Times are a changing, and in the world of retail, things move very quickly indeed. The online (clicks) and offline (bricks) continue to battle for the consumer spend and, of course, each has its pro’s and cons. Bricks and mortar provide the experience and immediate gratification of being able to touch and see: whereas online stores have seemingly infinite choice, and greater convenience, enabling you to shop from your armchair.
If the online channel is of interest to you, then there is one certainty – Amazon has changed the marketplace for ever.
So, what does lessons can golf retailers learn from the largest online retailer in the world?
Lesson 1: Have Clear Business Aims
Amazon established clear business principles and focused on them without distraction – no matter what anyone else thought or said.
Lesson 2: Focus on the Customer
Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos on 5th July 1994, and started life selling books at below-market rates. This, and its extensive range, quickly got the new business noticed. From these humble beginnings, Bezos stubbornly maintained his focus on customers: continually researching, experimenting, testing and focusing on what customers want. Amazon wants to know everything about its customers and is truly customer-centric in all aspects of the business: in funding, ranging, distribution, after sales services, optimising costs through the supply chain .. right down to the customer doorstep.
Lesson 3: Deliver a Great Customer Experience
Over the years, the brand has established itself as a safe place to shop. You can buy and return orders with confidence, knowing you’ll only deal with Amazon, who will sort out any glitches that, inevitably, occur. Many of its customers use it as their first-choice website, and don’t even bother to check if they’re getting the best price – I’m one of them! This tactic has been a great brand-building exercise, turning shoppers into loyal lifetime shoppers.
Lesson 4: Get Customers to Return Again and Again
In the early days, Amazon undertook few traditional promotional activities: relying on other elements of their mix to carry them through, namely price, range, convenience and word of mouth.
However, they understood that the returning customer was the most valuable and offered Amazon Prime, as a way to keep them coming back.
Now their Prime programme plays a major role, achieving very high conversion rates. In research undertaken in the US, 50% of households are members of Prime, and over 50% of searches for retail products start with them. Members’ annual spends are almost twice as much as non-member.
Lesson 5: Offer the Largest Possible Range
From the outset, Amazon offered the most extensive ranges. As the business grew, it added more and more product groups – the most recent being food – creating the need for more capital investment. Amazon was smart, and circumnavigated this by allowing other retailers to operate through their site. Greater ranging with someone else’s capital – that’s thinking outside the box and a smart move!
Just as a sub note, I am not suggesting everyone has to have the widest range in their store but there are ways to offer a huge range by thinking laterally.
Lesson 6: Speed Over Substance
Their website is far from the most stylish. However it recognises that today’s shoppers, in particular the younger generations are impatient. They want everything now. If your web pages and filters don’t load fast, users will lose interest and move on. Amazon’s site is quick: allowing customers to find what they want without the wait.
Lesson 7: Make It Yours’
Younger generations, and, to a lesser extent, older ones, have the desire to be seen as individuals, and not “just another customer”. They love personalisation: a feature that is clearly recognised as important by the extensive use of the word your: Your Orders, Your Recommendations (incidentally I purchased something from this listing while I was researching this blog post!), Your Music and, reminding you of what you have bought in the past and encouraging repeat purchases with Buy It Again.
The site is also quick to offer “up sell/add ons” – items that help to boost order sizes and claim more of your spend.
Despite its online ‘dominance’, Amazon has realised that it can’t achieve its goals through the web alone. It needs bricks to service its customers, and has started to acquire offline retailers… Recently buying Whole Foods and rumours are that it’s also interested in other large retail Targets.
If the biggest online retailer needs offline, this clearly points to the fact there are opportunities and strengths to the real world retail experience, something that should give hope to all retailers.
We can’t all behave like Amazon – only they can do that. However we can take some pointers and implement them in our businesses to help us compete. In a future blog I will translate some of these elevated ideas in to practical actions for the golf retailer.
For real insight into how the serious golfer views Amazon as a purchase channel, have a look at the very recent report from Golf Datatech. This study analyzes the overall effect of Amazon on the Golf Equipment and Apparel Markets – with detailed opinions from over 1200 respondents. For more information head to Golf Datatech Amazon Impact Report.
Phil Barnard is the Chairman of Crossover Technologies, and European Director at Golf Datatech. He provides regular insights into market activity within the golf and sports industry with his webinars, blogs and increasingly-popular articles. Follow him on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/phil-barnard or Twitter @barnard_phil