Taking on Amazon: how to outsmart the e-commerce giant with personalized, human service and supportBack to all Customer Relationship
It was originally tagged the “Earth’s biggest bookstore”, with over 1 million titles to browse through. Twenty years later it has become the world’s biggest online superstore and sells over 200 million products in the USA alone, with over 2 million third-party vendors offering items through its marketplace platform.
Its large product selection, low prices, convenient delivery options and efficient customer service have made it synonymous with online sales, and a growing number of consumers – 44% of all US web-shoppers last year, according to BloomReach research – now use Amazon rather than Google as a search engine when browsing for items online.
For online retailers, competing with Amazon has become something of a modern day David versus Goliath battle, and even big-box brands like Target, Walmart or Bestbuy, are struggling to gain market share.
But while the commoditization of products and recent expansion of Amazon’s offerings means people are more frequently than ever turning to the internet giant for everyday purchases, items that require more careful consideration are not proving quite as successful. This is where we believe other businesses can positively stand out.
We trust that online companies that provide the assistance and expertise customers need in their moments of indecision will succeed in differentiating and making a name for themselves in the years to come.
Focus on guidance and expertise
Amazon will always be one of the number one stops for customers who know exactly which product they need and are willing to rely on customer reviews to make an informed purchase. But for those who don’t have that certainty, or do not know which items would best serve their specific needs, having access to real-time human assistance during the product research phase is a necessity. Companies like Amazon, who view customer service exclusively as a post-purchase function are missing out on tremendous opportunities to attract, inform and convert potential customers pre-purchase.
By adding real-time support to their online stores, businesses are able to listen to their customers, understand the challenges and pain points they are facing, and work with them to find the product that best fits their needs. The resulting purchase suggestions are irrefutably better than Amazon’s recommended products, which are based on intense data mining and artificial intelligence, and lack the human understanding of customers’ questions, behavior and needs.
Differentiate with service
Offer your customers a boutique-like experience online. But not just any boutique. Think Nordstrom or Barneys. These companies have succeeded in building their entire business around a reputation for incredibly good service, and are now arguably better known for this than for the merchandise they sell. Their salespeople are incentivized to increase customer happiness using their own good judgement, and are encouraged to build and cultivate personal relationships with all clients.
Nordstrom goes so far as to offer the personal assistance of beauty, designer and wedding stylists to its clients, free-of-charge, to advise them on their purchases and to help them recreate their favorite looks and styles, be it in-store or online, via their live chat service.
By making life pleasant (and easier!) for their customers during the purchase phase and providing excellent person-to-person assistance before, during and after sales, they have even succeeded in minimizing price as a consideration. Nordstrom now has the highest sales per square foot performance in the retail industry.
Companies who offer boutique-like experiences online can take a page out of Nordstrom’s book and make excellent digital service their strongest selling point. One-to-one service through rich video conversations and guided purchases is easy to provide with customer engagement solutions like videodesk and can help make all the difference by showing the world that companies can be human and provide personalized experiences online too.
Shoe retailer Zappos is perhaps the best example of doing online customer service right. From the start, the company’s aim was to succeed in offering the “best possible online shopping experience for footwear” and even went as far as to view customer service costs as marketing expenses. Friendly support is available 24/7 and the company’s contact information is prominently displayed throughout the website. As Zappos views each call as an opportunity to provide a memorable experience to their customers, call center employees are not allowed to follow scripts and are encouraged to let their personality shine through and create personal connections with their online customers.
Unlock the human factor
Amazon changed the economics of retail by selling directly out of a warehouse, unconstrained by shelf space and demographics. Where brick-and-mortar stores have always been wedded to the manufacturers who are in the supply chain for their physical stores and can only address a finite local market, Amazon is able to offer near infinite inventory, with low marginal costs. In other words, it has succeeded in unlocking massive economics of scale.
What if online businesses could today unlock the same economics of scale by doing for expertise what Amazon has done for inventory?
Most brick-and-mortar stores will never be able to win the race for selection, shipping and price but can offer something that Amazon never will: access to their knowledgeable, expert, in-store employees.
In-store salespeople know their products, services and customers better than anyone else. And while their assistance is generally not required for simple products such as books or DVDs, purchasing complex or option-rich items such as espresso makers or 4K tvs almost inevitably leads to a one-on-one conversation with a product expert.
By broadening the reach of their in-store reps and making them available to their online and mobile audience during off-peak hours, companies are able to expand their online customer base and shift even the most high-value sales online.
The videodesk live video engagement tool helps companies connect with their online customers via video and collaborative support and assistance tools. In-store reps are able to share their knowledge and expertise with website visitors, demonstrate products live, establish trust and ultimately close deals online while remaining present and available for their in-store customers too.
Competing against Amazon can seem like an impossible task but it doesn’t have to be so intimidating. Online retailers must learn to compete on service instead of focusing on commodity and prices, and adopt new and differentiating tactics to provide a seamless customer experience.
Contact us now to request a demo and learn how Stryng can help you improve your customers’ online experience by introducing live video engagement and assisted purchase tools.