Every retailer and shipper is constantly trying to keep up with Amazon.com. Some are even chasing the ultimate accomplishment of surpassing the online retail giant. Similarly, even Amazon pushes itself to be the best, as it knows that with each conquered goal there’s higher expectations from customers waiting for it. As retailers imagine Amazon flipping through its large playbook to find the next innovative shipping strategy or marketing idea that will change the retail industry once again, many may be surprised to hear that this playbook holds just one idea focused on one simple mantra: everything is about the customer.
All of Amazon’s shipping strategies and marketing ideas come down to the customer experience. For Amazon customers, their demands center around convenient and fast delivery. Due to this, the retailer created a combined approach that includes its Amazon Prime subscription service with two-day shipping, Amazon lockers for convenient delivery, and its own carrier service for more shipping control in order to meet these expectations. Without realizing it, Amazon created the “Prime effect” and forced many other retailers to find ways to stay relevant or begin offering the same conveniences.
While Amazon has only needed to use just one play to become the biggest online retailer in the U.S., others can take a look at the tools that set Amazon apart in order to meet their own customer expectations and boost business:
- More fulfillment centers: It’s all about decreasing the distance to the customer. Amazon was ahead of the curve by investing in geographically dispersed warehouses across the country. This allowed the retail giant to ship products to customers faster and more efficiently, and other large retailers took note. For example, Walmart decided to open its own fulfillment centers, and can now ship to 98 percent of the U.S. with ground shipping in under two days. Target also began utilizing 1,400 of its brick-and-mortar stores to meet its customers’ demand for two-day shipping.
- A variety of shipping partners: Amazon is controlling its shipping destiny by creating its own shipping network. While cutting out the middleman isn’t possible for all retailers, utilizing a variety of shipping partners is. Retailers can utilize local, regional and national carriers to create their own unique shipping carrier network in order to get the best shipping rates and times. While national carriers cover a much larger area and offer a variety of services, local and regional carriers provide competitive pricing. These carriers also typically offer wider time schedules for pickup and delivery, and often provide next-day service. Local and regional carriers also provide great options, especially during peak shipping season, when some of the national carriers particular lanes are overloaded or unavailable.
- Develop your own shipping strategy: Amazon didn’t wait to see what other retailers were going to do next, and neither should you. Create your own successful shipping strategies that have the ability to adapt to other geographies and expand as your business grows. With a model that can be implemented in other markets, you’ll ensure the customer experience isn’t compromised as you gain satisfied customers across the globe.
The strategy must also fit your specific business and customers. Your customers may demand something different than your competitors, so offer niche opportunities and experiences.
Many retailers are stuck in the middle of trying — albeit unsuccessfully — to offer either convenience or strong value. For many, reaching this goal is difficult or nearly impossible. Today’s retailers need to understand and accept that they don’t have to be exactly like Amazon. Instead, they simply need to understand their specific customer base and build a strategy that not only satisfies their needs, but keeps them coming back.
Justin Cramer is global project management director and co-founder at ProShip, Inc, the global provider of today’s No. 1 multicarrier shipping software.