What is the Amazon “experience”? It’s likely that you know it well, but, like me, haven’t thought too closely about all of the shifting pieces involved. In the 20 years since it became a public company, Amazon has dominated the digital retail space; growing from a digital seller of books (the first was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas Hofstadter) to a digital seller of everything from A to Z (ever notice that the smiley-face arrow in the logo goes from a to z?). Now that Amazon has become ubiquitous, surpassing Walmart in 2015 as the most valuable retailer in the United States, it’s hard to remember that we once believed there was no way a digital shop could replace or even replicate the brick and mortar “experience” of human-to-human interaction and tactile product interaction.
We believed that, sure, consumers might buy books online, but they’d never buy clothes they couldn’t try on, electronics they couldn’t test out, or groceries they couldn’t see and touch to vouch for their freshness. But, we bought everything and we continue to do so. Though we may all scoff a little at with each new Amazon advancement from in-home artificial intelligence (AI), Alexa, to robot-staffed supermarkets, we find ourselves adapting to Amazon’s vision of the future.
So, how did Amazon create an “experience” that we now fully accept as comparable to shopping in real life? Each month, Prosper Insights & Analytics conducts a monthly survey of nearly 2,000 Amazon shoppers and has recently found that personalized product recommendations and the ability to chat with live customer service representatives go a long way, particularly with Gen X-ers and Millennials. Further, shoppers relate that they can trust the peer reviews, they value the clarity of the shipping and order process, and they appreciate that customer service representatives are empowered to take action. Amazon has achieved a Nordstrom-esque reputation for service. I’m sure you can relate to the following:
Recently, I ordered a coffee table that arrived with some small chips; slight damage from shipping. With just a few short messages to a customer service rep, I had a new coffee table shipped, tracked, and on its way to my home. The amazing part of Amazon’s high customer rating is that it achieves it without any of us ever meeting a human, customer service representative. In reality, much of the Amazon “experience” is an illusion. It’s a digital illusion of human interaction that is built upon the foundation of website personalization.
In our 2017 State of Digital Marketing Report, 42% of the marketers surveyed cited website personalization as a top priority for this year. Yet, as much as we aspire to deliver the Amazon “experience” and build upon website personalization, we marketers know that it requires some serious technical heavy-lifting not limited to an advanced CMS integrated with a Marketing Automation platform and a pristine CRM. If your developers aren’t already under the hood of your CMS, MA, and CRM, then website personalization may not be happening this year. But there is good news. Though the individualized Amazon “experience” might be out of reach, the concept of personalization can be introduced to your website, content, and social media marketing by using personas.
Personas are the foundation of personalized, one-to-one communication. They are fictitious representations of your audiences – who they are, what they like, and most important, what they don’t like. By identifying your persona’s ideal online experience, your business can create targeted content, navigate an ever-shifting digital landscape, and surpass marketing goals.
Amazon has in place world-class technology powered by an army of developers to make personalized product recommendations based upon browsing behavior and recent purchases. For this reason, Amazon CEO and svengali, Jeff Bezos has called customer-segment personas, such as “soccer moms” or “gearheads,” too imprecise for Amazon. But we recommend something more precise than customer-segment personas. Well-thought-out and researched personas that represent your ideal customers’ experience can go a long way to improve the user experience (UX) of your website, content, and social media marketing. In fact, we believe personas are the first step toward transforming your B2B or B2C digital marketing into the experience it really should be, human to human or H2H.