Here are five key things that might help retailers step out of the shadow of Amazon.
1. Product curation
Amazon is the destination starting point for most product searches, but it is also a minefield in terms of the number of options available and can be an overwhelming challenge to easily find what you want. This is Amazon’s Achilles heel, and a guided shopping experience that helps consumers find the perfect product or gift would be a departure from Amazon’s mind-bending catalogue. For example, the gift guide at notonthehighstreet.com has a robust navigation that is easy to use and customers can gain inspiration quickly for the different gift receiver types such as “gifts for teenagers” and “gifts for grandparents”.
2. Omni-channel experience
There is an opportunity to outwit Amazon by leveraging retailers’ existing physical assets. For example, Argos has a focussed initiative on click and collect which Amazon could not compete with. You have the consumer’s attention in store to upsell, which is a challenge online. For example, a lighting retailer can upsell on light bulbs as a quick add-on that can prove lucrative which, from experience, is harder to translate online. At Anthropologie, the stores are desirably laid out so customers want to visit the store rather than go online to gain the full “experience”. What retailers can do is offer more inspiration in store which an online set up can struggle to deliver.
3. Website robustness
Website failure is the stuff of nightmares for retailers, especially over the golden quarter. All the pre-planning is wasted if the website is not robust and fails due to high traffic volumes. A few years ago the Arcadia brands lost millions over Black Friday weekend for this very reason, when several of their sites went down. Amazon also wobbled earlier this year during Prime day, although some say this was part of some testing in preparation for Black Friday.
To avoid risking downtime it is good practice to embargo code changes ahead of the Black Friday campaign, in fact, several retailers have a deadline of early September and this is something that should be considered as part of the planning process. If there are concerns around robustness a de-risking strategy is also an option, whereby the offers are spread over a longer period of time around Black Friday, to avoid unmanageable spikes in traffic.
4. Marketing strategy
Once the Black Friday campaign is planned it is imperative to deliver a robust marketing strategy to drive the traffic needed. Amazon sent out four press releases ahead of Prime Day this year which drove phenomenal levels of traffic. Aligned campaigns that have been represented across different channels will obviously result in more traffic but how do they differentiate from what Amazon does?
Retailers can use their stores as a powerful marketing channel which Amazon cannot replicate. From the enticingly dressed store windows to the in-store gift shop this is an asset retailer should not forget about.
Amazon’s delivery proposition is famous, with the omnipresent delivery taskforce ensuring that your order will arrive (mostly) on time. Prime customers benefit from free two-day delivery and this service proposition has been upheld during Christmas peak. Retailers should bear this in mind as a way to differentiate themselves from Amazon – to outdo Amazon on Prime is a tall ask.
One way in which brick and mortar retailers could be creative is by taking the opportunity to implement inventory technology which smartly identifies the most efficient way to service the demand and offer a stronger click and collect proposition. So, instead of a head-on collision with Amazon that a retailer is likely to lose, they can change the way in which they deliver consumer value.
The retail sector is a challenging landscape, and Amazon is winning the game quite convincingly. Retailers would be mistaken in attempting to replicate what Amazon does, they should instead find a niche where they can differentiate themselves and steal back some of the market shares.