How brands can succeed in the Amazon age

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How can retailers compete against the dominance of Amazon?

Amazon’s continued growth and dominance in the retail market has been highlighted recently with the announcement that they have nearly half (49%) of the US ecommerce market.

This poses the question - how can brands successfully compete with one retailer taking such a stranglehold of the marketplace?

How to compete with Amazon

The simple answer is for brands to copy what Amazon does because they continue to set the standard in how consumers expect businesses to operate and engage with customers.

This means brands need to ensure that their shipping service matches up with what Amazon deliver via its Prime offering. Therefore, it should be free, and products ideally need to arrive quickly once ordered, preferably the next day.

Post-order communications, particularly the micro-moments related to the delivery period, offer a great opportunity for brands to build a deeper relationship and upsell to customers. Once a customer has ordered a product they are always keen to be updated on its progress and delivery date, so it’s important to leverage this opportunity in the emails and SMS messages around it. To make this work the technology you use, and that of your courier should be API optimised, so they can integrate seamlessly to deliver such communications.

Amazon always looks for ways to improve the checkout process – the user journey and speed. It’s vital that brands do likewise. This means having the ability to accept the likes of Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal’s Express Checkout to speed up the checkout.

However, the best way to improve the checkout process is to constantly test your site and make learnings about how customers interact and engage with it, and use this feedback to tweak the design and improve its performance. With continually evolving technology it’s easy to use session recording tools such as Hotjar which clearly shows how consumers interact with your site.

Regularly split-testing the entire customer journey online to find what colour, size of type, and other content works best in helping to drive customer conversions and improve the checkout process is equally important. Amazon never stops with its conversion rate optimisation (CRO) activity. Brands should look to use tools like Google Optimise to help them with their split testing efforts. Alternatively, you can outsource the job of testing to an ecommerce agency.

Think digital

It’s vital to use a repricing service to remain competitive online, as consumers search for the lowest prices and buy online for the reason it’s generally cheaper than in the high street. These tools scrape Amazon, eBay and other large retail sites to find out the cost of the same or similar products you sell. The software can also find the minimum and maximum price points. It’s this intelligence that allows you to price accordingly to generate the best margin - critical when margins in ecommerce are often small.

Personalisation must always be front of mind. Always present relevant web content and products to customers to increase customer engagement and sales. An important aspect of what sets Amazon apart from other retailers and brands is the way they use the insight they have on their customers to personalise pages and recommend products. It’s possible for brands to track customers and build up a strong level of intelligence about them using tools available in the marketplace, and therefore make sure that the categories on their pages are suited to that individual.

To improve the search process and the customer experience on your website consider adding intelligent, predictive type in the search bar. This tool ensures consumers quickly find the product they are looking for, increasing the chance of a sale. It also has the added benefit of helping to relieve pressure on the website’s server during busy periods. Furthermore, it’s particularly important that this intelligent search should offer fuzzy logic, to handle spelling errors and return ‘did you mean’ results. If you offer a large number of products these intelligent search features are crucial.

Don’t forget that positive customer reviews are critical to your success, so encourage customers to provide reviews and use them. Feefo and Trustpilot are recognised by Google as approved review services, so testimonials on these platforms will aid your organic search, along with reviews on Google Shopping. Also, always look to integrate customer testimonials onto your site. Google boosts the rankings of those with testimonials on their website.

Work with Amazon

At the end of the day, brands don’t have to compete with Amazon but can work with them to drive sales.

It’s quick and fairly straightforward to integrate an existing ecommerce catalogue with Amazon and access their huge global audience.

Also, brands wanting to have a lean operation can outsource their warehousing and fulfilment to Amazon. The service, Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), enables them to place their inventory in the Amazon fulfilment centre and sees Amazon handle the shipping, returns and customer service. Amazon also offers this facility for products sold directly via the brand’s own website, to make the whole process as easy as possible. It’s a package that helps ensure Amazon dominate all aspects of the ecommerce process, as well as offer the widest range of products to their customers.

While it’s possible to work with and at the same time compete with Amazon to drive sales, brands serious about competing must be proactive in delivering the same, if not better service than Amazon does. They must regularly test their websites and use the learnings to make ongoing improvements to ensure standout usability and speed to checkout. They also need to source and use new tools that help them to deliver the insight and personalisation required in today’s ecommerce world. Only then will they be well positioned to succeed in the ‘Amazon age’.

Mark Fitzsimmons is managing director at Xigen

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