While every company is talking about how they can deliver a cohesive Customer Experience, Jeff Bezos has been consummating the virtue all along.
Amazon.com was instrumental in the launching of my first start-up company at the end of 1999, Pinoydelikasi.com – a Filipino delicacies store. I admired Jeff Bezos’ tenacity and dexterity to grow the business(market valuation of USD 6B) in just four years (1995-99). Inspired by his business model, I became Bezos’ avid follower in the Tech scene. I bought most of his books, magazines where he was featured, downloaded his documentaries, and much more.
In a book by Rebecca Saunders, ”The Amazon.com Way: Secrets of the Worlds Most Astonishing Web Business” – released in September 1999, Jeff Bezos succinctly conveyed his plan:
Our goal is to the make shopping experience a pleasant one for our customers.
Bezos saw the future! He already knew how to grow Amazon’s business since day one. Appropriately, for six consecutive years(2009-2015), Amazon.com has topped the 24/7 Wall St.’s Customer Service Hall of Fame. Last year, Amazon was ranked no. 1 with Pct. ratings “Excellent”: 59.4%. With this track record, Amazon will be a tough team to reckon with.
Top Five(5) Secrets Why Amazon is shaping the way we shop today:
1. Live and breathe E-commerce.
Jeff Bezos studied the ins and outs of the book industry before deciding to make books its “Champion” product. Consequently, Bezos understood the internet. He’s tech savvy. He has a Computer Science degree and has worked for FITEL, a New York City based high-tech start-up during the 80’s. For Bezos, this expertise is Amazon’s hard earned advantage over its competitors Borders.com and Barnesandnoble.com during that time. He may have other competitors today like Alibaba.com, Ebay, and other global E-commerce players, his experience and know-how equip him to compete on a level playing field.
2. Offer great value.
Get and keep customers by providing value. Value means not only giving a discount on price , but producing a plethora of products they can choose from, customer retention through customized service, and fun. Moreover, you can implement an easy to use search features and easy check-out; you can provide email services; you can secure web-based credit card payments, and so on. Above all, customers want speedy delivery of their purchase.
3. Continually reinvent oneself.
The rivalry among global E-commerce giants drives the necessity of continual reinvention to secure the market leader position. Competitors usually duplicate Amazon’s tactics to draw customers to their sites. Amazon needs to take counter measures, expand its offerings, and acquire new technology companies to reinforce its arsenal. While the expansion of its product line has meant new competitors, it also was instrumental for customers to visit the site – which is essential for Amazon’s profitability.
Amazon Echo is one of the latest innovations from Amazon.com. It is a wireless speaker with a voice command capability. The device is called, “Alexa.” Ask Alexa any question and she will answer. It’s obedient personal digital assistant that you can control by voice. It’s an SIRI like in a can or SIRI in a Bluetooth speaker. It can play music, get the news and weather, create to-do lists, and much more. Amazon Echo is a communal product. Everybody in the family can use it. You can put it in the kitchen, living room, garage, or the bedroom. The Amazon Echo updates and fetches data from the cloud.
4. Establish a distribution network.
Opening brick and mortar stores was the best idea Amazon had since the introduction of Amazon Prime in 2005.
According to Sandeep Mathrani, the CEO of a Chicago-based real estate company called General Growth Properties (GGP),
Amazon will open bricks-and-mortar bookstores, and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores.
Amazon has been planning to put up a retail bookstore since 2012. Finding the thought unconventional, every major media outlet immediately picked up the idea and jumped in to interview Bezos. He was interviewed by Forbes, CNN, Bloomberg, and many others.
Amazon had to put the construction of their physical bookstore on hold because they were building their new corporate headquarters in downtown Seattle during that time. They built the building from scratch. For an E-commerce company to just open a physical store overnight was impossible.
To gain experience in the retail market, Amazon began opening series of campus bookstores at major universities in the US. Just recently when they’ve got the feel of it, they opened their first store at University Village in Seattle last November.
Amazon books are the first Amazon-branded bookstore where thousands of “printed” books will be available for purchase. Unlike a regular bookstore, the company uses insights from Kindle bookstore and GoodReads. The overall popularity of a book will directly influence the stock availability in the physical store. The local staff curates collections of books that are rated four stars or higher online.
Amazon books will also have a dedicated technical salesperson in-store. Trained staff will be able to show the functionalities of the entire line of Kindle E-readers and Fire tablets. You can also check their alternative projects like the Amazon Echo or dash. Prices on Amazon books will be the same as the prices offered at Amazon.com to resolves the customers need to compare prices the online and in-store prices.
When Amazon releases new devices in the future, it will be available in the bookstore on the same day. So the Kindle Voyage II, the new Kindle Basic and Kindle Paperwhite, once they are available for sale, it will be displayed in the bookstore. So patrons can go to the store and purchase it at once rather than waiting for a few days shipping when you buy it online.
If this first store does well, they’ll open up more stores most likely in the Seattle area since Amazon is a Seattle company. They will expand out of the Seattle territory soon.
Physical stores will help Amazon win on delivery. Stores could double as a product pickup point, a distribution warehouse, and eventually, use the location as drone airports to pick-up and deliver products to the nearby houses and businesses.
5. Provide superb customer service.
One of Amazon’s secrets is that it accepts returns, no questions asked. The physical stores would make it easy for customers to return products.
The brick and mortar could also serve as “Outlet” store to accommodate and sell returned merchandise. This facility would help Amazon increase its bottom line.
Dispute Resolution is another key strength of Amazon. They strive to resolve issues swiftly so that intervention is no longer required. They believe that “the best service is no service when things just work right.”
Customer recovery is highly critical. Even with the best processes in place, things will go wrong. Murphy’s Law states, “If something can go wrong, it will. And usually at the worst time.” Reputable companies follow a process that not only puts the customer first but sees to it that they address the customers concerns as quickly as possible. They also make the customer feel splendid about the experience. Acting with urgency and offering a sincere apology and are two crucial elements of successful resolution.
In this fast changing world, thinking customer first becomes an imperative. Delivering a seamless customer experience will always be one of the essential competitive advantages for any business. Customers are the key to success, and this shapes the way the organization performs. As the Zappos founder Tony Hsieh explains,
We believe that Customer Service shouldn’t be just a department; Customer Service should be the entire company.
What do you think about Amazon’s opening a physical store? Is this a sign of things to come? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts and share it in the comments section below.
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