The Counterintuitive CEO

How To Beat Amazon

March 8, 2018

Amazon has an Achilles’ heel: emotion. The company delivers, but its customers don’t feel empathy for the brand. This vulnerability offers a path to stealing parts of the behemoth’s business.

Every year, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) rates 600 brands around the world. Among US online retailers, Amazon has sunk from seventh place in 2015 to ninth place in 2016 to 12th place (out of 14 brands) in 2017. What’s going on?

Consumers perceive Amazon to be a good convenience shopping site that lacks a personal connection. It scores well on “fast shipping,” “easy transactions,” and “easy website,” but lags on “easy to reach a live person,” “makes me feel valued,” and “rewards my loyalty.” According to the data, customers do not feel as emotionally valued by Amazon as they do by other online players like Etsy, QVC, and Wayfair.

Why? I suspect that two factors are at work. First, Amazon slavishly defaults to digital and avoids as much human interaction as possible. Second, consumers perceive Amazon as big, powerful, diversified, and distant — sacrificing relationships on the altar of scale. The company’s retail operation has become an efficient, always-on utility with the charm of the cable or electric company.

Amazon can be beat. Focused, specialized, and personalized digital retailers can carve off segments of the giant’s business. The playbook is straightforward for challengers: Equal (or at least approximate) Amazon’s technology and show that they value, respect, understand, and appreciate customers more than Bezos’ empire. Be digital — but keep it personal.

For an opposing view, read this counterpoint from Forrester analyst James McQuivey (he thinks Alexa will inject emotion). If you’re not a client, you will get a summary.

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