Amazon is an entity that conveniently dispenses and delivers products without human intervention. It has strengths, but it also has limitations. As vast and efficient as Amazon is, it can be a brand-dissolving mechanism.
First, there’s the customer’s perspective. Amazon does not provide sales associates who understand and love the brand and its products. Amazon merely responds to requests. Certain consumables sell well through this model, specifically items with a previously established value statement such as books and videos, tunes by a favorite artist, or even bags of grass seed. However, many purchases depend on the interaction between consumers and knowledgeable sales associates to balance choices and preferences and get the right “fit.” The more personal the item — such as a computer mouse or a pair of shoes — the wider the gap and the narrower the opportunity for an emotionally satisfying transaction.
Second, there’s the retailer’s perspective. Merchandise might see its hard-won brand fade substantially under the overpowering presence of Amazon’s influence. Items are arranged courtesy of price and search history algorithms. Competing products of varying quality appear en masse, rendering them anonymous in the process.
It’s a mistake to think technology reduces the high-touch experience. In truth, technology can increase it, placing other sellers at the polar opposite of Amazon’s approach. Retail, after all, is theater. It’s a physical and emotional event organized for the satisfaction of each customer. The best real-world stores such as Nike, Apple, adidas, or Jimmy Choo already deliver a finely executed service that contributes to the overall enjoy- ment of the purchase. Now, other retailers are deploying tools that augment human contact and assist brands in providing some of their value through the experience of acquiring the product.
For example, a major shoe brand uses the on-demand delivery service to fulfill orders for a new product within four hours of the order placement. The orders are placed by consumers using a mobile app and received via the fulfillment app by the stockroom workers who pick, pack, and arrange for a car driver to deliver the orders to the customers’ specified locations. Customers are notified about each step of the journey and can see the estimated delivery time and even the car driver delivering their shoes on the map within their branded app.
This is a one-of-a-kind experience that can be enabled by mobile, but our research shows that not everyone is taking advantage of this possibility. As our Mobile Retail Report revealed, just 22% of retailers in our study offered in-store pickup options on the shopping app, and only 4% offered rapid delivery via the app using a ridesharing or delivery service.
Fulfillment, assisted by mobile technology, isn’t just the last mile. It’s another opportunity to delight the customer.