a year, but most of their customers see it as free shipping. That’s good because Barilliance states the average online shopping cart abandonment (where shoppers don’t complete a purchase) was 78% in 2017 due to unexpectedly high shipping costs.
If you’re going to have an online store – and I think you must – keep shipping costs upfront. Even if you offer free shipping on orders over $50, the place for your shopper to learn that is on your store’s home page, not after they add it to their cart.
In store, even saying free local delivery within 10 miles would be a big step to showing you want to deliver as friction-free an experience as you can.
Selling used. One thing the Big A learned early-on was that there was a segment of their shoppers who were looking to save money by buying used. Most any product you select shows both used and newprices.
If you sell used electronics, appliances, or even kitchen products, bring that message to your online page. If you offer those products in-store, make sure your crew understands how to sell them when a customer absolutely balks at paying full price for new merchandise.
Also make sure you merchandise like the item deserves respect and not like it is a refugee from the aisle of misfits. Remember, Millennials especially are looking for lower prices most everywhere and will often buy used.
No questions asked returns. This is a close cousin of convenience. On the order page, Amazon tells you how long you have to return an item. Truth be told, if you miss that deadline and write them a note, most likely they will give you a full refund – even if worn or tags are missing.
How many brick and mortar retailers still have those signs from the 80’s NO REFUNDS, exchange only for store credit. The joke of this is per the retailer’s merchant agreement, they have to give refunds on the card used. And if the retailer won’t, the cardmember knows they can just initiate a chargeback against the merchant.
Since you’ll most likely lose anyway, why not take the high way and make your return policy more generous?
Add-on. Scroll just a bit down the page from an item you find on Amazon, and you’re sure to see Customers who bought this item also bought. Once you put that item in your cart, another message that says, Recommended for you based on (the item’s name.) That’s because Amazon knows the key to making more profit is to sell more items based on what the customer was interested in.
Most retailers understand the concept of adding on but most simply don’t train it. Why? Because it might seem pushy. Their employees might feel it is making those customers buy something they don’t need.
I don’t care what the excuse is, the profit is in the second item.
A smart retail sales training program hammers this point with regular role-playing on various items in your store. And you know what? The shopper who buys the additional item is glad you mentioned it because it helps them get more value out of their original purchase. It also removes the opportunity for the shopper to need to go online for something else.
Payment options. Amazon Go, their new convenience store, allows shoppers to login with their Amazon Prime account at the entrance and walkout with their products without standing in any checkout line; it automatically scans items while they walk around.
We’re a long way off for that for most retailers but your own online store should have an option where you store the credit card of the customer provided they register it. If you haven’t turned that on yet, do. If you have, make sure you mention the benefit to registering with one-click checkout from then on.
In your brick and mortar store, more and more affluent customers as well as digital natives are using Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and even PayPal where offered. Why? Because it is as simple as tap and pay. Having mobile payment options isn’t just a benefit to the customer, it also allows you to move more shoppers through your system which adds to profit.
Complete experience. While Amazon can add various angle pictures of products and videos to give a more complete picture of an item, brick and mortar stores can offer the real experience. Looking for in store experience examples? Take the Adidas store on 5th Avenue in New York which has a miniature track set up on the floor where shoppers can get their stride analyzed or just take a run. They also have an on-site print shop where shoppers can customize clothing. Allbirds, also in NYC, has a human-sized hamster wheel where shoppers can try out their shoes.
OK, so maybe you can’t do all of that, but you can look at those two experiences. How can you bring more to the fitting process than just trying a garment on?
Personalization is becoming big business.How can you custom print or customize your products quickly? I wrote about the Xerox printer here, but this is something online retailers can only hope to create – a virtual reality experience when you offer real reality.
While Amazon did command almost half of online searches there is hope, in 2017 it slipped from 2016’s 55%.
And even more noteworthy for 2018, 46% of shoppers now start off with search engines rather than Amazon when they don’t have anything particular in mind. Just 39% start at Amazon, and 15% start at their favorite non-Amazon retail site.
While Amazon and Walmart battle it out for who will most dominate online retail, one thing is for certain, you have to evolve your retailing skills.
Those skills will be a bigger part of your retail sales strategy in co-opting any of the competitive advantages Jeff Bezos’ sprawling empire does better than you do to create amazing retail experiences with your own shoppers.
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