The mad rush to capitalize on the Amazon Prime Day juggernaut is the latest proof that retail is a copycat industry. But can copycats beat the leader? Can retailers steal Amazon Prime Day thunder?
No doubt Amazon will set records over its two-day extravaganza in such areas as products sold, customers engaged, global markets participating, new Prime members signed up, Amazon products sold, and Black Friday sales surpassed. (For a history of Prime Day success and records it has set click here.)
Clearly, it would be suicide for competing retailers to let Amazon walkaway with a massive amount of market share uncontested. So, many retailers are launching their own promotions including Walmart, Kohl’s, Target, Macy’s, eBay, Best Buy and many others.
However, copycatting Amazon is not a smart response. It is exponentially smarter if retailers put their own stamp on their Prime Day events.
Strategies to Steal Amazon Prime Day
The big problem with copycat promotions during Amazon Prime Day is the irony of helping Amazon celebrate its birthday, which is the reason the event was launched five years ago. Prime Day is a celebration of Amazon’s founding in July 1994.
Converting Prime Day into an industry-wide event has the unintentional consequence of making a self-serving promotion a national shopping holiday.
However, retailers can subvert the message and steal some of Amazon’s thunder by doing the following:
- Stores, Stores, Stores: Prime Day is an digital shopping holiday, a channel where Amazon is king. Retailers should therefore feature sales and promotions that drive shoppers into stores, where they experience personal contact with outstanding sales and service personnel, touch and try on products, find impulse items that catch their eye, and come away with a tangible experience that will have a lasting impression.
- Service, Service, Service: Amazon has a good track record for reliability, but they are not infallible. Last year Amazon.com crashed during Prime Day shopping hours, many products quickly sold out, and many shipments surpassed the promised shipping date to reach consumers. Focus on doing what Amazon won’t do – offer help to consumers who have questions, solve problems in person and do it quickly, and, finally, be available to consumers to get their needs met.
- Personalize, Personalize, Personalize: The Prime Day concept is a mass-market approach that throws many darts knowing that most will not hit a target. Instead, retailers should focus on targeting specific shoppers and products. Use customer databases and loyalty programs to Identify shopper preferences and create campaigns that spotlight relevant products at attractive prices. Also, communicate as directly as possible with customers through e-mail alerts, text messages, newsletters, loyalty programs, in-store communication, and personalized media.
- Make It More Than Me: Amazon Prime Day is purely self-serving, essentially a promotion that celebrates “me.” Retailers should tie their promotions to themes that have deep cultural resonance around such themes as family, friends, children, personal wellness, national pride, singular achievement, heroes and recognizing worthy groups or causes in an altruistic and genuine way.
- Eliminate Out of Stock Disappointment: Most Amazon shoppers will never be able to buy the best deals during Prime Day because they are designed to feature low-ball prices with limited inventory. As a result, most consumers will be locked out and experience disappointment. Retailers should flip this scenario by setting realistic prices that are sustainable throughout the promotion period by using demand forecasting predictions in advance of the sale to set appropriate inventory levels.
- Post-Sale Follow Up: Amazon is essentially a highly efficient product search platform designed for volume sales that also includes state-of-the-art fulfillment. Retailers should instead become immersed in shopper’s journey from end-to-end, including post-sale engagement where Amazon is lacking. Once you have the shopper’s attention post-sale follow-up will increase engagement, help solve any problems that may have occurred and possibly gone unreported, and improve loyalty.
- Prioritize Exclusive and House-Brand Products: Amazon’s top-selling items during Prime Day events are its own Alexa-powered products. It has also created a partnership with Lady Gaga for this year’s event to sell a line of beauty products exclusively on Amazon. If a retailer’s strongest products aren’t exclusives or in-house brands they should be. There is no better way to create a moat around your customer base, one that even Amazon can’t cross.
Here’s one extra tip for retailers that have loyalty programs or will launch them. Let’s not forget one of the primary missions of Prime Day is to increase membership in the Amazon Prime program, which now costs $119 per year. Loyalty programs are one of the most underutilized marketing tools in retail today except for possibly REI, Sephora, Target and a handful of others. Walmart famously refuses to develop a loyalty program and this is a mistake other retailers should not make.
Amazon is predicting $5.8 billion worth of product sales during this year’s Prime Day event. Clearly, retailers cannot sit idly by and allow Amazon to dominate their customers, so the strong response by many retailers this year is completely appropriate.
However, the response must make good business sense and achieve both short-term and long-term goals. Leveraging the hoopla surrounding Prime Day while achieving these twin goals will not only steal some of Amazon’s thunder but also strengthen the bond savvy retailers have with their customers.