There are plenty of things to be worried about in today’s retail marketplace. The ebb and flow of styles and trends, the shifting landscape of online ad-space, price matching, customer reviews, and of course, the resident elephant in the room, Amazon. The odds seem overwhelming, but a business that keeps an eye on the competition and adapts to the changing environment is the only kind of business with a chance of thriving.
To battle with Amazon especially, a business must figure out the right mix of competition and collaboration to achieve a harmonious equilibrium in the e-commerce ecosystem.
Take Nike for instance. It’s no David and Goliath story, in fact it’s more like Goliath vs. Mothra, but it shows that even a giant like Nike is aware of the necessary positioning it has to take with Amazon.
Back in June, Nike announced major cuts to product lines and workers, to direct attention towards a new initiative known as “Customer Direct Offense”, focused on 12 flagship cities across 10 countries, including New York, London, L.A. Tokyo, Seoul, and Milan. Similar to Adidas “Key Cities”, the new initiative will be about leveraging brand experience in-store and online to reflect the cultural pulse of the cities they are embedded in. The move reflects a bold step towards, as Nike puts it, “creating a local business, on a global scale”.
Take a page out of Nike’s playbook and focus on the strengths you have over Amazon.
For all its convenience, Amazon does little in the form of communicating a unique brand experience or creating a meaningful relationship with customers. Something Nike deals in sades. Both online and in-store environments are the perfect opportunity to offer highly compelling and personalized experiences for your customers. For online stores, this means creating a clear and consistent brand voice across the board.
Take for example Duke Cannon’s premiere product “Big Ass Brick of Soap”. With a tagline like, “If you enjoy activities like drinking American beer or using power tools, then frankly, this is the only soap meant for you”, who needs Amazon? Or for example, Dollar Shave Club. DollarShaveClub.com sidesteps Amazon completely by offering the most streamlined possible method of getting razors to your door. And like their commercials, the process is quick, witty, and straight to the point, it’s a wholesome brand experience from the moment you watch a commercial to the moment you open a fresh box of razors. The paradox of choice says that when a consumer is confronted with too many options, they get less overall satisfaction from their final purchasing decision. Make your product offering as simple and straightforward as possible.
One of the best ways to do this is to leverage high quality, in-house imagery to showcase products.
In juxtaposition to Amazon’s jumble of text and generic product photos, other online businesses have an imperative to showcase the style and quality of their offerings. Anthropologie is a an e-tailer that does this particularly well, with consistently staged product photos for everything from floral dresses to four drawer dressers (say it five times fast).
Ultimately, a business will have to decide for itself if it has the legs to stand on to host its own e-commerce platform. The advantages are plenty: less expensive, unencumbered access to data and analytics, and the ability to completely customize the user experience. However, the business also has to ensure that its website takes full advantage of brand voice, simplified experience, and high-quality imagery.
As for Brick and Mortar? Well, once the Whole Foods / Amazon / Skynet Singularity fully takes place, Brick and Mortar locations will have to do what they’ve always had to do: Offer premiere customer service, host promotions, become a part of the local community, etc…
In some cases, it may be advantageous to adopt a collaborative approach with Amazon. Nike, a brand with strong roots in the online and offline retail environment recently upset the status quo when they began selling some of their products through Amazon. Seems counter intuitive, but the move is actually advantageous to Nike. Before the announcement, Nike was the most sold brand on Amazon due to third party resellers. Having a huge line of their products being exchanged without Nike’s control was netting Amazon and resellers all the money, but by registering as the official sellers on Amazon, they are now protected by Amazon, who is obligated to shut down the third party vendors. Plus, by limiting the amount of product lines sold through Amazon, Nike is creating a tantalizing draw for customers who could be interested in finding more specific product offerings.
Compete or collaborate, deflect or adopt, the one thing you can’t afford to do is ignore. What is your Amazon game plan?