It’s Wednesday evening and three brands have already dominated my week.
Netflix, because the new series of ‘Stranger Things’ is out.
Sky Sports, because my wife and I share a strong love for the beautiful game.
And Amazon, because lets face it, I’d rather do my Christmas shopping from the sofa, instead of hitting the shops on a cold miserable weekend.
That got me thinking… How many brands do people need in their lives?
And more importantly what will happen to our favourite brands if Amazon has its way and ends up delivering everything that is bought and sold across the world?
Is this the end for brands?
In short brands continue to be a guarantee of quality. Which in turn builds trust and saves customers’ time. They also help us express our personalities.
The problem is strong direct selling brands (that don’t need Amazon) are also a big threat to Amazon.
So in an attempt to attract more and more brands into the Amazon ecosystem, Amazon are seducing brands, by offering brands spaces on their store and making payment easy. They are even helping brands to attract customers.
The danger is, they are also using their algorithm to monitor what every customer is buying and not buying around the world.
In short, they are letting the brands experiment on their platform. And then if the category starts to fly, launch their own brand at lower prices, with a better position on their store.
Just like Amazon Basics, that now sells over 3000 products across 23 departments.
Or the $13.7 billion purchase of Wholefoods. Which will give Amazon Prime Customers (half of all American Households) higher discounts.
So how can brands stop being swallowed alive by Amazon?
1. Make your brand experience frictionless
Amazon’s huge success comes from putting the customer at the heart of everything they do, delivering stuff that people want, at a low price and with fast delivery. It’s frictionless.
And they aren’t stopping there. Amazon has also introduced Alexa, using voice to remove the friction even further and are experimenting with drones that will deliver the stuff you want to a place you want it.
By taking a leaf out of Amazon’s book, brands could use a similar ‘frictionless approach’ to win over their customers. Thinking about all ways they can get their product into customer’s hands quickly and easily. And creating a better customer experience at every single point along the journey.
Zappos became a billion dollar business by doing just that. Training their call centre staff to go the extra mile to deliver for customers and make it frictionless.
2. Never stop innovating
A big part of Apples success is their relentless pursuit of innovation.
They are always looking ahead and thinking about what their customers will want next. Which is why people queue for hours to get their hands on their products.
Obviously this is a little harder if you’re an FMCG brand or a beer brand that has an original recipe, which you want to maintain. But it’s not impossible.
The customer experience doesn’t stop when a customer buys your product. So the role of marketing shouldn’t stop. It should continue to innovate, surprise and delight customers who have bought the product
Clients and agencies should identify the moments where people interact with their brand. And make them incredible. Creating innovative encounters that are difficult to forget.
3. Create a platform for your product or service
Some of the most successful brands have built platforms that allow them to interact with their customer, interpret data and deliver even more of what a customer loves.
Take Netflix for example. They now know what people watch, when they watch it and can predict what people will like with incredible accuracy. So much so, they are commissioning more and more of their own original series.
Of course if you’re a service brand, (say an airline or hotel) this is easier than an FMCG brand. But these brands can win here too.
I’d rather buy my ‘Nespresso Caramalito Capsules’ from Nespresso directly and explore their new limited edition flavours. After all, it’s a richer experience than a faceless Amazon store. By having their own platform they can see what the world is buying, and predict new flavour combinations. Not to mention using their Nespresso Club Membership to keep people wired.
4: Build a direct relationship
Strong brands are also able to build direct relationships with their customers. They don’t need Amazon to be successful. Just look at Apple and the billions of sales they generate through apple.com To build a strong brand that can defend itself against Amazon, a brand needs to do three things:
1). Firstly, the brand needs to get the product right. It doesn’t matter how good your communication and distribution are. If the product isn’t great, it will be reviewed. It will be found out. And it will fail fast.
2) Secondly you need to invest in building brand equity, creating awareness by making your brand distinctive.
3) Finally, you need to place equal importance and strategic time on the customer experience. And working out how to get products into peoples’ hands quickly and easily. Building a direct relationship with your customers.
Making the experience difficult to forget, from the moment someone hears about the product through to ordering, unboxing and eventually buying the product again and again.
In May, Amazon announced it’s first physical bookstore in New York, with plans to build 400 more over the next few years. This is because Amazon understands how important it is to offer their customers the ability to physically interact with a brand across multiple touch points.
This is not too dissimilar to Apple.com and an Apple Store. Or Nike ID and the Nike Store.
Taking an Omni-channel approach gives traditional brands a huge advantage over Amazon. Because touch, taste and smell are all things that simply can’t be expressed through a screen. Not yet anyway. And when you combine brand awareness with brand experiences it can lead to campaigns that are up to twice as effective*
*IPA long and short of it
So what should you do if you are a brand owner?
In a world of rapid technology driven change, you really only have two options:
You can either take on Amazon at their own game, by being totally customer centric. Making the customer experience frictionless. Building a direct relationship with customers and investing in the brand at every touch point. From screen, through to physical experiences.
Or, if you prefer you could let Amazon be the interface with your customer. Give them your data. And cross your fingers that they don’t decide to launch a product, just like yours.
In my view the latter wouldn’t be the wisest of choices.
About the author:
Guy Bradbury is creative partner at independent creative agency, Atomic. Before starting Atomic, Guy was Group CD at DDB London, Executive CD at RMG Connect, JWT London’s digital agency and a CD at Saatchi & Saatchi X, creating award-winning integrated campaigns for Volkswagen, Virgin Media, HSBC, Tourism Australia and Vodafone.