These days, it seems that no business is immune to the Amazon effect.
Grocery chain stocks (Costco, Target, and Walmart among them) lost a combined value of $12 billion at the end of August. The loss, coincidentally, occurred after an announcement that Amazon will slash Whole Foods’ prices.
Many massive retailers are losing out to Amazon, one by one. If large, established names such as these are so heavily affected, how can any business come away unscathed?
News flash: some retailers are surviving – and thriving – despite Amazon’s efforts to overtake the market. There’s a new term in the popular lexicon to describe them. They are called “Amazon Proof”.
Why are some retailers Amazon Proof and others aren’t?
Given that retailers get differing results when faced with the Amazon juggernaut, it stands to reason that there are some key differences. Some are within the retailer’s sphere of influence, and others are somewhat circumstantial.
Take a look at the 3 key differentiators for Amazon Proof retailers:
The in-store experience is very compelling (if not required).
One thing Amazon can’t compete on widely is the in-store experience. There is actually one Amazon brick-and-mortar store in New York City, so that could change in the future. But for now, retailers with a compelling in-store experience win out.
The restaurant industry is a great example. People go to restaurants for a dining experience, not just to eat. And really, this is circumstances: if you run a restaurant (or a chain of restaurants), Amazon is not going to be at the top of your competitor list.
However, other types of retailers can create compelling in-store experiences, even if what they’re selling isn’t a vital necessity. Those experiences run the gamut from white-glove, personalized service (like Tiffany & Co.) to a seamless, technology-enhanced experience (like Bloomingdale’s “Me-Ality” sizing stations).
And what do these retailers have in common? They have a thorough understanding of their customer base, and they use that understanding to create opportunities to drive in-store visits.
Discount stores and low-price leaders win based on price.
Amazon has an incredibly complex and aggressive pricing strategy. It’s most evident during the holiday shopping season, when Amazon, Walmart, Target, and other large retailers go to battle for the lowest price.
However, Amazon is not in the business of selling heavily discounted merchandise. This is another space where retailers are somewhat insulated from the Amazon effect. Low-price retailers like TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshall’s, and Burlington Coat Factory offer brand-name apparel sold at significant discount. Dollar stores offer the same heavily discounted strategy for household goods.
Low-price retailers win based on price, but for a few other reasons as well. Customers are willing to go to a physical store, sort through merchandise to find what they need, and don’t want to pay the extra cost (or wait) for shipping.
For many products, “try before you buy” is still tantamount.
Online stores have revolutionized the way we shop, but consumer shopping habits remain the same. We as humans still want to look at and touch items before we make a purchasing decision. Sure – photos, dimensions, and online reviews help, but they don’t get us 100% of the way there.
And the data proves this out as well. According to a recent study by Retail Dive, the desire to see and touch an item is the top driver for choosing physical stores over online shopping.
Furniture, apparel, sporting goods, and toys are all great examples of “reach out and touch” products. You want to sit on that couch and feel the material. Will that sweater be too itchy, and how long are those sleeves in reality? And from a kid’s perspective, think about how much fun it is to go to a toy store and try out different toys.
Can my business become Amazon Proof?
There’s no sure fire way to Amazon Proof your business, but you can consider proactive ways to keep Amazon from encroaching on your territory.
A good place to start is looking at your in-store experience. Could you stand to learn more about what customers want from your brick-and-mortar store? Gathering customer data (and learning from it) can enable in-store changes that meet customer needs.
Think about your suite of products as well. Do they lend themselves to “try before you buy”? If not, maybe there’s a way to shift your product inventory to focus on products that require in-store visits.
And last, discounting is definitely an option, but it’s not a fit for all business models. It may not be the right strategy for all your products, but focusing more on discounting when you’re trying to move inventory might be an option. For example, Nordstrom is not a discount retailer, but they do have a massive bi-annual sale to move off-season merchandise.
Want to learn more about trends in retail performance? Check out our recent post, “What Stores’ Top 100 Retailers are Doing Right.”