Amazon is one of the most recognizable brands and ecommerce retailers in the world. Reknowned for their customer-centricity, we take a closer look at what a typical consumer journey looks like for the retailer, from consideration to purchase.
Amazon: Setting The Benchmark For Customer-Centricity
As one of the great successes of the dot-com bubble, there are many stories about how Amazon came to be the brand they are today.
For instance, there’s the one about how founder Jeff Bezos was so eager to start his new venture that when he loaded the removals truck, having just resigned from a well-paying job at a New York hedge fund, he told the driver to “head West,” telling him he would fly ahead and forward over an exact address later.
Then there is the story about the fact that the company, as widely reported in the latter half of last year, is yet to turn over the kind of profit that would be expected for a business of their size, instead choosing to reinvest earnings into further growing sales and investments.
The “?” Elevation
Perhaps the story that really defines the company’s identity, and commitment to the highest levels of customer service, are the brand’s notorious elevations. Now a notorious anecdote of dot-com culture, the story has it that Bezos, who has long maintained a public email address, [email protected], would forward customer complaint emails with a single ‘?’ in the email body, to an offending department.
These emails are treated with the highest priority (Bezos is known to take a keen interest in customer complaint issues) and the story is a great example of how the brand ensures a consumer voice inside the company.
Brand Profile: Amazon
- Global ecommerce and technology giant.
- Complete, and near unparalleled range of consumer goods.
- A key strength of the brand is their reputation for exceptional customer service. The brand prides itself on their class-leading logistics, which enables them to provide both cosmopolitan areas, or remote regions, with the same level of service.
- The brand have built up a strong reputation. In 2014, the brand topped YouGov’s Global Ranking of brand sentiment, with marketing expert Bryan Eisenberg calling them “the Earth’s most customer-centric company.” The same year, Interbrand named Amazon as the 15th most valuable brand in the world.
In recent years, the brand have expanded from their traditional stronghold in ecommerce, to web services and consumer technology:
- Beginning with the hugely successful Kindle e-Reader, the brand have since released the Fire tablet, Fire TV stick, and most recently Amazon Echo – the voice activated computer which has been described as somewhere between “a useful gadget and a member of the family.”
- The trump card in the Amazon’s deck is Amazon Web Services. Launched in 2006 and now operating 1.4 million servers across the world, the firm was recently described by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as “a $5 billion business and still growing fast.” Dan Kurnos, an analyst at the Benchmark Company, told the BBC, that AWS “was surprisingly more profitable than forecast.”
- Competitors: Alibaba, Rakuten, Asos.com, and countless more ecommerce providers in various territories, with various niches. Apple, eBay, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Rackspace, IBM, VMware (technology and cloud computing services).
The Amazon Customer Journey
It’s widely understood that on Amazon, consumers can get just about anything. From obscure one-off purchases, to common everyday items. Over time the retailer have also built up an incredible reputation amongst consumers which has cemented what customers expect from both the brand themselves, and online retails in general.
Amazon have achieved the enviable feat of building a strong reputation amongst audiences across many territories and across diverse age groups. A 2014 report put together by Harris Poll ranked Amazon as the number one brand in the world by reputation.
In general, the brand comes across extremely well in terms of customer expectations. It’s fair to say that with Amazon customers can reasonably expect prices to be competitive, for delivery to be swift, and for a fair and hassle free returns procedure should there need to be.
By all accounts, the brand is accepted by consumers and digital marketing analysts alike to be a paradigm of customer-centricity and excellence.
But how well exactly? In the second of our articles analyzing the customer journey from consideration to checkout, following our evaluation of the Argos customer Journey earlier this year, we put the ecommerce giant to the test.
How well does Amazon provide for digital customers in search of an electric toothbrush?
As touched upon previously, Amazon have built up a tremendous reputation among consumers. Especially in Western markets, Amazon is viewed as a portal from which consumers can access the information about products that they are interested in purchasing.
As Google data indicates, “Amazon” is the most popular retail search term in the U.S.
While other retailers may rely on channels such and social media, or organic search to put themselves into consideration, Amazon shows that a brand that truly commits to building positive brand sentiment and reputation can end up leading the race, gaining a position in their space which puts them at the “top of mind” for consumers.
