How to be like Amazon
Amazon is widely recognized as the original personalization pioneer. For over five years, Amazon has prompted case studies and headlines about the way it uses personalization and recommendations to live every marketer’s dream: showing the right person the right thing, at the right time. This relevance in shopping has been demonstrated to increase revenue and conversion time after time.
But I’m not like Amazon, you might say. Maybe you don’t have the resources or bandwidth that Amazon can afford to sink into its personalization efforts. Maybe you don’t have the expertise or know-how to personalize. Luckily, with advances in AI and Machine Learning, along with increasing accessibility and affordability for personalization software, anyone from retail giants all the way down to mom-and-pop shops can afford personalization. More importantly, the question increasingly becomes: can any online store afford not to have personalization?
How does Amazon do it?
If you have a personal Amazon account, go ahead and have a quick look on your Amazon home page. If you’re anything like me, you’ll see recommendations for you, ranging from quite generic to very specific. for example, The Great British Bake-Off has just started and so I’m being shown baking implements and tools despite not having bought any baking things from Amazon before. My recommended books are very specific based on my past purchase history, and I have a relevant audiobook offer that I’m actually quite tempted by.
If I click on any of those categories, and then click on an item, when I scroll down I see a cross-sell: Customers who bought this item also bought items X, Y and Z.
As I browse through the site, however, I’m continually being shown relevant banners such as women’s dresses, more book recommendations, recommendations for items I looked at but didn’t buy.
I have no doubt that my experience is unique, personal, customized, and incredibly streamlined to help me get from point A — thinking of a product I might like — to point b — buying that product.
What are the lessons we can learn here? How can we apply Amazon’s winning strategies for any business?
Delicious, delicious (and effective) personalization.
One-to-one marketing has always been a buzz word and focus for marketers. The advent of personalization means it’s closer than ever to becoming reality. However, manually creating content aimed at highly specific niche audiences can be time consuming, a resource not all companies have.
Amazon’s solution is to layer many different levels of personalization onto their site. Amazon displays personalization of all different depths, integrated seamlessly onto their site to deliver an experience which will be relevant for most visitors, with a minimum of effort.
I’m being shown items Amazon thinks will be relevant based on my customer profile (I’m a twenty-something year old woman); current events, such as Bake-Off; and the time of year, which in my area means that school is starting. With these broad strokes of personalization, Amazon can be sure to hit on some relevancy without investing in too much effort.
Keep an eye on trending events, like Bake-Off, or the Olympics, or even a fun little-known holiday like National Hug Day. Every event is an opportunity to market, if it’s relevant to your business.
Ready — set — BUY!
Another point of note is relevant times of year for your customers. For instance, if you sell gardening supplies and tools, winter and springtime are likely to be critical for your customers. However, if you sell clothing, events like Paris Fashion Week or the start of a mid-season sale might be more appropriate time points to think about.
Finally, divide your customers into groups. These don’t have to be demographically based — for example, you might find your customers can be grouped into first-time visitors, multi-time visitors who have never purchased anything, and loyal converting customers. Each of these three will respond best to a different kind of marketing. Later on you can build on these types to be more and more targeted, but especially to begin with even customizing for just three types of buyer personas can be hugely valuable.
The result of this kind of layering is that with a minimum of effort, each customer will most likely see (and buy) a product that is relevant for them.
Give your customers what they’re looking for before they even know they need it.
Over one-third of Amazon’s revenue comes from upsells and cross-sells. Read that again: fully 35% of Amazon’s huge annual revenue comes from offering people complementary or more expensive alternatives to their customers.
Has this ever worked on you?
Here’s an example from my own Amazon page:
Camera, case, and memory card
This kind of real-time, ultra-personalized recommendation can be hugely powerful. Visitors to your store can be inspired and excited, ultimately resulting in them making those additional purchases.
On the same product page, I see an upsell as well:
A more professional set of equipment
The best part about this bit is that it can all be done by AI. Machine Learning can determine which products are frequently purchased together, simultaneously adding social proof to validate a purchase and persuading the visitor to buy more than they might have originally. For example, so many fashion retails today offer their customers the option to ‘complete the look’. By offering a matching pair of shoes, necklace, or belt, the outfit can be completed. This makes the customer happy, and nets you additional revenue.
Upselling might require a bit more manual work but as demonstrated by Amazon can reap huge rewards for only a small effort. Determine which products on your site are the most popular and see if you can find a more luxurious, upmarket equivalent to sell to them. Chances are your customers are already interested.
The takeaway here is that your visitors really are just waiting for you to give them the perfect match for the product they’re interested in.
One size does not fit all.
One thing Amazon does incredibly well is pander to each customer. By building a totally unique homepage and recommendations page that changes depending on the user, the day, and even real-time behaviour, Amazon continually delivers personalized, relevant content that’s perfect for each individual.
Not even just in the home page and personal recommendation page: even as you browse ranges and products, Amazon’s site is peppered with little recommendations and offers just for you, based on what you’re doing now, what you’ve done in the past, and what customers like you have done.
The result is a website that feels like it’s anticipating a visitor’s needs.
For example, in the online world, shoppers rarely make a big purchase on their first visit to a store. Instead, they tend to do browsing and research before making their final purchase. When I leave Amazon after viewing an item and return, my recently viewed items are front and center, so I can easily click and buy it.
In another instance, when I click on a product (a journal in this case), when I scroll down I am presented with a personalization showing me what customers buy after viewing the item — with options for best-selling, top rated, and lowest price.
These are just a few examples to show how Amazon caters to the individual — trying to anticipate and answer any questions they might have, any problems they might encounter, all while still making it incredibly easy to make that purchase.
What is it possible to learn from Amazon?
Use all different depths of personalization use cross-sells and upsells wherever you can, and make sure you’re making it easy for your customers to find (and buy) what they’re looking for. Recommending the right thing at the right time to the right person is more possible than ever before.
Anyone can be like Amazon today. All you need is the right approach.