By Doug Llewellyn, President & COO at Purch

When Amazon announced that it bought Whole Foods for nearly $14 billion back in June, the news sent shockwaves (if not ripples of fear) through the retail community. Is Amazon going to take over the grocery sector? Is the death of brick-and-mortar stores across all industries imminent? But as these and other nervous questions fly in the wake of the acquisition, retailers should be asking a different question: What can we learn from Amazon, and how can we follow its lead?

Amazon’s disruption of the retail world is nothing new. For decades, the e-commerce giant has reshaped the role that brick-and-mortars play in the customer journey, even spurring other retailers to follow suit. Take Warby Parker, for example. Founded in 2010, the company upended a $140 billion industry by moving the sale of eyeglasses online.

Of course, not every company can be the next Warby Parker, but every retailer can learn from the example set by Amazon. By studying the things that Amazon does right, companies can stop maligning this industry behemoth and focus on what really matters — building better businesses, both online and in stores.

Put customers in their place

Companies should start by remembering the old saying that “The customer is always right”. As the success of Amazon’s customer-centric model shows, that’s never been more true than it is today.

Luckily, retailers don’t have to be industry giants to provide top quality service or understand customers’ needs and expectations.  Brick-and-mortar retailers can easily engage in conversations with shoppers on-site or collect customers’ email addresses to follow up on transactions. Tools like Survey Monkey or Ask Your Target Market are also great and affordable options for smaller retailers to dig deeper into the customer mindset.

Make it personal

Putting the customer back at the center of the business model might sound like some kind of metaphor, but it isn’t. Amazon and its ilk use technology to understand consumer behaviors and target shoppers with products that appeal to them. In essence, every Amazon shopper exists at the center of his or her own retail universe.

Companies like Best Buy have clearly taken notice. Over the past 12 months, Best Buy has doubled down on improving its e-commerce platform — making transactions simpler for shoppers, enhancing its customized product recommendations and incentivizing online shoppers to buy more with competitive pricing. In Best Buy’s case, these efforts helped pave the way for a major win: Its domestic online sales grew by 31.2 percent year-over-year during the second quarter.

With enough thought and planning, even small retailers, whose businesses may not be as technologically advanced as Amazon or Best Buy, can create customer-centric shopping experiences.  E-commerce sellers can implement several different practices to personalize the shopping experience, including: seasonal deals, bespoke pricing and personalized discounts, suggested items to purchase and timely push notifications for mobile shoppers.

Be flexible

As Amazon’s recent foray into organic groceries shows, company business models can and should evolve according to new opportunities. Take, for example, Leesa, a mattress retailer that once sold its products exclusively online. In 2016, the company made a bold move when it opened its first brick-and-mortar location in one of New York City’s busiest shopping districts.

Recognizing when it’s time to try new things — whether that’s expanding e-commerce endeavors or creating a better real-world presence — is crucial to staying competitive. Be flexible, but focused. Channel experimentation around a goal, such as inciting buying behaviors. Then get creative. Offer discounts or daily deals. Diversify the products and services offered, and make sure that offerings are timely and seasonally relevant.

As retailers implement these ideas, they should also make sure to look beyond the now into the future.  As they do so, they should take a page from Amazon’s hugely successful membership program: Amazon Prime. Membership models and cash-back programs go a long way toward rewarding the loyalty of repeat customers and enticing new customers to get on board. And you don’t have to run an Amazon-sized business to offer big customer perks. There are many tech solutions for smaller businesses that seamlessly integrate loyalty programs into POS systems.

By taking Amazon’s lead and keeping customers at the center, gathering data to better understand their needs and implementing practices and tools to make the overall experience better, companies can improve their own businesses and achieve greater long-term success.  So instead of fearing companies like Amazon, perhaps we should all take a page from their playbook and follow suit instead.

Follow Purch COO Doug Llewellyn on Twitter for more industry insights! 

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A quarter (25%) of Apple fans in the UK are considering switching brands in the wake of recent price rises and an increasingly stretched household budget, a new survey reveals.

Publishing group Purch commissioned the survey of 2,000 consumers to find out what technologies consumers in the UK were planning on spending their money on over the next 6 months and what mattered most to them post Brexit when making buying decisions…

“The consumers who are aware of price increases have started to amend their purchasing patterns accordingly, however 60% of consumers surveyed were still unaware of the price adjustments taking place in the market” said André Baden-Semper, VP Europe at Purch.

“Our research shows that people are more likely to shop around following the Brexit vote, increasingly likely to read online reviews of products before purchasing and are becoming more brand agnostic as getting higher specs and better value for money become the key consideration, a factor that brands need to take into growing consideration.”

Read the full article here.

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By AdExchanger

The Sell Sider is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Greg Mason, CEO at Purch.

The New York Times made its own headlines when it recently acquired Wirecutter, the five-year-old online product review site, for an estimated $30 million.

For one of the world’s biggest and most respected publishers, the acquisition of a niche site like Wirecutter is a low-risk and small-scale investment and builds on its roots in service journalism, as reflected in its news and lifestyle coverage. The New York Times sees itself as an essential service and Wirecutter is an extension of its commitment to servicing users.

But the real reason for the acquisition pertains to publishers’ concerns about the future of the traditional advertising market. Wirecutter is a way to combat this. It’s a very utilitarian site, and with so many lifestyle sites and general content, these niche plays that go beyond entertainment have tangible value, particularly to augment a generalist media entity.

