Competing with Amazon can be daunting. The company has a number of obvious advantages: scale, resources, aggressively low prices, cheap shipping, and a diverse product line.
In today's round table feature, "The 'Amazon' Race: Surveying Retail's Competitive Landscape," Anna Papachristos speaks to industry analysts and our former Customer Champion who weigh in on how retailers can differentiate their own brands to drive innovation. All agree that retailers shouldn't emulate Amazon, but work to improve their own customer strategies in terms of integrating channels, optimizing service, and maximizing convenience.
Mark Stevens, vice president of customer experience at Eargo and a 2012 1to1 Media Customer Champion, offered an interesting position. He said what he sees trending in the online retail space is the practice of turning relationships between retailer and customers into a consultative partnerships where companies truly understand how to bring value to their customers' product and service experience.
"The future of retail will depend upon understanding what we can do as a company to proactively and reactively provide customers with accurate opportunities to enrich their lives because we understand them as people and we understand their stories," Stevens said.
At 1to1 Media, we call this "proactive customer service." Peppers & Rogers Group Founding Partner Don Peppers says the strongest possible proactive customer retention policy is simply to offer a frictionless customer experience.
"Because customer dissatisfaction is much more heavily correlated to defection than customer satisfaction is to loyalty, keeping obstacles, problems, and difficulties out of a customer's path will almost certainly reduce the likelihood that the customer will defect from your brand," Peppers said in his blog. "Yes, you can and should also try to "surprise and delight" customers, or to "wow" them with terrific service, but these efforts can only be truly effective once you've eliminated the obstacles.
To offer further guidance on how to design your own frictionless customer experience, Peppers offers these four elements as a design guide: Reliability, Relevance, Value, and Trustability. Once these tools are in place, only then will retailers have influence over Amazon.