A laptop and glowing light bulb on a wooden desk. Self learning concept.
PHOTO: Adobe

When it comes to hyper-personalization, customer service, and customer experience, Amazon is one of the first brands that people think of. Amazon’s mission statement is “We aim to be Earth’s most customer-centric company. Our mission is to continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology to help consumers find, discover and buy anything, and empower businesses and content creators to maximize their success.” In this article, we'll discuss the lessons that brands can learn from Amazon to improve the customer experience. 

Meeting B2C and B2B Expectations

Today’s customers expect and demand a personalized, emotionally connected experience with brands across all of the brand’s channels. A survey from Salesforce revealed that 72% of customers and 89% of business buyers expect brands to know their unique needs and expectations, and 66% of customers are likely to switch to another brand if they feel like they are being treated like a number. 

Customers, whether they are consumers or businesses, also expect faster and more satisfying customer service experiences. A study by SuperOffice indicated that 88% of customers expect a response from customer service within an hour, and 30% want a response within 15 minutes.

“Amazon has elevated customer service expectations in nearly every vertical, including apparently unrelated B2B niches, because it is in the faces (and on the doorsteps) of customers daily. From real-time inventory visibility to easy returns, the advancements it has pioneered (or at times lifted and then popularized) are incalculable,” said Micah Solomon, customer service consultant and noted author.

Solomon noted that Amazon has had its own challenges with brand perception, however, another area that other brands should pay close attention to. “Having said that, there are places where the pushback against ‘the Amazon way,’ particularly in the treatment of lower-level employees and in the delocalization of nearly everything, can be seen to have begun.”

Product availability and fast shipping have raised the bar for customer expectations in both B2B and B2C. "The expectations for shipping/merchandise availability alone have drastically altered how people shop in both B2B and B2C. The idea of ‘on demand’ products — shipped for free and arriving within 24 hours — has become the standard. This was exacerbated by pandemic buying behaviors of impulse comforts on the B2C side and of supplies required for home repair, auto improvements, etc. on B2B side,” explained Megan Stillerman, SVP of Customer Experience at Miva.

Although the Amazon experience enables customers to easily obtain a myriad of products very quickly, there are still opportunities for brands to create a more personal experience for their customers — one that Amazon simply cannot provide. “Amazon, with its unparalleled ability to move goods around and stage them in a way that allows for easy fulfillment, makes accessing these products quick and convenient,” said Stillerman. “But you’re buying from Amazon, not from a specific brand, in a fairly impersonal and somewhat generic experience. I think that brands still have an opportunity to truly own the conversation with customers and make the buying experience special...not just transactional.”

Related Article: Personalization: Where Data and Content Intersect

Amazon’s Personalization Can Be Impersonal

Amazon is a prime example of a brand that promises and delivers hyper-personalized experiences to its customers. When an Amazon customer receives a marketing email from the brand and clicks a link in the email that takes them to the Amazon website, the customer is shown content that is specifically relevant to them. 

The customer’s order history, items they recently browsed, and other details that pertain specifically to them, rather than people similar to them (aka typical audience segmentation that has been traditionally used by marketers), are presented in a fashion that facilitates an easy and intuitive shopping experience. Amazon has definitely set the bar high for other brands. 

Amazon is able to personalize the shopping experience based on its customer’s previous purchases and Amazon shopping behavior. “I am an Amazon buyer. Their ability to get me things that I need (or even just want) in a convenient and speedy manner is incredible,” said Stillerman. “They hyper-personalize what they believe I will buy based on my buying habits by ensuring that those items are available to me quickly. This is great, but it’s all based on my searches on that platform and what I buy on that platform.” 

Fortunately for brands, a customer’s shopping behavior is not limited to Amazon, and those brands can capitalize on these non-Amazon shopping experiences. “There is a whole host of buying behavior I perform apart from Amazon, that of product discovery and buying based on my tastes and the tastes of people in my life. That’s what’s missing from the Amazon experience — and if independent brands can couple convenience with a truly delightful product discovery and buying experience, they can form powerful trust-based relationships with customers,” suggested Stillerman. “These trust-based relationships are what drive B2B buyers to buy from their favored suppliers, even if those suppliers aren’t the cheapest or the fastest options.” 

The personalization that Amazon provides, and other brands emulate, is not just about showing its customers specific products — it’s about getting to know the customer as a person. “It’s why a consumer may opt to shop at five stores instead of one. Personalization is not just about moving a product I’ve searched for closer to me, it’s about understanding who I am as a person and a consumer and helping me find or discover what I am looking for,” said Stillerman. 

Related Article: Why Personalization Efforts Fail

How Amazon Creates ‘Commerce Anywhere’ Experiences 

Nancy Pekala, vice president of content at HGS, a digital customer experience solutions provider, told CMSWire that what Amazon is exceptional at is strengthening the bond between customers and its brand. “Amazon does a great job of curating bundles of product content based on customer behavior. This serves to strengthen the bond between its brand and the customer. In order to leverage the benefits of hyper-personalization, today’s brands must keep the customer as their focal point, and that means creating personalized experiences in all channels, including email, SMS, Push, and In-App mobile experiences,” said Pekala.

The majority of today’s consumers purchase products and services using mobile devices. According to a report from Oberlo, nearly three out of every four dollars spent on online purchases today is accomplished through a mobile device, and a report by techjury revealed that mobile commerce sales will reach $3.56 trillion by the end of 2021. “With m-commerce [mobile commerce] now accounting for nearly two-thirds of all online shopping, it’s critical to create ‘commerce anywhere’ experiences that allow for on-the-go, real-time interactions,” suggested Pekala.

New marketing platforms such as the recently announced Twilio Engage are enabling brands to provide hyper-personalized experiences across all of the brand’s channels. Twilio Engage is a marketing platform that is built on real-time, dynamically changing first-party customer data. It enables marketers to quickly build and scale hyper-personalized omnichannel campaigns from start to finish. Every interaction is able to be personalized, as it is built on clean, accurate, real-time first-party customer data. Brands are able to build audience groups at the micro-level, making intelligent, hyper-personalized engagement possible across every channel.

According to Glenn Weinstein, chief customer officer at Twilio, tech giants have forced brands to take a closer look at the need for hyper-personalization. “Leading web giants like Amazon and Netflix set a high bar for personalized customer experiences, and the pandemic raised the bar even further by speeding up digitization efforts, forcing every company to engage with their customers digital-first,” he said.

“Digital customer touchpoints like emails, texts and push alerts increased by 63% last year, according to Twilio’s 2021 State of Customer Engagement Report,” Weinstein explained. “Few brands, however, have figured out how to utilize their customer data to delight their customers. The way to harness data from all these touchpoints is to use a customer data platform (CDP). We built Twilio Engage to give B2C marketers everything they need to deliver one-to-one personalized experiences at scale. It combines the personalization engine of the Segment CDP, with Twilio’s robust communications platform, so you can act in real-time on what you’re seeing in customer behavior.“

Final Thoughts

The level of hyper-personalization, customer service, and customer experience that Amazon provides its customers may be a very high bar for brands to achieve, but by providing a personal, not just personalized, experience across all channels, and taking advantage of new marketing technologies, brands are in a position to create exceptional experiences for their customers that are right up there with those that Amazon provides.