Why brands must consider the role of Amazon as an entry point for their CXby
As with many things, the first step in reforming your customer experience is to recognise that you have a problem, and it starts on Amazon.com.
For much of the past decade, customer experience (CX) has gone from buzzword to obsession — and with good reason. 94% of US consumers say they are likely to make more purchases from companies that provide a very good customer experience. As a result, smart businesses have invested massively in CX platforms, including marketing automation, advanced targeting, persona management, third party data, and direct-to-consumer platforms.
In doing so, many have also opened up a huge blind spot, ignoring a major entry point for more than half of every new customer’s experience: Amazon.com. Although it is the first impression for many customer-to-brand relationships, most brands do not invest much to make it meaningful, memorable, and sticky.
You may of course have logical reasons for not wanting to be on Amazon. Some choose to omit the platform simply because it’s “off brand.” Vans, a core part of VF’s portfolio, leaves Amazon to the side in an effort to “avoid the middle,” focusing on higher-end retail experiences that don't start with a big search box. Upscale cycling brands, for example, have done so for reasons that come from the heart: They don’t want to cannibalize sales from local cycling shops which are critical to their sales. Glossier has said that it doesn’t believe fast and free delivery is a reason to buy a mascara brand.
Here’s the bad news: even if you do not think your brand fits into the Amazon.com ecosystem, you are there anyway, not least because your customers are there. When they search your brand’s name, they will find it. Someone somewhere will have acquired some of your products and put them up for sale.
As a result, your customers’ search results may include as many as a dozen different sellers offering your products with different price points, messaging, product information, technical specifications, and — oh, no — customer reviews. Whenever a customer chooses your product on Amazon and it lands on your customers doorstep, it very likely will not evoke the same first impression you’d envisioned.
This “gray market” selling is only one of a number of challenges brands face in controlling their brand experience on Amazon.com, including price, content, and the most critical issue of all on the platform, availability. A more common one is a fractured experience, in which customers get a fundamentally different impression of your brand in different channels. You may also experience a loss of sales because your competitors are savvier on Amazon.
A final problem is that you’re leaving a lot of behavioural customer data on the table. If you have shoppers seeking you out on Amazon, you should find out who they are, what they want, and how you can support their journey. After all, they’re the ones who get to choose how they shop, and if they are shopping on Amazon, you should know what they’re doing, what your adjacencies are, and where there may be gaps in your offerings.
So, let’s remove this blind spot from the customer experience. Here’s how:
- Take stock of your customers. Brands need to get a fuller picture of what their customers are doing on and off Amazon. It’s quite possible, for example, that you are “acquiring” the same customer in two different places. Understanding why people are shopping in one place or another is an important stepping stone to embracing the full range of your customers’ experience and maximising customer lifetime value.
- Take Amazon out of a silo. It’s a mistake to think of Amazon as a separate channel because brands need to understand their customers’ entire experience. This requires an adjustment of both marketing and organisational strategy, with a single point of reference and a single view of the different personas that purchase your brand.
- Get control. Gray market selling is an obvious threat to the customer experience, and until recently eliminating it has been a difficult task. The good news is that there are now ways to ensure nearly perfect traceability back to the original buyer. When you combine this with sound procedures and a strong commitment from leadership, you can greatly mitigate the problem.
- Monitor BABB. One of the most critical metrics for determining your brand’s performance on Amazon is Basic Analytic Buybox (BABB). This is the percentage of product sales where your brand or authorised sellers have won. Every day you fail to own this, you can lose between 15 to 20% of sales. Constant monitoring of BABB, or better yet, automated monitoring, is one of the best ways to determine if you’re losing traffic.
- Gain insights into product development. Your relationship with Amazon need not be a one-way street. Amazon can offer a wealth of consumer insights, feedback on your and your competitors’ products, and ultimately, the needs of consumers who are looking for something new to fit into their lifestyles. This can all help you map out your strategy both short-term and long-term.
As with many things, the first step in reforming your customer experience is to recognise that you have a problem, and it starts on Amazon.com. If you’re like most brands today, the platform has been at best a separate strategy and at worst an afterthought. By neglecting Amazon, you’ve probably let down a significant portion of your customer base. It’s time to bring all the threads together and treat the platform as part of an integrated strategy moving forward.