It is a unique and enviable position among retailers, and one which can only be occupied by market leaders. They do have competition in various niches – consumers may search other branded terms when in search of goods in various niches, but Amazon’s incredible achievement has been to dominate “top of mind awareness” across a vast range of categories.
Consumers landing on the Amazon homepage will be met with a geo-specific version of the site, and thus, for many the Amazon search bar will be the starting point for the purchase journeys they will undertake.
Organic Search & Paid Search
While much of Amazon’s traffic will come directly from branded search terms, that’s not to say that the brand doesn’t have a strong presence in organic search.
As you can see, Amazon has an extremely strong above-the-fold presence for the typical search term “electric toothbrush”, with both paid and organic search results ranking highly.
A unique feature of Amazon search results in Google is that the pages that rank link directly to popular product pages, as opposed to competitors who link to dedicated category pages. The organic search results for example, links to the Philips Sonicare product which has more than 4,000 reviews. This is in line with Amazon’s belief in simplifying the number of steps a consumer has to navigate to checkout.
Too Big For Google Shopping?
While many find it necessary to invest in Google Shopping results, Amazon is in a unique position among retailers in that their own search functionality is as popular among consumers.
A search of several typical products reveals that Amazon results don’t feature in Google Shopping results. While their absence represents a hit to their search visibility on Google, however the brand is reputable enough that the brand’s absence would be notable enough to lead consumers to Amazon directly when comparing products.
Amazon seems to instead rely on paid and organic visibility in the search engine, and the brand have a small amount of investment on the Google shopping results in the form of paid advertising for the popular search modifier “best electric toothbrush”.
Amazon’s own domain is where their main asset, an exceptional user experience, comes to the fore.
Searching for “electric toothbrush” via the Amazon search engine reveals thousands of product results, ranked by relevance, which evidently is heavily influenced by popularity.
Products have clear title descriptions, clear prices, and additional buying options, which opens up the retailers network of third-party sellers in Amazon Marketplace.
Incredibly important to the Amazon user experience is the prominent use of user reviews. Amazon was an early adopter and pioneer of user-generated content and reviews, and every product listed on the site is linked to dedicated customer reviews, which have become a go-to source for consumers everywhere.
Amazon’s review system has become an incredible resource for user-generated reviews, which studies have shown elicit higher levels of trust especially among millennials.
Site Design & Experience
Amazon product pages have become a triumph of utility and efficient design.
To begin with, the initial above-the-fold product page is clean, clear, and contains plenty of negative space, which accommodates the basic need consumers have to view images of the product, as well as the price and color options.
On the right hand side, items can be added to basket via a single click, and for customers who have enabled 1-Click ordering, they can complete a purchase almost instantaneously.
1-Click represents one of the fastest and most streamlined means for consumer to purchase a product online, should they wish to.
Scrolling down the page, customers are presented with a rich source of further product content. Amazon secures an opportunity to upsell via the “Frequently Bought Together” section, which in this case offers replaceable heads for the electric toothbrush.
The product description is a rich source of information and contains manufacturer content about the product consumers may be seeking out, to compare or further evaluate a product.
A relatively recently added feature: “Customer Questions and Answers” enables users to fulfill an extremely useful touchpoint for consumers. Enabling consumers to participate in questions and answers allows Amazon to leverage their huge customer base to achieve the scale they need to provide informative answers for the millions of products in their ecosystem.
The Amazon mobile experience offers class-leading speed and functionality for consumers. The app offers synchronized baskets from previous desktop sessions, and vice versa, performing the admirable feat of connecting user journeys between devices.
Equally, and more on this in a moment, Amazon’s hugely effective tracking of search history allows them to offer an incredible level of personalization in displayed pages.
If a user views a product on a logged-in desktop, they can fully expect to see the same or similar product prominently in their mobile app. If they want to purchase a product they were researching previously, they could do this via the retailers app in just a few clicks.
Ecosystem & Personalization
While ease and availability of the checkout system may sound like a simple concept, it is the result of the brand’s huge repetitional assets which results in the user-generated content and collective endorsement of products that allow consumers to fulfill all the necessary touchpoints for purchase within the Amazon buying ecosystem.
