Whether you love Amazon or hate Amazon, all brands throughout all industries have something to learn from the megacorp’s approach to customer data and experiences.
Our previous office was steps away from Amazon Go, the world’s first ‘no check-out’ store. I visited during opening week, and it was surreal. I had set up my Amazon Go app prior to arriving, which involved logging into my existing Amazon account, selecting a credit card, and watching a tutorial. When I got to the store, I simply scanned my bar code, grabbed some items, and walked out.
At one point I looked up and noticed rows of boxy black cameras cyclops-eyeing me from the pillars. It was creepy. These cameras are part of the core technology that allows for the absence of human interaction and the checkout lines that go with it. More on this later.
Sure enough, about an hour later I received a receipt in my inbox. It accurately reflected the items I’d absconded with…. er, purchased. It was easy, fast, and seamless. And all it was underpinned by customer data.
Why Amazon is a pro data user and you may not be
Amazon collects a lot of data about customers, but that’s not unusual. Nearly all brands do. However ‒ and this is one of the biggest reasons that Amazon dominates ‒ Amazon does everything it can to put that data to work, using it to make customer experiences simpler, easier, faster, and more targeted both online and offline.
You know how I know? When I typed “data scientist” and “Amazon” into LinkedIn, I got 1,575 results. That’s a serious investment. I also know because of the types of customer experiences the brand offers me, like spot-on product recommendations, streamlined site experiences, and of course, the Amazon Go store. Amazon Books also links the POS system to your Prime account, so all data is stored together seamlessly, allowing for easy cross-channel returns. There may be similar plans in the works for Whole Foods. So why isn’t every company making the most of its customer data in similar ways?
Because it’s not that easy. Unlike Amazon, most brands have splintered and siloed customer data that’s scattered across disconnected systems and technologies throughout their organizations. Because their customers don’t use unique logins across channels, a typical airline can’t connect mobile app data to booking data; a retailer can’t connect POS data to eCommerce; and a restaurant can’t align online and in-person orders. This means loyal customers are treated like strangers in each interaction and channel. They see ads for products they’ve already purchased. They get emails promoting trips they’ve already taken. They are offered a brand credit card that they already possess. And they aren’t recognized as the unique individuals they are during in-person interactions.
Amazon is different. Amazon grew up in a post big-data era and started with a simple, single-channel model. They motivate users to join (which requires login), using the irresistible perk of free shipping. Prime is the most successful loyalty program on the planet, representing 63% of Amazon’s customer base.
The result is that Amazon has rich, connected, and personally identifiable profiles for the majority of its customers. These profiles include names, emails, home addresses, device and browser identifiers, clickstream data, abandoned cart and browse data, purchase behavior, product preferences, gifting behavior, and more. Now, with the addition of Amazon Go and Amazon Books, Amazon can add in-store shopping data as well, because customers are logged in even when they shop in person. And they have crafted and optimized these stores and in-person experiences, in part, using data that they collected online.
Is the same true for your brand? What would be possible if you had customer 360 profiles that were complete, current, and accessible? The options for what you could do, and the types of inventive, personalized customer experiences you could think up, are likely endless.
Customer Data Platforms can help
Customer Data Platforms were born out of the need for brands to compete with internet-first companies like Amazon. These internet-first brands have paved the way for seamless and personalized omni-channel experiences. Consumers have fallen in love with these types of incredible CX and are demanding them from other brands as well.
A Customer Data Platform (CDP) provides an intelligent data foundation where disconnected customer data is brought together and unified into customer 360 profiles, even when there are no linking user logins. Data can then be sent out to systems of action like clienteling applications, call and order centers, point-of-sale systems, and kiosks at airports and hotels, in addition to digital touchpoints like sites, apps, email, ad platforms. CDPs are helping brands bridge their customer data gaps by making them into pro data users, just like Amazon. Also, brands that use a CDP can let their IT departments and data scientists focus on making the best use of their data instead of trying to wrangle it, because the platform itself does all the heavy data lifting for them. This saves years of system building and re-allocates millions of dollars of misused staff investments.
Do CX your way
While all brands should take note of Amazon’s techniques, there is ample room to do things differently. Remember how Amazon Go involved no human interaction, with staff supplanted by cameras that watched me as I shopped? I did not enjoy that. Instead, I prefer to chat with a knowledgeable staff person when I’m picking out a bottle of Chandon or when I need an opinion on a faux llama-fur vest. Many of the world’s most loved brands are built on rich traditions of customer service and staff interactions that can grow, evolve, and improve using customer data.
This year several brands are launching in-person applications ‒ not to nullify the need for personal interactions, but to enhance them. For example, TGI Fridays has built a personalized bartender app to recommend drinks, just for you. Other brands are using clienteling apps to personalize interactions during flights or in retail stores.
The key to making these types of applications successful is to fuel them with rich customer data that’s been unified at the individual level. This data can be used to create the types of seamless and efficient experiences Amazon offers, while retaining the personal touch that consumers love. For example, employees can use fully integrated customer data to set up fitting rooms with preferred sizes and styles, to allow for easy returns, purchases, and exchanges across channels, and to update travelers in a timely manner about flight delays and cancellations.
Accessible customer profiles can be used to transform digital experiences as well. Customers want to be recognized as individuals in every interaction they have with a brand. Not so the brand can push certain products on them, but so the brand can better serve them. This includes opting customers out of irrelevant ads, direct mailings, and emails for products and programs that they already use or have no interest in. This includes site personalization that eliminates noise and distractions, while recommending products so customers can more easily find what they want. And it involves automatically recognizing when someone is a high value and loyal customer, and offering special perks, just for them.
We built Amperity to serve large consumer brands as they transform marketing and reinvent CX in the age of big customer data. Amperity offers an Intelligent Customer Data Platform that brings your disconnected customer data together, builds rich, unified customer 360 profiles, and gives you direct access to explore, segment, and use all your data in any channel for the types of inventive customer experiences you’ve been imagining. To learn more, visit amperity.com.