Are the big and strong? Definitely. Do they know something you and I don’t? Hell no. Amazon is simply, but religiously and consistently following very basic principles that build a relationship between a brand and its customers. What can we learn from them?
There’s nothing like Amazon, right? But why? Because they’re cheap? Because they have everything? Because of the reviews? We could sit and list all the things (and there are plenty) that have made the platform so successful, but the real answer, as always, is far more basic and less rational: people who make purchases on Amazon just like the brand and the platform and they’ll always choose it first. How do they do it? The answer: the create a relationship.
To my one and only, with love and appreciation
First of all, we’ll go ahead and state the obvious: There’s no doubt that Amazon’s size gives it certain privileges that aren’t even distant dreams for most of us. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to achieve what Amazon has done with our own brands, ours will just be on a smaller scale. Don’t forget that along with clever business management, it was the correct construction of the brand that brought Bezos and his company the success they now enjoy and those are things that all of us can and need to do.
So, how do you build a relationship?
Just like in a romantic relationship, look at your partner and think what he or she needs to be happy. It’s pretty simple when you think about it: you get back whatever you give. In contrast with others, Bezos’ vision isn’t to look at customers as numbers (which is very hard to avoid in the digital age of funnels and conversions) and for that reason his customers don’t look at him as a number either.
Here are a few of the basic principles that are behind Amazon’s relationship with its customers. We’ve purposefully chosen those that everyone of us can do with our own brands. If you can accurately follow even one of them, it will greatly influence the success of your brand.
1. Quality, and not just in products
If you buy the same power extension made in China on Amazon and on eBay, you’ll somehow come away feeling more confident about Amazon. How? It begins with the fact that Amazon takes every action possible to make sure that the products it sells aren’t trash. Besides the opinions and ratings of users, the company also does everything in its power to hear your opinion. It’s not that there isn’t any deception or mistakes there, but the company’s behavior in reaction to any problem that arises gives users the impression that it isn’t just cheap, it’s also quality.
How do they do it? They simply take responsibility. Everyone who buys from Amazon knows well that whatever happens along the way, you won’t come out the loser. The product didn’t arrive? You get your money back. Is the product broken? First of all, you get your money back, then they check afterwards. If the company is prepared to give your money back just because of your complaint, you understand that the company stands behind its products, meaning that the quality at Amazon is more of a sure thing than almost anywhere else.
By the way, they aren’t chumps at Amazon. Just as you rate them, they rate you as a customer. If you take advantage of their approach, you won’t get the same kind of care for long.
How to do it yourself: Don’t be tempted by low-quality raw materials or final products. Be the profit what it may, be just as critical of your own products as you know how to be as customers at other places. Most importantly, when you make a mistake – which will happen – take responsibility.
2. Small compromises
Amazon knows this better than anyone: A good relationship starts will compromise. But not petty, passive aggressive compromises that come with conditions and official legal language like a court ruling. They simply understand what causes you pain, discomfort or frustration and come to help make it better. And they do it from the very first day, not only when you become a gold member. The impression you get is of a company that won’t fight you for every cent and over time most people treat them the same in return.
How to do it yourself:
Let’s admit the truth: the petty, annoying fights with customers are usually over principles rather than financial losses. As soon as you understand that and manage to ditch the principles, you’re heading in the right direction.
If you’re ready to internalize the fact that you have a business with people – and people are naturally emotional creatures that aren’t always logical – you put yourself ahead of 80% of your competitors for minimum effort.
Being the commercial giant that it is, you would expect Amazon to know everything, no? But everyone on the website and during every interaction the company has with you, it always asks what your opinion is. And if you left negative feedback, you usually get a response. This is a massive effort for a company of that size. Why does it do this? Here too, the answer is the same: everything for the relationship.
This is true for customer service as well. It doesn’t matter if a customer had an issue with a $200 or a $12 product – the issue here is much bigger than money. Someone who contacts customer service wants first and foremost to be heard, understood and for someone to find a solution. They were wise to understand this at Amazon and it’s interesting to see that almost every email they send in response to a complaint begins with an explanation of the problem as you presented it (so you know they understand you) in addition to honest participation and only afterward comes the suggested solution. They show attentiveness – a value that doesn’t cost a dime and is worth more than anything else.
During all your interactions with them, Amazon uses very accurate and consistent brand language that’s easy, middle-of-the-road and above all else human and welcoming, making it very easy to connect to the brand. You won’t get any formal emails from them that begin “Dear sir/madam” and definitely no advertisements. They send simple, relatable messages like a normal conversation between two people. This is also true of the language on the website and conversations with customer service.
How to do it yourself: Make sure to maintain constancy in your language and write every word with the input of a professional. This is actually not a problem usually. The part that most people stumble over is with customer service. Think about it. People spend tens of thousands every months to generate engagement on social media but when you contact them for service they get disappointed and try to wrap up the issue as quickly as possible. If you contact Amazon they’ll be happy you did and you’ll always encounter an inviting and appreciative tone. This can’t be faked, it’s something that has to be honest and come from within. If you’ve arrived at a situation in which customers are happy that they need to contact you, you’re doing it right.
5. Accurate pricing
We talk about this a lot: expensive and prestigious – or the opposite – cheap and simple. This is always a tough decision to make and Amazon shines here as well when it manages to create an atmosphere of competitiveness. Despite the fact that they won’t always be the cheapest, they get you to understand that they are (found something cheaper? Tell us. 20% search but 80% believe it and go with them).
How to do it yourself?
The lesson here is simple: People are ready to pay for small, everyday items but they just don’t want to feel like chumps for paying too much. How much is too much? Now the question is what the perceived value is. How do you create a persona or image that you are both cheap and quality? Allow for good prices, but don’t focus just on that.
In summary, Amazon does one thing just right. They understand your needs and address them. Their goal is to sell products but they always think about what you need first. For them that means quick, free shipping and making the website work for you. These of course are the privileges of a big platform, but you can find your own way to address the needs of your audience. In many cases, it’s much more a case of creativity than financial investment.