This is the area in which Amazon really excels. The concept of a self-contained ecosystem which provides for all user needs, connecting up the different moments in the user journey, and anticipating what consumers are looking for.
The recommended products are a perfect example of this. Have a look at just how personalized the Amazon site experience can be, based on previous searches and queries:
From experience, after a product is purchase, the prominence of these displays is often toned down as the brand recognizes that the product no longer represents a need for that consumer.
The fact that we have already touched on purchasing product several times in this article, in 1-Click, buying options, and mobile app purchases, is a testament to just how well integrated Amazon’s checkout system is to their overall site experience.
The many features discussed in this article essentially enable consumers to research and evaluate products, and if and when they make the decision to purchase, Amazon’s check out system is only a few clicks away from any point in that journey.
For consumers who decide to purchase, a factor in their decision making may have Amazon’s excellent delivery provisions, which leverages the brand’s incredible logistics.
A highlight of this service is Amazon Prime. A subscription to Prime offers guaranteed next day delivery for any product dispatched from an Amazon Warehouse. Costing $99 per year, the service also includes access to Prime Video, the brand’s streaming service and answer to Netflix.
A little reported benefit, but one that falls in line with the brand’s customer-centric principles is that if a product is reduced in price within 30 days of a purchase, Amazon will refund the difference. Such practices are a great way to move consumers from a mindset of purchase, to a mindset of brand loyalty.
Create Awareness & Build Loyalty
Amazon is a valuable brand, and as such they can rely on established audiences and global reputation in continuing to win customers. However that isn’t to say that they’re not partial the occasional viral video or social media campaign.
Capturing the excitement and instant gratification of online delivery, it is somewhat reminiscent of recent similar advertisements from the likes of UK ecommerce retailer Argos. One of the retailer’s most successful campaigns in recent years has been their unveiling of the concept of Amazon Prime Air.
Some may be skeptical, but like Google’s driverless cars, delivery drones are a testament the tech companies vision and ambition in the field of customer-centric innovation. More than anything else, this represents the brand’s identity in the minds of consumers.
Seasonal Events: Black Friday/Cyber Monday
Finally, any study of the Amazon consumer journey would not be complete without mentioning the retailer’s annual sales extravaganza: Black Friday – and increasingly now, Cyber Monday.
Arguably, Amazon have been a key driver for the growth of the event into the enormously popular shopping event it is today. The event continues to grow year-on-year, and in some territories such as the UK, Amazon’s flash sales and lightning deals, that see enticing time, and stock limited discounts, have broken sales records for the brand.
Such growth indicates that the ecommerce retailer has every reason to believe that their strategy to invest heavily in further growth could be an astute one.
- Highly positive brand sentiment, reputation, and trust among consumers, with the brand topping analysts rankings for customer-centricity and customer service.
- Prominent visibility in organic and paid search results, for an unparalleled range of products, pulling in users under the umbrella of the brand’s user journey.
- Enclosed ecosystem once consumers are within the Amazon site experience, fulfilling multiple informational, and review-based touchpoints.
- Comprehensive availability; millions of available products; a network of third-party sellers; and unmatched fulfillment provisions for both metropolitan hubs and remote regions.
- Incredible simplification of the path to purchase. Customer are able to purchase products with as little as one click.
- Class-leading review system and user-generated content. Amazon reviews have become a valuable resource for consumers everywhere looking to evaluate potential purchases.
- A reputation for customer-centricity and service, cemented into the minds of consumers all over the world.
Without wanting to labor the point, the standout factor that unifies all of Amazon’s activities is their unfaltering commitment to customer-centric principles. The brand’s success is a testament to what can be achieved when a brand commits to a strategy designed around positive reputation and brand sentiment, built on series of satisfactory moments, that in the end, puts their brand, and their services at the top of a consumer’s mind.
In many cases, consumers can have full confidence that when they buy a well-reviewed product on Amazon, they are not only getting great value, but great service. With that level of trust, the consumer journey can be simplified to a few mere steps.
While this article isn’t intended to be a comprehensive analysis of consumers’ online purchase journeys, it provides a window into the many elements that compose the Amazon customer experience. And in the eyes of many, Amazon truly are the leaders in customer-centric online commerce.
What do you think of Amazon’s consumer journey?