Lessons from Amazon

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.

amazon_prime sm

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

http://www.crossovertec.co.uk     www.golfdatatech.com

Old, “Establishment” Brand Makes Changes to Move with the Times! What can Golf Learn?

BBC 4 recently broadcast a thought-provoking documentary that had some very useful insights for the golf industry: “Inside Bentley – A Great British Motor Car”?  

It featured the thinking behind a £800 million investment in their latest model, the Bentayga: the fastest SUV ever built – a Bentley on steroids! It is the first time that they had developed an SUV. During its development it was essential that it sat perfectly in Bentley’s image, yet capable of winning-over future generations of customers. Clearly, they had recognised that, as the number of older customers diminished, (“the blazers” as they were referred to), the company needed to respond to the wants of younger generations.

Step one demanded product development as identified.

Step two importantly was the need to modernise their image at the point of sale. Hence the program saw the world’s oldest and largest Bentley dealer, Jack Barkley of Mayfair, having its interior stripped back and being replaced with sleek, new modern fittings and fixtures.

Bentley, an icon of British society, and Rolls Royce, have both recognised the need for change.  So must the golf industry if it is to prosper in changing times and it too needs to take a similar two-step approach.

The first, updating the product: offering different forms of golf, e.g. speed or football golf, for example, and competitions that are more in tune with family life today. The second, going out of its way to promote a new image for the sport giving it a much-needed, wider appeal: particularly to the Millennials who are so different to the majority playing golf now but need to be captured for the future.

Food for thought for the New Year!

Black Friday: Real Deals or Marketing Fluff?

It’s another year of Black Friday mania, but is this all a benefit for the consumer … or retailer?

With all the advertising that is going on, you would think most retailers are giving away stuff for free. However, in terms of consumer bargains, lots of the deals don’t really seem to deliver.

Buyers Beware

I’m sure there are a few steals to be had, but in general, buyers should beware. Money Saving Expert and Which? (the consumer rights site) have both reported that some deals are not as good as advertised. Last year, Which? published a study reporting that over 50% of “Black Deals” had been the same price or cheaper earlier in the year.

Continue reading “Black Friday: Real Deals or Marketing Fluff?”

Game, set, MUG – and where’s The Open!!!

Having just come back from one of the practice days at The Open I can’t help feel disappointed that many of us won’t be able to watch it live on TV. For those that are interested but don’t have Sky we have to settle for a compilation of highlights late in the evening. Why have those that are supposed to be guardians of the sport hidden it away? Continue reading “Game, set, MUG – and where’s The Open!!!”

Competing for audiences


Hey, did you see the cycling World Cup a few weeks ago? It was great to watch Britain continue to take gold medals: five in total. Even more exciting to witness the stars of tomorrow, such as the 21-year-old Emily Kay, stepping into the lime light, while some of our Olympians were taking a well-earned rest.

But to me there was something else to take note of. The sport’s governing body was experimenting with new race formats specifically design to excite the audience. Their objective, no doubt, to fire up potential new entrants to the sport. A much-needed task for the golf industry.
Continue reading “Competing for audiences”

Merchandising, Facebook and a tidy shop

Phone Facebook

I spend quite a lot of times in shops. In our line of business it’s a good thing to do.

Some people ask me what makes a good store. While there is no silver bullet I do think a good store makes the target customer want to buy (and makes a profit). To some that might sound like a bit of a cop out but the reality is that should be exactly what every retailer is trying to achieve. How they achieve that will be very different from target customer to target customer but it often comes down to the merchandising.
Continue reading “Merchandising, Facebook and a tidy shop”