Today’s post is all about the concept of Amazon’s Customer Obsession, its impact on the company’s growth and success, and how it has become a model for businesses around the world. We will explore how Amazon views its end customer, including how it influences the policies they pass on to its sellers and how you can adopt this mindset to win at Amazon.
What You Need to Understand to Win at Amazon
Most brands don’t understand how highly Amazon regards their end customer, so much so that it affects every single thing they do as a business. Their ultimate focus is on their end customer, which is the person sitting on the other side of the computer screen or phone making the purchase.
Customer obsession is Amazon’s number one core value, and it’s stated clearly on its website. One of the core leadership principles is that “Leaders start with a customer and work backward. They work vigorously to earn and keep customers’ trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”
The Everything Store explores Jeff Bezos and the rise of Amazon, and one story talks about how they leave an empty chair in meetings. That empty chair is for the customer. The imaginary customer is in the room with them in every meeting – that’s how seriously they take their customer obsession. They want the customer to have a seat at the table when they make decisions or develop strategies that concern them. Amazon shelves any ideas, even if they already invested a lot of money or time into them if they ultimately decided that it would hurt the customer or their experience.
The more brands understand this approach and methodology, the more they can understand the rules, regulations, and guidelines that Amazon dictates to sellers and why they’re put in place. Only then can they use that knowledge to find more success selling on the platform.
How Amazon’s Customer Obsession Impacts Sellers on Amazon
Now that you know just how much Amazon values its customers, you can begin to understand how that impacts brands that are selling directly on Amazon. Here are six ways that their customer obsession can impact you.
1. Page Content
Amazon has requirements for your page content, particularly the primary images you can use on your listing. This is the main image you see on the search results page and those subsequent images when you click on the listing. They’re always on a white background and fill the image space. Amazon has these requirements because they want a uniform look and feel across all listings.
If Amazon didn’t have those requirements, brands could put blue, red, and green backgrounds on their listings to help them stand out; however, it would tarnish the customer experience when searching for products. Imagine looking for seasoning or Christmas lights on Amazon. You have a picture in your head of what you want, and the uniformity of Amazon’s search results helps you quickly find the product you want as a consumer.
Amazon has its Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program, which is one of the ways brands can sell their products and ensure their listings display the Prime badge. Amazon likes to think that Prime delights the customer because it allows customers to get products in one to two days or even the same day, depending on where they live. Because it’s so well received by customers, products that are Prime eligible rank higher than products that are not.
Imagine two products that are the exact same, but one is Prime eligible, and the other isn’t. In the search result rankings, Amazon will always show the Prime offer higher, even if the price is slightly more expensive. That’s because they know what their customers want, and that’s convenience.
When brands are thinking about their preferred fulfillment method and aren’t sure if FBA’s going to be right for them, that may be the deciding factor for them. Amazon will rank you higher when your products are Prime-eligible. If you don’t want to or think it’s not worth it, think again. FBA is worth it for the increased rankings, and it’s often the easiest path to achieve Prime-eligible status.
3. Packing and Prep Requirements
Amazon has strict packaging and prep requirements for its FBA sellers. If they tell you to poly bag an item, that’s likely because they’ve received complaints that it leaks, and they want you to have a better prep process to prevent it from happening again. They want to protect that end customer experience to limit those complaints.
If you’re using Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) and you or your 3PL is sending out each order individually, Amazon has very strict timelines and deadlines on when orders have to be shipped or when orders have to be delivered to ensure you’re delighting the end customer. They hold sellers accountable to these shipping timelines with metrics they’ve put in place, and if you don’t adhere to them, they will eventually suspend or shut you down. You’ll no longer be able to send out those items because they’ve got to protect their end customer.
4. Selling Price
Amazon wants to have the lowest-priced items, and if they find a product listed for a lower price on another platform, they will restrict or suppress that offer on Amazon. People can still buy the product through Amazon, but it’s not going to show up like it would if it wasn’t suppressed.
What does this look like? If you click on a listing, it will have a button that says “Available from all sellers.” You have to click that to see the price. Amazon always wants to offer the lowest price, and their customers have come to expect that when they shop at Amazon.
5. Account Health and Seller Central
In the Account Health section of Seller Central, you can find all kinds of metrics, guidelines, and explanations of how to have a healthy seller account. If you violate these rules and regulations too many times, Amazon will start with a written warning. If you keep breaking them, Amazon will eventually shut down a brand’s entire Seller Central account, regardless of the brand’s sales volume.
In the past, even if an account has multi-millions in sales, Amazon has shut down its account if they violate its Terms of Service. More recently, some brands have violated the terms related to the review process, and that has led to large seller accounts and product pages being shut down. Ultimately, violating these terms of service betrays the trust the end customer has in the Amazon platform, and they’ll do what they have to to protect their reputation.
6. Customer Service Issues
When customers complain about orders on Amazon, they can complain directly to you and/or directly to Amazon. If they complain to Amazon, they’ll almost always take the customer’s side. While it’s not going to be the best for your pocketbook in the short term, it is going to be the best for your overall long-term well-being on Amazon to either offer a refund or placate them however you can.
Obviously, that’s not a blanket statement that can apply to every situation. But for the most part, you’ve got to do it and view it simply as the cost of doing business. Amazon is always going to take the side of that end customer, and you have to keep that in mind when dealing with customer service, platform issues, and more.
How Your Brand Can Win on Amazon
As a brand, you may be wondering how you can make this work for you, and it starts with putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. You’ve probably been there many times as you shop on Amazon. You may not notice it, but it’s helpful when everything looks the same on product pages. You know where to click to find reviews and product information, as well as how to check out. Once you get the product, you want it fast, clean, and accurate.
With that perspective, when you come up against Amazon’s rules, regulations, and standards for sellers, do they seem so unreasonable after all? Much of what Amazon does is to protect the customer. If, for example, you’re no longer allowed to be part of the subscribe and save program, ask yourself why. Maybe you couldn’t keep your product in stock, and because of that, it was a bad customer experience for those who were constantly disappointed when you couldn’t fulfill their subscription.
The quicker you can understand that Amazon does what it can to protect the end customer, the easier it’s going to be to digest its rules, regulations, and standards. You’ll be able to change a negative mindset about Amazon’s processes into a positive one because, you know, at the end of the day, it benefits your joint end customer.
Skip This Painful Amazon Lesson to Grow Your Brand’s Sales
When brands come and work with us at Charmac, they often view Amazon as just another channel. They treat it the same as their Shopify site or any other distributor. Because of that, they don’t realize Amazon’s high level of expectations and guidelines.
When I hear this, it makes me think of the golden rule – and not “do unto others as you wish to be done unto you.” But the golden rule of those with the gold makes the rules. Amazon is a behemoth in the eCommerce space, and they can dictate to their sellers what the standards are. If you don’t follow them, Amazon will slap you on the wrist a time or two, but eventually, they’ll just do away with you. They don’t have to deal with you if they don’t want to.
Because of that, you just have to follow the rules. It’s not optional, so it’s critical that you change your mindset to match Amazon’s customer obsession. You have to follow these rules because that’s what Amazon wants, and the more you can do that, the more likely you are to succeed. You’ll stop struggling with suspended listings and customer complaints, and Amazon will notice the difference. The faster you can meet their requirements, the more fulfilling it will be to sell your products on Amazon.
Have questions about your brand’s Amazon presence?