The “new normal” of instant delivery, up to as little as two hours, has challenged retailers across the globe to rethink their approach to customer service. Now speed, price, and other previously optional “add-ons” are differentiating factors for sellers, giving them a competitive advantage in an eCommerce race that most cannot afford to lose. With the fast-approaching Amazon Prime Day on June 21 and 22, small and independent retailers need to prepare themselves to stand out from the competition.
Held annually since 2015, Amazon Prime Day is a perfect example of why retailers need to rethink their customer service strategy. With Amazon slashing prices and offering deals, signing up to the Amazon Prime programme is enticing, with same-day delivery, free shipping, and price cuts consumers can rarely find anywhere else.
Ahead of Amazon Prime Day, independent retailers need to connect with their existing customer base and potential new customers. Having a trusted and reliable relationship with customers is clearly an advantage that independent retailers have over Amazon. Independent retailers will have the opportunity to craft specific savings and deals around their customers’ shopping habits in an effort to challenge Amazon Prime Day deals that customers may find more attractive.
- By connecting with their customer base, small and independent retailers will have the opportunity to decide which niche products to offer and deals based on previous shopping experiences by customers. Offering a niche category of items will also attract new customers while piquing the curiosity of existing customers. Retailers who find this niche will have the opportunity to own the sector. They will have the chance to demonstrate to their customers that they are the real experts to ask for personal advice and be on stand-by for any questions that customers might not find answers to on Amazon.
- Consumers, as we know them, are more conscious than ever before. They are more environmentally friendly, and there has been a marked increase in the need for thrift, secondhand, and rental options. With shopping continuing to move online and away from the traditional bricks and mortar retail, consumers are looking for individualised, unique interactions with brands and retailers through retailer websites and social media platforms. Making use of digital outlets will be critical to small and independent retailers making a lasting impact on consumers.
- Consumers want to know what retailers are doing to meet their needs. Don’t be afraid to use websites and social media outlets to highlight new initiatives such as rental options, deals and savings. Reaching your customers through all channels is highly important. Amazon does not interact with customers in this personalised, unique way, so it is a great way to make your business stand out from the competition ahead of Amazon Prime Day.
- In a world where instant delivery is considered the norm, many eCommerce retailers have to put shipping and logistics strategies in place to keep up with the demand for instant gratification once a customer hits the purchase button. The Covid-19 pandemic has been responsible for many shipping delays, causing customers to purchase items well in advance to ensure they arrive on time. With Amazon Prime Day, consumers don’t have this worry as Amazon guarantees same-day/next-day delivery for their items. Moving forward, independent retailers need to distance themselves from the competition when it comes to their shipping times and return policies.
- Ensuring that there are fail-safes in place for delivery will be imperative to small and independent retailers preparing well ahead of Amazon Prime Day. The key is for retailers to work with several delivery companies to guarantee swift, timely, and efficient delivery of goods. Customers will remember the quick, quality service they received from retailers when considering where to order from in the future.
- Another option for small and independent retailers to incorporate into their offering is a click and collect service. This allows customers to have the ease of shopping online and allows them to get out of the house, start to get back into traditional retail, and, most importantly, will enable them to receive their items almost instantly. A click and collect point for independent retailers can increase the existing customer base as it is an attractive option to consumers when considering their options, especially for environmentally conscious consumers.
- The flipside of the click and collect service would be an in-person returns service. How many times do customers buy items that either they don’t need or want, that aren’t what they expected, or that just don’t fit? When it comes to retailers like Amazon, the process of returning an item can be daunting. If independent retailers begin accepting returns at a designated point, it will increase stock as well as give customers peace of mind that their items have been returned successfully.
Small and independent retailers have many options when it comes to standing out from the competition. Both ahead and post this year’s Amazon Prime Day, they must set themselves apart from the competition by reaching their customer base and alerting them to any changes or deals they have so that consumers may weigh up their options. While Amazon Prime Day takes away from smaller retailers with its extensive perks, it also opens up opportunities for these retailers to make a name for themselves and show they can stand above the fray.
Fergal O’Carroll is the chief revenue officer at delivery management company, Scurri, with responsibility for sales strategy and execution.
His prior roles include EMEA vice-president for commercial sales with Teradata for eight years; prior to that, he was managing director of business intelligence solutions with Avnet Client Solutions for 13 years.
Fergal holds a BA in Business Studies from the University of West London and is a native of Dublin, Ireland.