3 Amazon Practices to Mimic — and 2 to Drop

Kayla Matthews
Guest Contributor

The shadow of Amazon gets cast over much of the retail industry, but savvy retailers should view the giant’s success as an opportunity, adopting practices that work for their brands while avoiding those that are proving to be problematic.

Amazon is one of the most talked-about brands in modern society. Retailers, in particular, often analyze what makes the company such a constant topic of conversation. Amazon does some things well but falls short in other ways. Here are three of the company’s practices you can mimic, and a couple that are best to drop.

1. MIMIC: Offer Services Through an Ever-Growing Number of Platforms or Products

Amazon excels at retaining a top-of-mind position with consumers. One of the ways it does that is by continually making its services available on multiple platforms and channels. For example, if a person buys an Amazon Kindle book, she can read it on a smartphone, with a tablet or by using Amazon’s browser-based tool.

The brand takes a similar approach with its Works With Alexa program that helps developers build products that incorporate its virtual assistant. Currently, more than 7,400 brands have products with built-in Alexa capabilities. Plus, Garmin recently became the first wearable brand that supports Amazon Music.

These partnerships ensure Amazon maintains prominence in a person’s everyday life. Then, whether they realize it or not, that visibility likely makes them more willing to consider the company and its offerings to meet their needs.

Some of the ties Amazon has with brands may be impossible for your retail establishment to achieve. However, it’s still worthwhile to do whatever you can to help people interact with your enterprise or its products throughout the day.

2. MIMIC: Provide Various Methods of Getting Help

Most of today’s leading brands have more than one way for customers to get help when they need it. However, Amazon goes above and beyond when giving people choices. The brand’s customer service page has several broad categories that allow users to get answers to common questions without contacting someone.

If they want to communicate with a person, doing that is as easy as answering a few questions from drop-down menus, then choosing the preferred method of contact. The options typically presented are phone — via a 24-hour number — email or live chat. Additionally, the Amazon customer service team operates a dedicated Twitter account that’s always staffed and provides multilingual support.

The goal of any business is to make customers feel supported while minimizing friction. Amazon does this well by offering numerous ways for people to reach out. If consumers perceive it’s too difficult to get help, they may let their frustrations fester. That could mean they have bad impressions of the brand later. Amazon provides choices as it aims to keep people happy and returning to buy more.

When determining which customer service methods to offer, remember that you may not have the capabilities to follow Amazon retail practices precisely. Start small and scale up as your labor resources allow. Otherwise, people could encounter too many delays and get even more fed up.

3. MIMIC: Use Highly Strategic Warehouse Specifics

Amazon is well-known for incorporating high-tech features into its warehouses, such as robots. However, some of its methods don’t necessarily require the latest, greatest technologies.

One example is how Amazon divides its inventory into separate facilities by the type of product. All the merchandise goes into either a sortable or nonsortable fulfillment center. Approximately 1,500 workers staff each sortable center, and many do tasks alongside robots. The sortable centers contain things like housewares, toys or consumer goods. Nonsortable centers have bulky items, such as furniture.

One of the main differences is that the nonsortable centers hold things that are too big to fit on shelves or within pods. The company also has sortation centers where customer orders are grouped by destination.

The way Amazon uses warehouses for certain types of products allows the merchandise pickers to find items faster. It also helps keep things more organized. No matter the size of your warehouse or what it contains, think about taking inspiration from Amazon by using particular sections of it to hold larger or smaller items.

Amazon’s quick shipments assisted it in becoming a market leader. The brand’s executives correctly understood that operating so consistently and speedily required doing things right at the warehouse level and paying attention to the layout and contents of each one.

4. DROP: Alleged Poor Treatment of Workers

Amazon’s employees started speaking out about the brand’s alleged poor working conditions years ago. The brand maintains that the health and safety of its workers are top priorities, but some of the people it hired disagree. They talk about long hours of standing, being pushed to fulfill orders at unreasonable speeds and the mental distress that comes with believing their jobs are always at risk.

These accusations cause some conscious consumers to pause when deciding whether to keep buying from the company. For the most part, though, Amazon is still thriving. The way it keeps promising progressively faster shipping times could understandably put workers at risk, though. During Amazon’s most recent Prime Day event, employees went on strike around the world.

Such action could raise awareness among the public. It also reminds retailers that they should always weigh the pros and cons of its operations while staying mindful of worker well-being. If such pushback against Amazon persists, more people may decide the above-average convenience and product availability are not worth putting workers in danger.

5. DROP: Irresponsible Packaging Decisions

Today’s society is getting increasingly more conscious about living sustainably and protecting the planet. Many people can’t understand why Amazon retail practices include using far too much packaging to ship products. The brand’s response has caused even more issues. It started cutting down on the number of products shipped in cardboard boxes by using plastic envelopes instead.

However, recycling center staff members say the general recycling stream can’t process the mailers, and that they must be recycled separately. When consumers don’t know that, and recycling processors don’t see the mailers either, they get caught in the recycling machinery and cause shutdowns.

Environmental groups and others not happy with Amazon’s new packaging say the brand needs to do more to educate people about how to recycle the envelopes. Others are perplexed about why the brand doesn’t use the eco-friendly mailers that are already widely available. If for some reason the company doesn’t like those options, it arguably has ample resources to engineer a better solution in-house.

This lesson highlights why retailers should be cautious when responding to customer feedback. Amazon using less cardboard is a positive move, but it’s created another problem by implementing the new materials.

No Retailer Is Perfect, but Most Can Provide Learning Opportunities

The Amazon retail practices mentioned here should clarify that the mega e-commerce brand has plenty to teach other entities, but not all its methods are worth following. Consider the things brought up above as you figure out how to make your establishment better and benefit customers.

About the writer: Kayla Matthews is a technology journalist and retail tech writer covering big data, AI and real-time monitoring in the retail industry. To read more posts from Kayla, visit her blog, Productivity Bytes. Follower her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews.

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