Competing in an Amazonian World
Amazon is set to buy Whole Foods for a whopping $14 billion.
What this means for the future of the grocery market remains to be seen. Will an asparagus water at the gourmet food grocer still cost $6? Will regional competitors close? Will drones drop cookies from the sky?
If experimental grocery stores like AmazonGo are any indication, the future will at least be a fusion of food and technology.
While the Whole Foods purchase grabbed a lot of media headlines, Amazon continues to roll out convenient services directly aimed at competitors. Here are a few you may have missed:
The wand exists to make grocery shopping ridiculously easy. Customers can simply scan an item’s barcode in their kitchen and it’s added to their shopping cart and shipped. It sells for $20 and connects you to AmazonFresh along with millions of other products on Amazon.com.
Prime Wardrobe is a clothing box that allows customers to try on clothes before they buy—creating the ultimate online convenience with the ability to make sure your purchase fits. The new offering would immediately challenge current market players like Stitch Fix and Trunk Club.
Prepared Food Kits
Nutritious food delivered to your door is an appealing concept, especially for the less culinary-minded of us. Companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh helped pave the way and now Amazon is making a move to own your dinner table, already offering some prepared kits for prime members.
Reportedly Interested in Slack
Amazon recently turned its acquisition sights on communication darling Slack. Amazon already offers a variety of B2B products to companies such as its Amazon Web Services. Adding Slack would further its position in the corporate world.
With all the recent activity, Amazon seems poised to take over commerce in every sector imaginable. Its logistical prowess, endless financial coffers, and customer-centric focus creates a business behemoth seemingly unrivaled in modern times.
So as a small or medium sized business, what does the future hold for you? How can you compete against the likes of Amazon and not just survive, but win your market?
It might seem daunting but rest assured there will still be plenty of pie—figuratively and literally—to go around. If you want to still win customers and keep the lights on then you it’s important to be strong in two main areas:
Customer experience (CX) is mission critical for today’s organization. It joins the ranks of user experience (UX) and user interface design (UI) as an essential shorthand acronym for success. Arguably, UX and UI are merely subsets of CX. Every interaction, every touchpoint, every experience a customer has with your brand matters. Adding ease and convenience is important, but smaller brands and organizations have the ability to offer exceptional experiences that create positive equity and word-of-mouth vitality.
It doesn’t have to be an expensive or loud effort. Sometimes, it can be a small initiative that makes an impact. A very successful photographer I know uses custom thank you notes engraved in wood for clients. A cocktail bar offers a free “cocktail of the day” during certain hours. Hair salons offer complimentary wine or beer to customers to elevate their appointment. It’s the subtle difference that can stand out. Aside from little touches, providing an excellent customer experience can be accomplished in two other ways:
Consumers demand brands be active and responsive on all channels—especially social media. An unanswered Facebook message or Tweet can leave a bad impression and kindle a fire of bad press. Answering questions, being transparent, apologizing for mistakes, and offering to make up for any shortcomings can win over customers. Social media also gives you a direct line to your customers, helps gather valuable feedback, and enables you to engage in ways that levels the playing field for all.
Employee morale is a key element for delivering memorable customer experiences. It all starts with how your team is motivated to come in and deliver extraordinary service every day. Empower employees, reinforce good behavior with positive feedback, and provide accurate and actionable coaching to make their service an extension of your brand’s values. It’s also important to value work-life balance, as burned out employees create a risk for maintaining a superb experience for your customers.
Customer experience is about the human side of the business, but technology can be used to either reduce customer effort or scale your message. Luckily, there are some affordable options to help you compete.
Enterprise software helps companies crunch numbers, reach audiences at scale, and deliver insights that lead to better decisions. Sounds awesome, but the sticker price usually prevents smaller organizations from investing in big tech. Companies without big budgets can still benefit from nimble software that doesn’t require lengthy set-up, training, or long-term contractual obligations.
Both of these companies offer great on-site chat features that interact with customers in real-time. They can be used to generate leads for your sales team or answer customer questions about products or services. Websites are powerful business tools for companies and these additions drive results by capturing conversations with your visitors.
Managing social platforms can be a bear, but it doesn’t have to be. Buffer and Sprout both offer lower-price options to managing all your accounts in one place. With discovery tools, scheduled posting, and analytics, these software providers are helping businesses compete with today’s socially engaged customers.
If your company or department is in disarray, you don’t need to hire a Six Sigma warrior or break the bank with management software. Companies like Asana provide free and affordable options to keep your teams organized and on track.
Getting your blog articles noticed requires thoughtful planning, killer writing, and good SEO tactics. Another way to augment your content is using a native advertising platform that distributes it around the web. Outbrain is a good option for smaller budgets because it offers self-serve ad placement instead of expensive upfront advertising minimums.
Datanyze is a next generation SaaS company that provides technology insights on prospects and competitors. If you know your target audience, the free Datanyze Chrome web extension gives marketers the ability to identify what technology your prospect uses. This can help you shape your sales strategy to offer new software or frame your competitive pitch accordingly.
There are really great content companies helping power global companies. If you read expensive in that sentence, you are right. Luckily, there is an answer for smaller companies looking to extend thought leadership. Scripted has lower-priced plans and connects you to freelancers ready to write your next lead converting blog.
While it may not be a good business decision to go toe-to-toe with Amazon, you can still compete and be successful by focusing relentlessly on the customer experience and leveraging low-cost, efficiency software to help you scale. By taking care of your customers and providing exceptional service, you give competitors less opportunity to swoop in and take away market share.
Kevin Bugielski is the Marketing Manager for Victory Lap, a purpose-driven startup changing the sales game. Avid Snapchatter, SoulCycle lover, newfound runner, but ultimately, a foodie.