Amazon has done it again — according to its latest earnings report, fourth quarter revenues exceeded estimates at USD$60.5bn (£45.5bn) and annual sales hit USD$178bn (£134bn), up 31% since 2016. Clearly, Amazon is getting things right. With an easily navigable site, plentiful product choice, and precisely targeted advertising, the e-tailer’s growth is seemingly unstoppable. In this piece for RetailTechNews, Vanessa Tadier, general manager, Europe, Visual IQ, a Nielsen Company, tells us what retailers must be doing if they’re to survive the Amazon onslaught.
As the company continues to grow and bolsters its prowess in areas as diverse as publishing, groceries, and entertainment, marketers are increasingly feeling the pressure to keep up with Amazon to attract and retain customers. But, the e-tailer’s continued growth doesn’t mean other brands don’t stand a chance of succeeding against the retail giant. By obtaining deeper insight into consumers and their journeys, and directing their spending and messaging to the moments of maximum influence, brands can maintain a sustainable competitive advantage.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the weapons brands should be adding to their arsenal to help win the battle against Amazon.
Getting digitally savvy
The proliferation of digital channels and devices has dramatically changed how consumers interact with brands. Journeys can be long, stretching across multiple screens and touchpoints, and often lasting days or weeks. To compete with the titans, marketers must distinguish themselves by creating relevant and engaging experiences for their target audiences, from the first touch through to final conversion.
A major aspect of this is messaging – providing customers and prospects with tailored content and offers at each stage of their journey. However, doing so effectively requires unified data. The digital footprints that consumers leave behind offer marketers the opportunity to collect a much broader set of data for each individual – from who they are and what they like, to how they interact with a brand – in a privacy-safe way. But much of this data is stored in silos across disparate systems, making it difficult to get a clear, 360-degree view of each consumer and the channels, devices, and tactics that are most effective in engaging and converting them.
Delivering a winning experience means collecting and consolidating all this data into a single, centralised repository. This includes interaction data from both online and offline sources (web, mobile, call centre, store, etc.), as well as demographic, intent, interest, and other audience attribute data from first- and third-party data sources. By synthesising all of this data in one place, marketers can develop a more complete, people-based view of consumers and their end-to-end journey, and tailor messages and experiences to meet their unique needs and preferences.
Another digital priority is providing high-quality interactions. From a brand’s e-commerce site to their pages on social media, marketers must maintain a strong and interactive online presence if they want to outshine their rivals. In particular, brands should take a page from Amazon’s book by harnessing the power of online reviews. Both positive and negative reviews are an increasingly integral element of the decision process – it’s no coincidence that Amazon is wildly successful and has more reviews on its site than any other brand. Displaying unbiased reviews and encouraging customers to evaluate their purchases through reviews are both essential to provide a transparent and inspiring digital experience that leaves a lasting positive impression.
Consider the lure of stores
While digital is increasingly dominant, the value of retail stores should not be ignored. In the U.S., studies show that 65% of shoppers prefer to browse online before making final purchases in a store. This makes it important for marketers to not only emphasise the fact they have physical locations – an area in which Amazon is only just catching up – but also understand which combination of channels and tactics motivate individuals to visit these stores. With this insight, marketers can better optimise the full consumer journey.
Moreover, brands also need to make sure the real-world shopping experiences they offer live up to consumer expectations. In short, this means creating an experience in the store that becomes a destination for the consumer. If it doesn’t feel special, people won’t see the incremental benefit from going. Aesthetically, stores should look and feel good, and offer value to customers. For instance, placing popular products in prominent and strategic points can help aid more convenient shopping. From a service standpoint, it’s vital for employees to possess a high level of expertise and skill that allows them to do much more than just point shoppers in the right direction. Hiring and training in-store staff with extensive product knowledge enables them to make personalised recommendations that make shoppers feel special.
Additionally, it’s also worth playing on consumers’ appetite for exclusivity by developing a premium loyalty programme. Setting up a system, for example, whereby frequent shoppers can purchase unique products or services that aren’t available anywhere else. This elevates the experience beyond simply awarding points or discounts and allows brands to create a strong incentive for repeat visits and long-term brand fidelity.
Optimise your marketing & advertising
While delivering personalised messages and world-class shopping experiences, advertisers must implement one additional change to earn a definitive victory. Campaigns need to be driven both by the understanding of individual habits and which messages or tactics they prefer. This means advertisers must gain a comprehensive view of performance.
Although this might sound daunting, all it requires is a switch of measurement. Rather than using outdated models such as last-touch attribution – which gives the credit for conversions solely to the final touchpoint – advertisers should deploy approaches suited to the behaviours of modern consumers, like multitouch attribution (MTA). MTA tracks the consumer journey across all touchpoints and assigns fractional credit to the channels and tactics that influenced a sale or other desired business outcome, so marketers can make smarter investment decisions. Some MTA solutions even integrate audience-attribution data from data-management platforms (DMPs) to provide performance and ROI insights by audience segment.
Today, the brands that win are those that offer exceptional experiences. In the battle for consumer attention and spend, what matters most is proving that brands understand their customers’ wants, needs, preferences, and behaviours better than anyone else – including the e-tail giants. This will enable marketers to hold their own and maintain success in the digital age of Amazon.