How Retailers Can Thrive (and Survive!) Against Amazon

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Retailers – I have some bad news.  Those really cool magic mirrors you’ve been adding to your dressing rooms?  They’re not going to lure people back to B-level malls.

Think the future is in pushing app messages to someone when they walk in your store telling them that sweaters are on sale?  Not when Amazon is delivering products in an hour at prices that consumers have decided are perfectly acceptable, even if they’re not the cheapest.

While retailers have been thinking about in-store gimmickry, consumers have decided that what they really care about is a frictionless shopping experience, fast shipping, and a deep product selection.  While many retailers are debating buy-now, wear-now runway shows, Amazon is buying a fleet of their own airplanes to deliver products faster than anyone else.If you want a future in retail, you need to figure out why customers should shop with your brand, instead of Amazon. Here are three ways brands can secure the upper hand (or at least, level footing) in the race against Amazon:

Why should someone buy from me directly

If I were still a CMO, I would ask myself and my team this question: “In a world where my customers can buy my product from Amazon, why would they buy the product from me?” The answer is not “because we are the official site of our brand,” or “because they can learn more about the brand from us.” Those are actual answers I’ve heard and they’re terrible. CMOs need to have that question plastered on a wall on a conference room and lock everyone inside it until there’s an answer because, if you don’t have an answer, you’ll likely be out of a job next week.

Prioritize decisions over data

All brands – whether they’re multi-channel or they live solely in online or physical storefronts – need to use data they have. “But, I need my data all in one place!” No, you absolutely do not.

We live in an instant gratification world where marketers don’t have the luxury of time. Speed and depth of customer knowledge are the keys to driving acquisition, conversion and retention metrics in today’s competitive retail environment. CRM and insight tools offer retailers the ability to amass information for this very purpose, but merely amassing data doesn’t drive results.

Retail marketers don’t need more data, or new tools to consolidate data. They need help deciphering trends in their data and they need tools that help make decisions based on that data. Empower your teams to act on what they know about your customers so you can create truly meaningful experiences at timely junctures in the shopping journey.

Enhance the in-store experience with your best assets – your people

eCommerce businesses must devise an a in-store retail ‘theater’ strategy. Though there’s a great deal of convenience and benefit to be gained from online shopping, it does remove an important level of engagement that can only be gained by stepping into an actual store. Though they seem to have the upper hand today, e-tailers have, ironically, been working to bring more in-store characteristics online for years. They did this through technologies like live chat and personalization.  But brick-and-mortar retailers should forget the over-the-top commerce technology in their stores. They already have the best tools available – their sales associates. A smiling associate who remembers your name and your favorite color, or who can help you save money today is something Amazon doesn’t have. Couple that helpful personal interaction with timely customer data and you have a truly unique experience that can’t be beat by Jeff Bezos’ team.

Amazon isn’t going anywhere soon, but that doesn’t mean that retailers across industries can’t thrive alongside the eCommerce giant. Stop trying to out-innovate other brands and undercut prices. Instead, focus on your brand’s true customer value and embrace it. Remember that your data and your people are your best assets in helping to deliver better experiences.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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