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Marketing Strategies for the New Amazon Era

7 MINUTE READ | November 1, 2017

Marketing Strategies for the New Amazon Era

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John Greer

John Greer has written this article. More details coming soon.

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of our Amazon Series, along with Part 1 – Advertising with Amazon 101 and Part 3 – Strategies for Amazon Advertising

Let’s talk about Amazon. Perhaps you know them from their website. Or their app. Or their streaming TV box. Or their TV shows. Or their cloud computing services. Or their grocery stores. Or the semi-disturbing mothership that they would like to hover over your house.

Their growth has certainly been noticed, and a number of brands, such as Nike, are adjusting their strategies to work with them more and acknowledge the inevitable. While Amazon’s sphere continues to expand, there are still ways to thrive in this changing market.

Amazon’s Growth & The Impact On Retail

Here are just a few of the stats that show the exploding growth of Amazon:

  • Amazon soaked up 43% of all 2016 online revenue.

  • 31% of US online adults start their shopping research at Amazon (Forrester study).

  • Google may be the largest search engine, but when someone has a product in mind, Amazon may be bigger. According to BloomReach, 55% search on Amazon for products first.

In fact, placing forecasts for Amazon’s market share alongside estimates for overall online growth show that non-Amazon online sales will peak in 2020 followed by a slight dip. While online sales are growing, Amazon’s share is growing even faster:

amazon online sales forecast

Further, from PMG’s own research, when Amazon jumps into paid search for a retail category, they jump with both feet as part of their “test internally and launch” philosophy. Below is a typical trend where Amazon drove nonbrand CPCs up 15% in the outdoor retail sector.

Amazon CPC Impact

For grocery/CPGs, Amazon’s Whole Foods acquisition could end up having a similar spike in paid search spend (hat tip to John Stewart for this data insight).

It may feel a bit David vs. Goliath, but as the story shows, there are many ways to survive in this changing environment. Below are just a few of the ways businesses are working with and competing with Amazon.

Make Digital Easy

Obviously, all of Amazon’s abilities can’t be matched. But there are certain points of friction that if you remove them, at least people won’t pick Amazon because buying from you is too difficult:

  • Set up one-click buying to make converting easier. Amazon’s patent for this recently expired, allowing anyone to do the same.

  • Compete on price and shipping.

    • Best Buy has had solid performance while many retailers have struggled, in part from price matching to cut down on showrooming.

    • Customers are expecting shipping to be faster than ever. One option to consider is jumping in with Google Express for quicker shipping.

  • Have a mobile-focused, integrated digital experience. Forrester forecasts mobile will influence $1.4 trillion in offline sales by 2021.

Find Points of DifferentiationThere are infinite ways to differentiate a business, below are a few of the ways to highlight how your business differs from Amazon.

  • You can’t compete with the number of reviews Amazon has, but you can develop a  different review strategy.

    • Is there a market for expert reviews? Or reviews that feel more authentic?

    • What about video reviews?

    • Is there a format for reviews that works better for your product?

  • Capitalize on Amazon’s breadth of products with your own brand messaging. If they are “the everything store,” there’s certainly room for brands that aren’t for everything and everyone.

  • Develop niche content and expertise. Amazon does have GoodReads and Zappos, but it general it’s not going for “niche.” This means if your business is surf gear, dive into being the surf experts and develop original content that people are searching for and sharing around that topic.

  • Featuring exclusive products on your brand site may be a way to drive users straight to your site and get them at least set up with an account for future purchases.

Make the Most of a Local PresenceAside from the Whole Foods acquisition, this is one area where Amazon is lagging. If you have locations, you can be an advantage.

  • It seems obvious, but make sure you have accurate local listings. Google, Facebook, and Apple Maps are all places where your properties need to be included with accurate and detailed information.

  • Closely tie digital and offline shopping. Bonobos men’s clothing sells their clothing online only. Their stores (“guideshops”) don’t sell anything, but they have every size available so you can be sure if their pants will fit before you order them.

  • Create an experience. Nordstrom’s is experimenting with fitting and online ordering stores like Bonobos but is adding in elements like a bar stocked with beer and coffee and a nail salon.

  • Have customer service that stands out. Best Buy has focused on making its employees experts and tech enthusiasts. The bar is low here – customer service agents can’t answer customer questions 50% the time on average.

  • For Whole Foods competitors, Amazon is certain to bring a digital edge to their stores that will need to be examined.

Join the #AmazonResistanceLook no further than the Google and Walmart partnership for an example of companies that are trying to create an alternative marketplace to Amazon. Walmart was added into the Google Express online shopping and delivery service, as well as allowing customers to place voice orders from their own order history through Google Assistant. Since that announcement, Google has also announced a partnership with Target as well.For Google, their ability to catch back up on product search depends on having access to customer data for easy voice ordering, a large number of voice-enabled devices (Android phones, Google Home, Chromecast, etc.), and the AI ability to understand people’s requests.

Wal-Mart is trying to move its own site from discounter to Amazon-style online marketplace by adding brands like Lord and Taylor. Additionally, they also purchased the aforementioned Bonobos clothing line.

Welcome Our New OverlordsWhile they may not be giant space ants, you could accept their position and work within Amazon to maximize your sales through their marketplace.

  • Dive fully into Amazon Marketing Services. Amazon offers multiple ad placements to boost organic sales, and bidding strategically and efficiently can take advantage of those. Review further details with our guide to Amazon advertising.

  • By placing the Amazon advertising pixel on your confirmation page, Amazon can provide retailers with methods for improving your Amazon campaigns significantly. Using Amazon’s data on your customers’ affinities allows a brand to target ad placements to more relevant audiences, as well as learn more about customer preferences.

  • Optimize your product feed within Amazon to improve your organic visibility. While sales, reviews, and fast shipping of your products within Amazon are 2 large factors that are outside of the marketer’s control, other ranking factors are within your reach:

    • Product name, details, and copy all need to be complete and accurate.

    • Use language that properly reflects what the product is called by customer (AKA keyword research).

    • Images need to be high quality.

    • Lots of high-quality reviews are another factor.

  • As Amazon sells more Alexa-enabled devices, there may be opportunities to get more brand exposure or sales through the development of an Alexa app (“Skill”) on the Amazon Echo.

Amazon is huge and still growing, in fact, forecasted by some to even cause non-Amazon online sales to drop in just 4 years. To succeed today, brands need to both take advantage of the opportunities within the Amazon framework as well as develop strategies for operating outside of it. In other words, if your brand should build a voice app, go ahead and build it for Google Home and the Amazon Echo.

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Within Amazon, those include organic opportunities and opportunities to advertise strategically on their properties. Outside of Amazon, making digital a seamless part of the experience, maximizing local opportunities, and differentiating your brand wherever possible.

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