Amazon Prime Day, the variation on Cyber Monday created by the 800-pound gorilla of online retailing takes place on July 12th this year. Open to customers who subscribe to the superfast Amazon Prime delivery service, it also offers a tremendous opportunity to other online retailers, both as a learning exercise and an occasion to compete.
The Personalization Factor
Despite its size, Amazon has never been a world leader in deep in-person customer relationships. How could it? It does not have brick-and-mortar stores or sales associates to assume those responsibilities. Instead, it creates a personalized shopping experience by recording customers’ browsing and purchasing data and building a knowledge base that pinpoints shoppers’ interests, leading them towards further conversion. For Prime Day, this means issuing prompts, like popups, banner ads, email and push messages that remind shoppers to go online and get a deal – right now – on that item they were looking at just last week.
Data is the fuel of the personalized shopping experience both online and in-store. It becomes especially powerful when stores equip their sales associates with the very information that will bring them closer to an individual shopper’s tastes and desires. It is also powerful when online stores pull customers and brands closer together to create an experience far greater than a mere transaction. Customers identify with brands. Stores identify with customers. Data brings it all together.
Surprise and Delight
Part of the appeal of Prime Day is the surprise factor. A customer receives a notification that a specific product is now on sale for a great price. Having forgotten that she had been looking for this item a few months back, its appearance becomes a delightful discovery and an easy buy decision.
Surprising and delighting customers is not an Amazon exclusive. It is available to any retailer willing to undertake the effort to know their customers and to be proactive with the relationship. Customers love to feel looked after. They love feeling special.
Notice that these two opportunities do not rely on price as the defining competitive factor. Beating Amazon on price is tough. If you want to undercut Amazon, it is easy to track their prices on the Amazon site itself, or by using price tracking websites or apps. But the competitive aspect should not focus on price. Instead, it should rely on out-doing Amazon in the area of high-touch customer service, combined with a renewed focus on the brands being sold.
Events like Prime Day have a tendency to erode their novelty quickly, as has already happened with Cyber Monday, which is becoming less impactful with every passing year. Most shoppers are aware of two distinct truths about these events: first if you miss one, another one will be along shortly, and second, the selection of goods for sale can sometimes be thin. Last year’s Prime Day, for example, went a little heavy on its internal brands like Kindle and Fire to the exclusion of much else.
Compete Successfully with Amazon
Retailers seeking to compete with Prime Day will do well to observe all of the factors that make it successful, of course, and this includes monitoring social media chatter, as well as the exact types of merchandise sold. But, they should then place their focus and messaging on the unique personalization and customer care that defines their stores, both online and in-person.
As attractive as a Prime Day discount may be, more and more customers are looking for satisfying experiences that go beyond price and engages them emotionally with the store, products, and time spent on their purchasing journeys. This is what retailers should focus on, and which a clearing house like Amazon cannot.
The effects of high-touch service can easily translate into higher revenues, and customer attention and loyalty that will last much longer than a single day.
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