Surviving and Thriving in An Amazon World

Picture: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Amazon’s launch in Australia last November has been very interesting. I, like a lot of people, thought it would be a big deal and they would come out all guns blazing. In fact it was more of a soft launch, however, that is not a sign that they will struggle to make an impact in the retail marketplace. Traditional bricks and mortar retailers should be very wary because Amazon will steadily pick up momentum, particularly when they launch Amazon Prime – which is predicted later in 2018.

Amazon’s many strengths start with their amazing data collection which provides them with the ability to know what shoppers are searching for and buying. They can tailor specific offers based on this. Their web site efficiency in making the browsing and purchasing process seamless, coupled with their massive investment in AI, is designed to make it so easy for customers. Alexa, for many, is going to be the way that we communicate to get directions, weather and make purchases as well as a whole host of other things that we will find her to do. I’m sure they will sort out their delivery challenges as well and be the leader in time from order to delivery at your door for little or no fee.

Try and compete with this at your peril. Yes, every retailer must have an online presence so customers can check out products, availability, and pricing etc. This online presence has to be good, as this is often the first impression many customers have of your brand. More and more we are checking out brands before venturing into stores.

Where I see a massive advantage for bricks and mortar stores is in the basic human need to interact with another human. This won’t happen on Amazon, even with Alexa! These interactions start when a customer first checks you out online and then continues when they visit the store. All of these interactions are opportunities to create positive experiences that are lasting for customers.

When the customer finally gets to a team member, this is where the magic can happen, or sadly in a lot of cases not happen. Store team members can create a positive interpersonal experience that can’t EVER be created online. This is one key advantage over Amazon and other online retailers, which needs to be exploited to its utmost.

Recent research out of the US and here in Australia is highlighting that customers are spending more on experiences than physical products. I have mentioned before that, retailers are getting behind this and investing in technology to enhance the in-store experience. This is all great, but as I have said numerous times, investment in technology without investment in your people is a waste of time.

If the current poor levels of service experienced in a number of stores continue, then customers will only be fooled by the hype of new technology for a short period. If they can’t get help from a friendly and knowledgeable team member who has the customer’s best interest at heart, then the glittering allure of online will be too hard to resist.

There is a short window of opportunity before Amazon and others really get their online offer to a whole new level, so this is the perfect time for retailers to invest in developing their store team members. If they continue to do what they have always done (little or zero investment) then the answer is not the same result, it’s a whole lot worse!

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.