Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Where Amazon falls short, the mid-market brands can shine

By Jack Wearne, CEO, Ve Global

Amazon is one of the brands that has greatly benefitted from the pandemic. With the accelerated shift to online commerce, the retail giant continued to see its sales increase regularly, with a 9% year-on-year uplift in the last quarter of 2021 alone.

However, despite the sales uplift, the company has been feeling the effects of supply chain shortages. Additionally, it has had to offer wage increases to attract and retain its workforce. As a result, in a first attempt to compensate, Amazon has decided to increase the annual price of Prime subscriptions in the US from $119 to $139, and the UK can expect to see an increase soon as well.

While this is a relatively minor price increase, it does mean that, if customers wish to keep the convenience, they must at least sacrifice the cheap price – diluting Amazon’s main pull factors. This is presenting a big opportunity for mid-market brands to compete with the likes of Amazon, by shining where they’re strong – customer experience – without sacrificing on price.

The power of expertise

Mid-market brands have mastered the art of a killer customer experience in-store, thanks to the trusty sales assistant. But many have yet to replicate that online. With their superpower stunted by the pandemic, it’s no surprise consumers have just been opting for Amazon instead when shopping online. In fact, our recent research shows that 43% of British consumers are abandoning online checkouts at the last minute to look for and purchase items on Amazon. And many are doing so because they lack the confidence to buy from the original brand.

We know that what gives consumers the confidence to purchase from one online store over another are more detailed product specifications (37%), the ability to get recommendations (21%) and guidance (19%) on the site. This is where Amazon falls short, but also where mid-market brands can and should shine, if they get it right online.

Mid-market brands are the real subject matter experts, and this is exactly what they need to leverage to give customers the guidance and recommendations they’re looking for when shopping online. By honing in on their expertise, they can give customers the confidence to buy from them, not Amazon.

Experience is what counts

As Amazon starts to hike its prices, its failure to prioritise personalised customer experience will come back to bite. Today, the empowered shopper is far less accepting of poor experience in exchange for convenience.

And contrary to popular belief, chatbots are certainly not cutting it in terms of delivering impactful experiences for customers. In fact, our research also found that only 6% of consumers use chat facilities on websites. This is not all that surprising when you consider how frustrating it can be to use them. For the most part, they are stuck following a pre-programmed script, and they don’t have the answers if you deviate from it. Ultimately, chatbots are nothing more than interactive FAQs masquerading as real personalisation and consumers have caught on to that.

Most brands operate on a “one size fits all” model, but the reality is that one size never fits all. The best way to achieve exceptionally personalised experiences is to implement a toolkit just as diverse as each customer it serves. On-site problem solvers and surveys can be a great way to provide direct assistance, while at the same time gathering valuable insights into customer preferences and purchasing habits.

The ultimate key lies in pinpointing the motivation of each customer during an individual visit, and then tailoring the experience accordingly. Adaptable brands are already using technology to intelligently analyse customers’ digital body language when they’re searching for products, and delivering tailored guided selling to get them over the purchase line. This is what will give consumers the confidence to buy from them and not jump ship.

With customers abandoning their baskets at the last moment for the likes of Amazon, many mid-market brands have become a mere stepping stone in the consumer purchase journey. But Amazon’s cracks are starting to show, and the mid-market has a real chance to compete where the giant is falling short. The brands that can hone in on both their secret power of brand expertise and customer experience online will be the ones to give consumers the confidence to buy, and buy from them, not Amazon.