Imagine buying a PlayStation for your son for Christmas only to find that it had been stolen. So you contact Amazon on Dec. 21 and explain the situation. Unfazed, they send you a new PlayStation that arrives Christmas Eve.
Amazon footed the bill for that replacement item but reaped the benefits of years of positive press. As Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has said, “It used to be that if you made a customer happy, they would tell five friends. Now with the megaphone of the Internet, whether online customer reviews or social media, they can tell 5,000 friends.”
But Amazon’s success isn’t just about positive word of mouth. Consumers stayed with Amazon because it makes their lives easier and even makes them better. Here are seven ways Amazon manages to create a positive impact every day:
1. It eliminates a step or two in the online shopping process
In the early days of the Internet, customers had to enter their credit cards and shipping addresses every time they ordered. As Brad Stone recalls in his book The Everything Store, Amazon Interface Engineer Peri Hartman devised a way to preload that information so users could make “one-click” purchases. In 1999, Amazon patented the technology, a controversial move since many argued that the technology was rudimentary. Since Amazon enforced the patent, it made shopping on the site much easier than shopping on competitors’ sites, like Barnes & Noble’s.
2. It takes shipping costs out of the equation
Another hassle of online ordering was the extra costs imposed by shipping. In 2002, Amazon introduced Super Saver Shipping, which offered free shipping on orders over $99 (and later as low as $25). Bezos drew inspiration from airlines, which offer first-class and coach pricing to create Prime, an offering for customers who don’t mind paying extra for two-day delivery. As with membership pricing for warehouse clubs, consumers found that once they paid the annual Prime fee (originally $79, now $119), they had incentive to do all their shopping with Amazon, which helps Amazon make up the cost (or not) of offering the service.
3. It works to get deliveries to customers as soon as possible
One reason a consumer might want to head to a store instead of ordering on Amazon is because they don’t want to wait an extra day to get their item delivered. Amazon has addressed this need by offering same-day shipping in selected markets since 2014. Amazon has also famously contemplated using drones for such deliveries. Amazon is testing Amazon Prime Air in some international locations. The service would deliver products within 30 minutes.
4. Its retail store eliminates waiting in line
We all hate waiting in queues. In one survey, 75 percent of retailers reported that they lost customers because of wait-related issues. The same research found that 70 percent of retailers believe consumers will only wait for five minutes or less. Amazon’s grocery store, Amazon Go, addressed this issue with checkout-free stores that let consumers pay via an app on their phone while sensors and cameras log what they put in their bags.
5. It digitizes books, so users can buy new titles without leaving the couch
It’s hard to believe but back in 2005, most of us were still buying paper-based books. In an age where every newspaper and magazine was available online, that didn’t make any sense. The situation was not unlike the music industry in 2000 when it was possible to digitize songs and albums into MP3s, but the MP3 players on the market were uninspiring and most music wasn’t widely available legally. Just as Apple created the iPod and iTunes to address those issues, Amazon created the Kindle e-book reader and enlisted publishers and writers to assemble a critical mass of inventory. Bezos also set the ebook price at $9.99, an arbitrary number that mirrored iTunes’ initial $0.99-per-song price. Last year, 44 percent of adult fiction titles were sold in the ebook format.
6. It makes technology fun
Technology has wrought huge changes over the past few years. But consumers view Amazon in a more positive light than Apple, Microsoft, Google and (especially) Facebook. Part of the reason is that Amazon presents its technology as user-focused and fun. For instance, the smart speaker Echo is voiced by Alexa, a personable alternative to Apple’s Siri and Google Voice that tells jokes and lets consumers order pizzas and items from Amazon.
7. It genuinely advocates for the consumer
In negotiations with publishers, Amazon has pushed for lower book and ebook prices than they would have liked. Its focus on low prices is so relentless that some economists believe that Amazon has affected the overall inflation rate. In addition, after buying Whole Foods, one of Amazon’s first moves was to lower prices of the chain’s best-selling items, including avocados, organic eggs and butter.
All of these elements not only create a positive experience but create value in consumers’ lives. If you were to break down this list, four (1,3,4 and 5) are based on increasing convenience. Two (2 and 7) are related to saving money. No. 6, meanwhile, is all about feeling good about the company you help financially support. Taken together, this is a potent combination of attributes, but none are unique or proprietary. If you want to get that Amazon magic, then start finding ways to add value to your customers’ lives.