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  • Be Amazon-Like While Staying True to Your Brand

    Once upon a time, back in the 1990s, ecommerce was the new frontier and there could only be one champion. That champion was Amazon, holding its reigning title for well over a decade. Amazon is known worldwide as “The Everything Store,” with revenue over $30 billion per quarter, and everyone is rushing to be Amazon-like, copying policies and sales strategies.

    There’s no secret formula to Amazon’s success, only a simple goal the company has kept as a core part of its mission — keeping customers happy.

    You can’t rip a few pages out of their playbook and expect instant ecommerce stardom. Instead of mirroring Amazon’s policies, ensure true success by looking at what’s underneath the hood of its operation and seeing what lessons you should take away, implementing them with your company’s unique brand identity intact.

    Use Data for Customer Relationship Building

    In the internet age, all companies collect data on their customers. This information is quantifiable, to build a better product, track consumer trends, improve response time and provide more marketing-focused insights. Does your company look beyond statistics to the person?

    Amazon uses big data to build relationships with its customers, because it’s had time to thoughtfully process and digest this data. Whereas many companies are purchased and grow through acquisition, Amazon never followed that path. Customer service is an opportunity for development and represents the continually growing relationship between client and organization.

    Embrace Transparent Data the Customer Trusts

    The details of the data you have and what you track is scary for the customer. Be transparent with the use of data. Customers must be reasonably in control of what data they provide and its utilization.

    The right tools provide relevant data to solve customer concerns quickly and efficiently. Automated systems that collect data need to accurately transmute that data to customer service representatives. Make your systems function seamlessly with customer service teams, because it only infuriates the customer to repeat requests like a broken record.

    But Remember, Real People Don’t Share Too Much

    Real people need to filter how data is shared when marketing materials go out, so they aren’t filled with too much information that creeps the customer out, such as promotions targeting a pregnant woman with shopping coupons for diapers, when she’s only recently begun searching for baby products.

    Customer service representatives should show they’re real people, too, having a casual but solutions-oriented conversation with the customer. No one likes talking to a drone who is timed on providing a solution to the customer.

    When the customer is relaxed, time passes more quickly when solutions take a little longer to reach. It’s easier to uncover other problem areas to save the customer more time and money in the long run. For example:

    • Amazon will instantly ship customers a replacement package, without ever suggesting it’s the fault of the customer.
    • No more frustration escalation due to large call volume and the customer service representative having to explain company policy to the customer, who feels talked down to.

    Trust is established when rapport is shared, and with the right tools that filter data seamlessly, representatives will be pros who reference appropriate data in an intuitive way, natural to everyday conversation that gets the answer the customer is seeking quickly.

    Think Like Your Customers Do

    The reason Amazon makes such a great business to model is that it’s always remained consistent in brand and operations, taking time to work through policies and procedures as it’s grown to make sure it’s true to customer experience. In the end, Amazon has mastered the creation of a customer-centric experience.

    In the beginning, Amazon Prime was a gamble for the company. Intuitively, Amazon reasoned that customers despised having to pay the cost of shipping. Prime encourages customers to purchase a little more to save more and get items shipped with less frustration over the cost.

    Similarly, businesses should make less work for the customer by thinking like the customer. All the customer must understand about a service, how to use it, how much it costs and more needs to be clearly available on the webpage. That information is continually refined.

    Release a few service items early in a carefully controlled environment. Show customers you are listening to their feedback and making improvements, if slowly. Customers will be patient, especially if you make it easier on yourself to track their requests with a simple and useful form.

    Use Long-Term Vision and Understand Customer Trust

    Memorable brands are founder-led with long term vision, seeing far into the future of the business and its impact on customers, often forgoing short-term revenue opportunities. This vision includes the world around the customer, and the future ripples created by implementations of the company.

    In his first letter to shareholders, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said the company’s economic model would grow more powerful as its market leadership increased. The link between strong long-term market leadership and fiscal impact is undeniable. Shopify, which has a smaller niche customer base, took a similar move in its corporate beginnings.

    Shopify founder and CEO Tobi Lutke stated in his 2015 shareholder letter that the company was ignoring surefire opportunities for revenue in the short term in order to focus on long-term strategy. Shopify wisely identifies with the importance Amazon placed on customer trust in its development, and it’s certainly paid off. Lutke made a bold move in ending his letter with: “I want Shopify to be a company that sees the next century.”

    Let the Customer Pay You the Easy Way

    In January of this year, the Etsy Seller Handbook was updated with an exciting change. Shoppers are now able to check out items from multiple shops by making one payment, much like how Amazon’s cart operates. In the past, shoppers had to do multiple checkouts, making one payment per shop.

    Through its research, Etsy discovered this created too much hassle for customers, who would often abandon items in their carts after the first transaction was completed. Etsy’s new multi-shop checkout cart allows shoppers to purchase from various sellers more easily and quickly. Notes may be addressed to each seller, and prices are clear for every shop item, as well as the final combined total.

    Much of keeping a business afloat and on the path of growth and success is looking at what other businesses do. You watch, wait and see where others succeed and where they fail. You look for unrecognized opportunities, and sometimes you take a leap of faith with a business move.

    Consistency in ethics, mission and business practices, and the ability to keep the business customer-centric in a market with shifting customer demands, are vital keys to continued success. Amazon has become a colossus in ecommerce for these reasons.

    It makes sense businesses want to become more Amazon-like. Still, mirroring Amazon’s practices will only get them so far. There’s much to learn from Amazon’s success, but these lessons must be integrated within the existing brand’s voice and purpose to stand on their own merit.

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    Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and Digital Marketing Specialist. She is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to sharing advice on navigating the work world. Passionate about helping others find happiness and success in their careers, she shares advice on everything from the job search and entrepreneurship to professional development, and more! Follow her for more great tips @SarahLandrum

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