Amazon’s dominance in the ecommerce sphere has become the stuff of legend. It’s both the most consistent innovator and the established industry leader, and often it can feel as if everyone else is just playing catch-up to it.
But to get to the heights they’ve achieved today, Amazon had to make a series of savvy business moves.
From their trailblazing use of machine learning and algorithms to their best-in-class membership program, it’s instituted policies and programs that has made it the clear leader in it’s field. And you know what? There’s no harm in learning—or, yes, if you want to call it that, stealing—from the best.
Here are six ways that other brands can take a page out of the most successful playbook in ecommerce.
1 Personalize, personalize, personalize
Amazon’s personalized recommendation algorithm is among the best investments the company ever made. By grouping its customers’ interests and using the intersections to provide recommendations for similar items, Amazon creates an automatic, always-on, personalized upsell that makes customers feel more valued. Combined with its expansive Amazon PPC platform, the level of detail Amazon can target through its personalization engines is truly impressive.
Studies show that customers genuinely appreciate personalization and that it makes them more likely to convert. To add personalization to your ecommerce site, you can use a variety of methods and techniques, including:
- Geotargeting tools to market to customers by their location
- Weather- and season-based personalization
- Tailored recommendations based on shopping and browsing data
- Content recommendation algorithms
- Retargeting and cart abandonment reminders
Ecommerce businesses have numerous choices for personalization software, including industry leaders like Monetate for retail and Cxense for digital media. But in a market with so many options, take some time to do the research and choose the one that’s right for your business.
2. Make it easy for customers to find what they need
Amazon’s success is built on a chain of conveniences: Its search is fairly easy to use, checkout process is painless and shipping is speedy. Each is important in its own way, but creating an optimized navigation and selection process is particularly foundational to its success.
Of course, Amazon has invested millions in its proprietary search algorithms, but you can improve your site’s navigability with a more modest investment in some key best practices:
- Create useful, informative and original product descriptions that serve as a trusted guide for shoppers
- Add autosuggest to your site search feature to allow shoppers to find what they’re looking for more quickly and accurately
- Provide easy-to-use navigational tools such as category buttons or drop-down menus
- Use faceted search and product filtering options for customers who want a more browsing-focused experience
- Create visually rich search results pages that include high-res images of items
- Use cookie retargeting to remember users’ preferences (there’s personalization again!)
3. Offer A meatier loyalty program
Amazon Prime might be the best deal around as far as premium membership programs go. For just $12.99 per month, you’ll get streaming video, streaming music, Whole Foods discounts and, of course, the legendary two-day free shipping. What’s not to like?
That’s not to say that most businesses will be able to offer the same smorgasbord of benefits that Amazon does. The company’s incredibly wide reach allows them to pack a lot of value into a single service, and its abundant cash flow helps it absorb the high costs of these services. But it is worth asking if your loyalty program can offer more to your customers. Consider some techniques to add variety and value to your loyalty program, including:
- Reward forms of customer engagement other than buying, such as watching a video or signing up for an email list
- Look into teaming up with other businesses to offer co-branded rewards
- Create a referral system that rewards customers for recommending your business to their friends
- Offer different options for customers to cash in their rewards
- Create values-based loyalty program incentives such as donations to a cause
4. Make checkout a breeze
Cart abandonment is among the most vexing problems of ecommerce for many retailers. In one study on why customers abandoned their carts, 34 percent cited being asked to create an account and 26 percent said the checkout process was too long and complex. That’s one area in which Amazon excels. Not only does it allow guest checkout, but it breaks the checkout process down to its most essential components and even allows one-click ordering.
It’s surprising how often ecommerce retailers don’t follow simple best practices of checkout design. Whether or not cart abandonment is a problem for you, ecommerce websites can always benefit from some checkout streamlining, including:
- If possible, allow customers to check out without creating an account.
- Provide clear instructions for filling in all required fields.
- Don’t ask the customer to fill in unnecessary fields.
- Show the customer where they are in the checkout process and allow them to navigate freely forward and backward.
- Set up your site to send automatic follow-up and tracking emails.
- Make sure that your mobile checkout is just as fast and effective as the desktop site.
5. Create time-sensitive offers
From Prime Day to Cyber Monday and beyond, Amazon knows how to light a fire under the customer to take action. It even offers a rotating selection of daily Lightning Deals, as well as frequent sales on e-books. These limited-time offer strategies help maintain customer engagement by keeping shoppers checking the site more frequently to see what’s new, and it encourages conversions by reminding customers that the deal won’t last.
These are great strategies to borrow, and they’re some of the easiest to implement. You might even be able to do it with the tools you’re already using. Email marketing is a good platform for time-sensitive offers since it allows your brand to speak to the consumer directly. Social media can also be a good platform for this kind of offer since it allows you to situate your offer as part of a timeline and run your ads automatically during certain time periods.
6. Focus your resources on the customer’s experience
For all its many bells and whistles, Amazon’s front end is based around a relatively simple concept: make sure the customer’s experience is easy, fast and logical. When your team is designing a new website UI or UX element for your ecommerce experience, remember to keep these goals in mind. What seems like an easy option for someone with inside knowledge of the products and site might be intimidatingly complex for someone without—so make sure that you’re designing with the customer in mind.
Amazon has created the standard against which all ecommerce experiences are judged—but for an ecommerce entrepreneur, that should be a motivating factor rather than a discouraging one. By making smart choices and taking the elements that make sense for your ecommerce business, you can borrow a little of that Amazon magic and your customers will love you for it.
Author Bio: Ron Dod is the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Visiture.