The New York Times realizes the value of serving a lower-funnel audience with purchase intent and the money to be made off this model. The Times’ readers are not coming to the site with a purchase in mind, but that’s their intention when they visit Wirecutter. The acquisition is a way for the publisher to get a slice of this ecommerce spend – on content where it makes sense.

The Times and other publishers aren’t just suffering from the decline of print ad dollars. They simply aren’t seeing the growth they expected or need from digital ads. Facebook and Google are taking 70 cents on every new digital ad dollar and the fight for the remaining 30 cents is hypercompetitive.

Clearly, the Times wants to diversify its monetization and revenue lines. Acquisition is the quickest way to do so, but The New York Times will now have to think about strategically linking the systems or whether to keep Wirecutter as a standalone brand.

It’s not just the Times that is looking to diversify. More publishers are wading into ecommerce and affiliate waters because it’s a lucrative business when done right. I would advise them to do so cautiously.

Publishers can’t add affiliate links and buy buttons to their pages and expect new revenue automatically. Wirecutter serves a very unique purpose and attracts a very specific audience that is looking for specific content. For publishers that have built a following based on general news or entertainment, the same strategies do not apply. Like the Times, it’s important to consider the users’ standpoint, thinking first of their needs and how publishers can service them before weaving in affiliate links and buy buttons in a contextual way.

This sort of monetization belongs on low-funnel content that attracts consumers making buying decisions, rather than general news pages where buy buttons and affiliate links would appear out of context and feel more like an ad than a native, helpful tool.

Before trying to marry content and commerce, publishers must first ensure the ecommerce strategy extends directly from their core content strategy. Publishers must ask themselves where the natural bridges for commerce exist and what products and services actually extend their brand mission overall. They must also have a deep enough understanding of the core demographic profile or interests of their audience to truly provide a valuable service.

Then there’s the consideration of integrity. With all forms of advertising, there must be a separation of church and state with editorial on one side and advertising on another. With affiliate marketing, publishers must also be transparent about how they’re making money so users understand this model. Consumer expectations are evolving and they commonly see affiliate links all over the internet. The key to maintaining trust and integrity is clear communication and sitewide rules for placement and usage of affiliate links.

Read the full article here: https://adexchanger.com/the-sell-sider/publishers-beware-wading-ecommerce-waters/

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By Rylan Barnes & Phil Barrett

Voice interfaces are getting a lot of buzz right now, and for good reason. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 30 percent of our interactions with technology will be through conversations with smart machines. That’s why tech giants from Google to Microsoft to Apple are investing in voice — but this shouldn’t just be the business of the Goliaths. Savvy business owners and entrepreneurs, especially those in retail and ecommerce, must find a way to adopt these platforms to remain competitive as voice takes a front seat in commerce enablement.

This doesn’t mean creating your own Alexa or Siri. But it does mean taking advantage of the voice platforms already in place and the built-in audiences that are using them to increase customer loyalty and attract new business. For retailers or ecommerce sites, this means tapping into voice platforms so customers can ask if a certain store or site has the jeans they’re looking for in their size. For product review or comparison sites, this means asking where they can find the best camera for under $250 and asking for a detailed review, all while driving or cooking dinner.

In the best scenario, these voice platforms can offer guidance on all aspects of the buying process, removing any friction for the consumer and alleviating some of their decision-making responsibilities. But not all voice platforms have equal potential. Consumers are quickly realizing that most voice interfaces can’t do everything they claim (think Siri).

Why Alexa above others

So why isn’t the same happening to Alexa? Alexa does two important things to sidestep consumer disappointment. First, Alexa doesn’t try to do as much. It doesn’t have a screen to fall back on, and it forces users to stick to the script. In a way, Alexa is copying the original Google search model but in a more concise way. While Google can return several results, Alexa gives just the best answer, and it needs to be short and to the point. When people search Google and don’t find what they want, they just assume it doesn’t exist or that they put in the wrong search terms or Boolean logic. They don’t blame Google for not finding it. And it’s similar for Alexa. It’s a nuanced user response, but it could make all the difference in determining which AI platform(s) make it and which ones don’t.

Read the full article here: http://venturebeat.com/2016/11/01/why-amazon-alexa-is-so-dominant-right-now/

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By Phil Barrett

You’re an entrepreneur who has successfully navigated the shopper journey ecosystem to generate new customers – only to see most of them never return. We all know the way to a great, positive ROI is to keep more customers than you lose, so what can you do to increase retention rates and actually create loyal customers?

1. Forget spray & pray.

If you’ve had success in driving new customers to your business, chances are you already know quite a bit about them, including where they came from – referring website, social media platform, search engine, etc. – as well as a few things about who they are and what motivated them to come to your website, app or place of business in the first place. Given that, why are you sending all your customers the same message with the same offer at the same time?

Whether you are sending emails, mobile or social notifications, text messages or even direct mail, make sure you personalize your communications beyond including their name and address. The more you personalize your interactions with your audience based on what you’ve learned from them, the more likely they are to reward you with a second click, call or visit.

You don’t need to personalize each communication to every single person – we call that 1:1 marketing, which really isn’t practical for most businesses. Instead, create customer groups, also known as segments, of customers based on common traits, including buying or intent behavior.

You can start simple and create a few broader segments like geography, age and sex, which can then be refined into smaller segments once you have learned more about your customers.

Read the full article here: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/280128

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