Amazon explains its customer-centric approach

Company exec says its willingness to embrace change is what helps it thrive

A lot of business "experts" these days like to talk about the importance of putting the customer first (Tailor your communications, give them what they need, listen!)

There are, however, few companies that have brought this mantra to life and translated it into business growth the way Amazon has. Whether it's the ease of ordering groceries online and having them delivered within hours or the ability to walk in and out of a store without having to wait in line to pay, the e-commerce giant is constantly innovating to try and better serve its customers.

But, as technology evolves, consumer preferences are in a constant state of flux and the expectations they place on the companies they interact with are rising. Keeping pace with these changes is a challenge for businesses and marketers, said Tamir Bar-Haim, the head of Amazon's advertising business in Canada.

"At Amazon we believe having both the willingness and the ability to embrace this kind of change is a key success factor," said Bar-Haim during a keynote presentation at the DX3 digital marketing conference in Toronto. "If you fight these trends, you’re fighting the future but if you embrace them you'll have a tailwind at your back." He urges Canadian companies to do the same.

The e-commerce space is one area where businesses and marketers need some improvement. The projected growth rate for brick-and-mortar retail in Canada is relatively small and declining each year so brands will have no choice but to turn to online sales. "E-Marketer projects e-commerce sales in Canada are going to grow from $32 billion in 2017 to $71 billion by 2021, while at the same time brick and mortar grows at less than 1.5%," he said.

With e-commerce, shelf space is limitless and the barriers to entry are low which helps level the playing field between large national brands and scrappy challengers, many of which can't afford to get their products on brick-and-mortar shelves, he said. For example, Bar-Haim recently ran out of coffee and decided to run a "fun and unscientific experiment" to compare how many brands pulled up through an online search versus what he could find at the local grocery store. The results? He counted 13 products in-store versus 37 products on the first page of his online search results. The grocery industry, in particular, is in a state of disruption and as e-commerce grows, develops and thrives, there will be larger product assortments online across more and more categories, he said.

There's a number way companies can focus their business for that new reality. They can be product focused or technology focused, but it's Amazon's "customer-obsessed view" that has guided it to success, said Bar-Haim. During his presentation he shared these four tips:

  1. Insights. Combine unique shopper insights with creative strategies to engage your audience.

  2. Moments. Connect with the right people in the right mindset.

  3. Experiences. Create brand interactions that inform, engage and inspire customers.

  4. Convenience. Simplify and add value to the customer's path to purchase.

Haim ended his presentation with some words of advice: "Hit the reset button and spend time understanding what needs aren't being met and work backwards to come up with a solution."

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