With the details of the launch slowly emerging, it is clear that Amazon’s arrival in Australia is imminent and will shake up the entire retail industry. According to a recent survey, Amazon in Australia is anticipated to be warmly received by online shoppers with over 90 per cent of regular online shoppers declaring they will use the service when it launches.
Australian retailers can’t avoid Amazon’s arrival, so they must focus on innovating customer experience, both online and in-store, to ensure the customers’ needs are prioritised above all else. To do this, they’re going to need to make some changes.
Harnessing clicks and bricks
Recent investment by Amazon into bricks-and-mortar stores demonstrates how they have kept the customer at the heart of their business strategy. Their entire business proposition is based around understanding and learning from their users.
Amazon’s prominent purchase of US-based Whole Foods follows a chain of investments in physical stores since 2015. This includes a handful of bookstores in the US that double as physical showrooms for Amazon’s products, such as their subscription program Prime and virtual assistant Alexa, as well as a convenience store without cashiers.
The much-reported upon Amazon Go was the first of its kind, a physical store where shoppers could select a product and walk out of the store without speaking to anyone. Amazon implemented advanced shopping technologies to remove one of the most complained about aspects of shopping in-store—queuing. While Amazon Go is still undergoing closed beta-testing with Amazon employees, it demonstrates the company’s understanding of its customers’ needs and expectations.
Amazon’s Whole Foods purchase follows a chain of investments in physical stores since 2015.
Although Amazon has over 250 million customers online, 90 per cent of worldwide retail spending is still in bricks-and-mortar stores, according to eMarketer. Amazon’s recent foray into bricks-and-mortar highlights their recognition of the vital role of in-store customer experience and their relentless effort to understand and adapt to customer needs.
Customer experience: an overarching goal
Through acquiring Whole Foods’ network of grocery stores, Amazon will be able to examine and learn from a whole new set of customer shopping patterns. This includes understanding what causes customers to make impulse buys, which tend to be more prevalent in-store than online.
Amazon has also recognised that food shopping is a tactile experience for the majority of consumers. From squeezing avocados to smelling fruit, people like to inspect and touch fresh food items before they buy.
In a manner similar to Amazon, Australian retailers must invest in prioritising customer experience and giving shoppers what they want, how they want it. Employing a user-centred approach like this requires a shift in business strategy and internal processes, to ensure that the end customer is considered in every decision.
Championing CX from the top down
Such a shift in approach requires collaboration across various parts of the business, so that insights can be shared and customer needs are held as a focus by all parts of an organisation.
This is particularly important in retail, where ‘omnichannel’ has become the new norm, and retailers are expected to provide a seamless customer experience that is consistent and makes sense across all their stores—physical or virtual. From the store layout and product offering, right through to payment and delivery options, every decision needs to place customer experience at its heart.
It is therefore vital that retailers appoint a senior leader such as a CXO to champion customer experience at a business strategy level and ensure it flows across the business from marketing through to operations and HR.
While the arrival of Amazon might seem threatening to Aussie retailers, it is an opportunity for the industry. It is clear that for Australian retailers to survive in such a competitive environment, they need to be prepared to re-examine their business from the top down and the inside out. By making the right organisational changes, retailers can surprise, delight and attract new customers by making the quality of customer experience their ultimate business objective.
Kristen Vang is the director at Hatchd.
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