Why Amazon is a leader in customer experience
Amazon Prime day is upon us once more, and as the world’s biggest online retailer looks set to sell more products than ever before, it’s important to remember what got Amazon where they are - no, it’s not the products... it’s the service.
For over twenty years, Amazon has set the standards in e-commerce with almost unrivaled product inventory and competitive prices, and while that would be plenty for a successful business, what’s taken Amazon to a legendary brand is the combination of customer experience and product that keeps people coming back for more.
Delivery and returns
Amazon has been on the forefront of several innovations in terms of its logistics operation, with a whole host of options designed to make getting products from their warehouse to your doorstep with minimal effort on the user’s part.
The common denominator here is effort - whether you’re buying or returning a product, the experience is effortless - something customers are more than willing to give their loyalty for in exchange.
Delivery Options - As an online retailer, one of the biggest challenges for Amazon is competing with the “now” economy, and finding ways for people to actually receive items purchased. In order to make delivery easy for consumers, Amazon has introduced several options for shipping. Beginning with free shipping - all customers who spend $25 or more are eligible for free shipping with Amazon, and for $119 a year, Amazon Prime customers have the opportunity to get free shipping on thousands of single possible. Recently, Amazon has also introduced Amazon Lockers, which the company calls “self-service kiosks”, where a user can choose to have a package delivered for easier access to a pickup.
Physical Options - Amazon has entered the brick and mortar business by creating Amazon Bookstores, Amazon Go (a checkout-less grocery store), and purchasing Whole Foods, in order to provide immediate access in key markets for customers who are excited about the frictionless Amazon shopping experience, but require faster access to goods. For those less inclined to shop at a physical store, but still in need of goods quickly, Amazon also provides “Amazon Fresh”, which allows for same day, or scheduled delivery of groceries to your home, for an added fee, and “Amazon Restaurants” which provides delivery of meals for same day ordering.
Ordering Options - In order to actually make it easy for customers to purchase goods, Amazon has pioneered systems such as one-click ordering and “Dash” buttons. In one-click ordering, Amazon allows customers to purchase an item using pre-set options (ex. credit cards and shipping addresses), rather than having to take multiple clicks to purchase an item. With “Dash” buttons, Amazon recognizes the need of some customers to re-order certain items and allows customers to leverage the one-touch ordering options at times when they need to re-stock. In order to meet the customers at every touchpoint, Dash buttons are available on the web, in-app, using voice activation through Alexa, as well as for purchase. For example, if you have a Dash button for your Tide detergent, you can keep the button wherever you keep your Tide, and as you see the bottle running low, push the button for a quick order of new Tide.
Return Options - As a retailer, particularly online, it is also important to consider how your customers may prefer to return items. Amazon makes it easy for users to return items. Many products come with a prepaid, printed return label, though those labels are also accessible through the returns portal online. Last year, Amazon also started partnering with Kohls to put return kiosks in select locations, for customers who would prefer to make the physical drop.
Digital Service Experience
Part of providing a great product experience is to consider the digital experience for customers. As one of the first online retailers, Amazon created a model that set the standards in e-commerce.
App - One of the easiest ways to access Amazon and deals is through the Amazon app, especially for Prime Day. With the app, Prime members are able to set preview sale products and select to get notified when they become available. They are also able to order products using traditional online ordering, or Dash buttons, as well as access Amazon restaurants for same-day meal delivery.
Social Media - 72% of customers expect a response to a complaint in under an hour. Today, Customer Service via social is imperative. Amazon monitors the @AmazonHelp Twitter handle seven days a week in seven languages.
What Amazon has been able to do whether, through its website, the app or social media is to carry the experience through across multiple channels. They understand that wherever you meet their brand, they need to make an impression and provide the same customer experience that drives loyalty on other channels.
Building a great product is an important part of a customer’s experience. Amazon has created an ordering system that has provided several components we now expect as consumers.
Searchability - Amazon combines a Google-like ability to search with an ability to sort by Brand, Average Customer Review, Price, and availability, as well as by categories specific to the brand. This morning, I was looking for a new router to help speed up our at-home internet, and beyond the traditional preferences, I was also able to sort by connectivity type (Wireless preferred), computer type, and speed, which helps to make the best decision when it comes to equipping my home.
Product Education - To help you decide on a product, Amazon also provides the ability to learn more about how the product meets your needs. Primarily through reviews and ratings, which users can access to find out more about how a product performs compared to the actual description provided. Amazon also provides a handy recommender system to help users understand which products might best fit their needs based on terms searched, or based on products bought together by other users.
Artificial Intelligence - As part of Amazon’s mission to make life easier, they have moved beyond browser-based recommender systems, to intelligent products, like Alexa introduced in November 2014. More than a way to shop, Alexa is able to assist in playing music, setting alarms, providing news updates, and controlling networked smart devices. Like most Amazon products, the goal of Alexa is to help make your daily tasks easier and to learn to provide better suggestions while doing it.
Another of Amazon’s brands is well known specifically for being an “Experience Brand.” Zappos, former online shoe merchant, and current online apparel provider was purchased by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. Zappos is well known in for creating a culture of WOW, by not only going above and beyond for the customer, but also focusing on employee engagement - and it’s paid off with an incredible 75% rate of repeat business.
The history Zappos's service-centered is highlighted by CEO Tony Hsieh in Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, and its mantra, "Powered By Service" is right on the company logo.
As users, we have high expectations when it comes to brands, largely because of the leadership of industry pioneers. As we are building our shopping carts today, we will certainly be taking full advantage of the customer experience.
Want to learn more about creating great customer experiences?
Qualtrics compiled a reading list based on recommendations from CX leaders, like Amazon. You can download that here. Additionally, a great launching point for improving e-commerce experience is to start asking your customers how their experience has been. Use our free e-commerce purchase feedback survey template to begin gathering feedback.
This post was originally published July 2018, and updated in 2022 for brevity and clarity.
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