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Analyzing Amazon

» What Can We Learn from Success?

Amazon has become a formidable force in the sales of books, CDs, DVDs and everything else from jewelry to hardware. And how about these stats: 41.2% of visitors to Amazon make a purchase. The average amount an Amazon customer spends is $128. During the holidays, Amazon averages close to 10 million visitors between the day after Thanksgiving and the first of the New Year. It maintains that customer base throughout the year, as well.

Starting as an on-line book seller in 1995, the company quickly expanded its marketing model into other product arenas — CDs and media, electronics, lawn and patio furniture, software, and even its own auction site.

The company is responsible for the development of numerous innovations that have made it the number one on-line retailer. There’s a reason for this and we can all learn from #1.

Amazon and Tab Navigation
The company was the first to use tabs at the top of each page to help visitors navigate the site quickly. Over the years, the number of tabs at the top of Amazon’s interior pages expanded, looking more like a recipe file than a site navigation menu. In fact, at one time (2000) Amazon’s home page had 15 different tabs stacked up. In addition, they also had a navigation bar and text links. Too much information.

To clean up the clutter, Amazon’s design team developed dynamic tabs — tabs that change depending on the page where they appear. This simplified the appearance of the home page and made navigation easier for its visitors throughout the site.

The point? Amazon has led the way in site design and customer convenience. In fact, the entire site is designed around a simple premise: The easier it is to make a sale, the more sales will be made.

Lesson: Amazon consistently innovates and updates its site to benefit the customer. Simplicity of navigation is a key customer benefit. How ‘easy’ is it for your visitors to find the products they want?

Personalized Product Recommendations
So simple, yet so effective. When an Amazon customer makes a purchase, the data is stored and then re-used to benefit the customer and to generate sales of products similar to past purchases.

Say, for example, a customer buys a book on gardening. The next time he logs on to Amazon, there will be a personal recommendations tab that will take him to a list of other gardening books. If the same customer purchases an audio book mystery, similar products (by the same author and others) will show up in that customer’s personal recommendations file. Over time, the file will be loaded with recommendations for other products in which that customer has already shown an interest.

Lesson: How ‘personal’ is your site? Do you welcome repeat visitors by name? Offer special discounts to regular buyers? Suggest products of interest? You have the data. Put it to good use by making repeat visitors feel right at home.

People Who Bought This Also Bought These
Brilliant!

When an Amazon customer visits a product page, s/he is provided with a list of links to similar products based on Amazon’s total past sales experience. Customers who bought book A also bought books B, C and D.

Present that information to a visitor considering the purchase of book A and you accomplish two important marketing objectives. First, you provide visitors with the most relevant purchase options based on their queries (areas of interest) with one-click ease to keep them browsing when book A isn’t what they’re looking for. Second, you promote the sale of relevant products in addition to book A — related audio books, DVDs, electronics accessories and so on.

Lesson: Can customers view alternative and/or related products when considering a purchase? If not, chances are they’ll look elsewhere. Your business collects data on sales. Use this data to your advantage on the presentation layer of your site.

Easy Checkout
Nobody likes standing in line at the supermarket checkout. It’s boring, frustrating, annoying and a waste of valuable time.

Amazon’s checkout is user friendly from start to finish, allowing the buyer to change and modify the order at every stage.

To streamline the process even further, Amazon offers a one-click checkout option. Buyers enter the required information one time and each time they buy, one password-protected click and the sale is done.

Lesson: It’s important to equip your visitors with the information they need to find the products they want. It’s just as important to simplify the payment process. Stress security on every page. Allow buyers to change their minds throughout the process. Once again: The easier it is to make the sale, the more sales will be made.

A word of caution, here. Many sites employ a ‘checkout in a box’ — software that bolts on to the site’s skin and serves as its checkout. Many of these programs lack the adaptability demonstrated in the Amazon model. A customized checkout will more than pay for itself in repeat sales.

Customer-Generated Content
Amazon was way ahead of the curve on this one. Blogs and forums are just going mainstream on many sites, enabling visitors to post comments. Amazon has been encouraging its customers to write product reviews. Imagine. Product reviews.

Amazon’s reviews are customer-generated content, just like a site blog. Reviews are screened for the usual — obscenity, rants and screeds — but there are plenty of one star reviews for the products Amazon sells. Now that’s credibility.

It gets even better. Some reviewers have developed their own followings. These are specially designated reviewers who provide links to their other reports on products. This kind of activity builds customer loyalty. Plus, you’ll learn what customers like and don’t like about your site and the products sold there.

Lesson: How do you communicate with customers? Do you offer the opportunity to post an opinion or start a new thread? Customer content is useful content. It applies to the interests of your customers, enabling you to refine your product line and web site to better meet customers’ needs.

It’s useful to your customer base and to you in determining how to improve your site, your conversion rate and build repeat traffic.

Learn From #1
Here’s a suggestion. Print out this article, log on to Amazon and take a first-hand look at how this company maintains a conversion rate in excess of 40%!

Everything is geared toward ease of purchase. It’s easy for a buyer to find the right product, the right media, the right price using Amazon’s customer friendly design and features.

Provide alternatives for customers based on keywords used to search your site.

Get them in; get them out with a streamlined, fully customizable checkout.

Regularly update the site to improve customer accessibility to information and products.

And solicit customer-generated content. It’s absolutely the best way to build site loyalty and maintain repeat customer interest.

Go ahead. Visit the #1 retailer on the world wide web. Compare features. Then, learn from the best.

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