After another record-breaking year of mobile commerce, it has become clear that brands choosing to invest heavily in DTC are reaping the biggest rewards, both in revenues and customer engagement.
It’s no surprise that Amazon Inc. continues to be “the one to beat” in virtually every category. A recent Reuters analysis found that nearly 700 U.S. companies mentioned the retail giant in their quarterly filings in the first half of the year alone. With analysts estimating that Amazon will make up 50% of all U.S. e-commerce business by the year 2020.
But brands needn’t fear Amazon - quite the opposite really. There are a few valuable lessons we can learn from Amazon that, when combined with a mobile-first strategy, will enable brands to thrive and coexist peacefully with the $475 billion elephant in the room.
It should come as no surprise that Amazon’s success is largely due to its customer-centric and mobile-first mentality.
Amazon was quick to prioritize serving its most loyal customer base with a fast mobile app that makes for an enjoyable shopping experience, catering to the modern-day, ‘on-the-go’ consumer. The app receives over 75,000 downloads a day in the United States alone. With mobile-optimized features such as predictive and voice search, a customer can quickly narrow their search for a product and filter through Amazon’s extensive catalog. Users can also specify faster delivery preferences by activating the “Prime” feature, and then within a couple of clicks, seamlessly checkout. Amazon has also created success with its “Prime Day” shopping holiday. Similar to Black Friday, Prime Day encourages more spending on Amazon with exclusive discounts and offers and fast shipping.
By prioritizing the user experience, including, fast search, simple and often free returns, frictionless payments, and creating events that drive a sense of urgency from an already loyal customer base, the e-commerce giant has created an exemplary business model to envy and one that brands should borrow from and emulate as they prepare for 2018.
Brands should think of shopping as an experience, not a transaction. With advances in mobile commerce technology, this has never been easier.
In-store sales associates should be equipped with product and customer information at their fingertips. Modern mobile functionality like POS commerce apps that include clienteling features, empower store associates to provide real-time inventory information, glean insights into past purchase history, and customer loyalty status and preferences. The store associate can also offer the customer, a fast, reliable and simple checkout via the app. An informed sales associate creates deeper engagement with the consumer and results in a more positive customer experience - which leads to increased sales and reduced returns.
The personal connection between sales associate and consumer is something often missing from an online experience and should not be underestimated. Many consumers still relish the interaction, advice, opinions and assistance of a live associate. Extras offered by sales associates, such as free gift-wrapping, can also differentiate a customer experience and draw people in-store.
Much the way Amazon has perfected the digital shopping experience, so too can brands by offering alternate purchase and shipping options. New customer experience models like BOPIS (buy online, pickup-in-store), BORIS, (buy online, return-in-store) and BODFS (buy online, deliver-from-store) are becoming the norm and offer consumers the freedom and flexibility to shop in whatever way is most convenient for them.
Brands should also consider other bells and whistles that may differentiate them from other online players and allow them to stay competitive.
Rent the Runway, the service that provides designer dress and clothing rentals, the company offers same day dress delivery in select markets and recently introduced a subscription clothing service to make dressing for work a breeze. In fact, Jennifer Hyman, the company's CEO said, "...physical retail isn't dead - if you're giving the customer the immediate experience for the price that she wants, she'll show up." The company recognized early on that its customers value speed and convenience. Rent the Runway consumers want an exceptional experience when shopping online for clothes and the company is delivering.
Most brands sell through retailers; it is the obvious way to access a well-established distribution channel. However, selling through retailers makes it difficult to understand who actually buys the product. It also creates additional layers between the brand and consumer. Brands need to build closer ties with the consumer and maximize the number of touchpoints they have with their customers. This increases the likelihood that brands will build mindshare, and that consumers will recall the brand and will choose to interact with it again for future purchases.
Bosch, the German appliance manufacturer, is a great example of a brand doing it right. Traditionally, to purchase your household appliance, you had to visit a retail chain like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Now, you can buy products directly from the company website, thus creating a connection, building loyalty and establishing a channel for customer service. Bosch has also established a user-friendly, mobile-first warranty registration that requires the consumer to simply snap a photo instead of filling out a lengthy paper form and mailing it to Bosch.
In addition to investing in a wholesale channel, and to win long-term and build a true connection with consumers, brands need to also invest in direct to consumer channels. And in this age, direct-to-consumer means building the best mobile experience.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, “What’s dangerous is not to evolve.” Amazon is clearly living by this maxim and brands should too. The rise of Amazon doesn’t have to mean the fall of traditional retail. Rather, companies competing in the retail sector should look at all the things Amazon is doing right.
Consumer preferences have changed, technology is advancing and expectations are rising. Brands that implement change to better connect with their customers by creating an exceptional customer experience will stay the course.
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