If you’re willing to sell online, you’ve probably got a product you’re proud to sell. You’ve probably built a great brand around that great product and can market that brand well. You’ve set your prices to be competitive, and you’re waiting on the money to come showering down. There’s one problem though: Amazon can and will always undercut you. If you’re selling products, it’s time to start thinking bigger for your brand. Lots of people are admitting defeat to Amazon these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one of them. Amazon wins because it controls the production of its goods from start to finish, and can afford to take a loss to beat other companies. Unless you’ve got a trillion extra dollars lying around, odds are you can’t do that. So what is there left to do?
Why is Domino’s fixing potholes? Why does Wendy’s roast people? Why is Steak-umms lamenting the existential depression characteristic of the millennial generation? These aren’t the first things you consider when you think of these brands, and they aren’t really products, so why do they bother? It’s all part of a trend that your store should adopt immediately in which your brand becomes an experience, and your service becomes a product in and of itself. This is how you go toe to toe with the giants of commerce — you make your brand an experience that never leaves the customer.
More and more, brands are pivoting toward creating experiences and offering services beyond simply delivering products. By offering services with your brand, you entice customers to pick you over Amazon, because while they have the volume, you may be able to offer the hands-on touch that people crave.
Suppose you’re selling furniture. You could just stick to selling furniture, OR you could offer interior design services that allow customers to see what the furniture would look like right in their homes. Suppose you’re selling clothes. You could just put measuring charts online, and have people size themselves, OR you could provide a customer service line that can calculate how exactly your clothes fit on individual body types based on height and weight.
Suppose you’re selling shoes online. You could sell shoes from a distributor, OR you could beat all the major shoe sellers by offering a unique service that makes your brand an experience. That’s exactly what Zappos did, and exactly why Zappos sold for $1.2 billion. Zappos went above and beyond customer expectations with their customer service model. According to a story on eTail: “In 2011, Zappos sent a bunch of flowers to a lady who’d ordered 6 pairs of shoes due to her feet being damaged by harsh medical treatments. In the same year, the company sent a free pair of shoes to the best man who had turned up to a wedding shoeless. And in 2015, Zappos decided to deliver a free gift to every household in Hanover, New Hampshire (a town reportedly heavy with customers particularly loyal to Zappos) – nearly 1,900 gift boxes were personally delivered by more than 30 Zappos employees.” That’s way beyond helping a customer exchange items in a helpful way. That’s taking customer expectations and blowing them out of the water.
No, you may not be able to beat the heavyweights pound for pound. It’s a lot to ask to try to beat the Bezos’s of the world. But by creating a unique customer experience, and offering service as a product, you can set yourself apart and become an e-commerce giant slayer in a land of giants.