e-commerce, avoid the “driving anger” effect
Considering the times we are going through and the possibility this may be of help, we share below three main tips coming from our direct experience with online sales on Amazon [@ CUORdGUSTO]. This will not be a comprehensive macro-strategy on “how to sell on Amazon” – which we are not able to give - rather, a list of tips that we learned through our journey so far and calls we made on the base of our intuition. As we have a limited track record, we are aware that this list might be incomplete and faulty, however, we felt it could be of good use to anyone approaching online sales - which would likely include Amazon. In facts, this discussion may be agnostic about the particular channel or marketplace and be valid in general terms, even for future unforeseeable e-commerce dynamics.
These tips refer mainly to non-discretionary products. While buyers may start their online search on Amazon of both non-discretionary (e.g. food & beverages) and discretionary (e.g. bicycles), purchasers of the latter may even refuse to buy their dream product there – often one-time purchases. Considering the example of a new road-racing bicycle running for $3 - 5 k, the corporate website may have a completely different “premium feeling” vs Amazon – see Canyon bicycles. On the other hand, non-discretionary products are part of routines better fitting the Amazon ecosystem (e.g. free shipping, Prime membership, Subscribe & Save discounts etc ...).
Despite the limited experience CUORdGUSTO may have, we asked Francesco, who actually “sells wings” online in the form of an energy drink, to confirm the majority of what we are trying to summarize below – he is also the other peanut-butter wizard.
After this premises, let us dive into the three points and a final summary of our message:
Amazon is an infinite and daily fight: in a measure depending on the nature of your company, product, and solution (e.g. marketplace only, Fulfilled By Amazon, …), Amazon must be monitored and managed constantly. Customers’ interactions (e.g. reviews and inquiries), competitors’ initiatives (e.g. ads and related initiatives), problems & opportunities in general, are all more frequent. Moreover, Amazon is a self-reinforcing marketplace and showroom that needs to be constantly fed with repeating purchasing patterns. Of course, it’d be possible to just spend a lot on Amazon advertising, but that would be the same of having an expensive traditional distributor [off-line] – you are likely to start on Amazon with a 15% fee per sale and a 20%+ advertising cost … here we go with a common 35% distribution cost.
People would rather purchase on Amazon than pay a cheaper price: purchasing on Amazon allows customers for peace of mind ; why should they go and pay on your website when they can do it on Amazon with all the perks and perceived security involved (e.g. payment, returns etc ...)? Considering Amazon as a good initial bait and aiming at redirecting customers to corporate websites may be the wrong strategy. It is possible to move customers on preferred sales-channels, but it takes effort, time and a tailored strategy.
Talk to your clients: actually, this is the most important one. If a big company thinks this does not apply to them, we genuinely think that’s wrong; they may indeed have more capabilities to connect and communicate considering their exposure, reach and resources. Please note, “connect” is not “post on Instagram” - which is ok but different - connect, here, means establishing one-to-one relationships. This is not just a motivational idea, it can be done in very structured ways. In our case, we started off with personalized letters included to almost any package we used to send out. As we grew, we standardized the welcoming letters and started sending tailored messages to repeating customers and those with special needs. In time then, we launched random initiatives like including CUORdGUSTO t-shirts to one shipment every week … that allowed effective communication potentially reaching many people, while acting only on one out of many shipments every week. Usually all those activities opened one-to-one communications with customers, not all of them, but enough to create a pool of enthusiasts spreading the message. Basically, in time, it may be effective to implement faster and smaller initiatives, while trying to have at the same time bigger impact.
Note, much of this was done off-site and remotely as we were all working around and travelling, so, do not think hands-on activities can be done only in presence and as a small shop. You do need flexibility and can-do attitude though ...
Starting talking to customers made us realize we could ask them for support: Amazon reviews, product feedback, recommendations to friends and family.
In general, connections represent also faster tools to communicate commercial initiatives, new products, and even issues that customers could help fix. Communication is allowing us to differentiate ourselves in the daily fight (point 1 above) and offer different purchasing solutions (point 2 above).
Everything must be carried on with transparency and honesty; customers will understand whether a company is just trying to get something in return or, on the contrary, is trying to work something out for each-others good.
Finally, it could be argued that online customers are highly binary in their feelings, they will either love the experience you are offering or they’ll hate it. Moreover, key to that perception may be factors you consider to be minor and completely out of your control - like the courier leaving a package slightly off the front porch. Often, online anonymity causes the “driving anger” effect, which entitles customers to act almost irrationally like in quick [harsh] arguments among drivers. Often, however, buyers are just acting naturally and defensively against something unclear or unknown; actively engaging with them - not only answering to inquiries - can bring the relationship back to manageable terms, almost like in brick & mortar businesses.
Once customers remember there are actual people on the other side of the deal, they will feel safer, they will empathize with you ... they will help your mission.
If you are a small business-owner and you need some free help to get you up and running with your online activity, feel free to be in touch. We are not experts, but we may be of help: