Why Every Brand Needs an Amazon Strategy

Originally published in The Drum and Contagious.

A few years ago, if you asked anyone what Amazon was, they’d tell you it was an online retailer. Today, it’s an evolving platform with a wildly successful voice assistant and ambitions as far as the eye can see. Amazon Fresh is in the grocery business. Amazon Go has plans to expand its register-free shopping, and there are even rumors of a revival of the Fire phone.

Simply put, no brand can afford to ignore Amazon. Because even if your brand doesn’t directly interact with Amazon, your customers certainly do. One of the remarkable things about the company is how widely its properties are used. You’re never too rich or too thin to go on Amazon. Consumers of luxury goods may not be buying $100 thimblefuls of perfume on it, but they could be buying electronics, checking out camping gear, or ordering a movie. They may have an Echo in their home, and it may be providing data to Amazon that could provide key insights into their wants and needs.

In fact, all brands have either direct (selling) or indirect (data, branding, and advertising) opportunities with Amazon, and big ones at that. Yet for all that, almost no brands have an Amazon strategy. They rarely look at Amazon beyond a product page, and sometimes not even that. That said, they have comprehensive strategies for Facebook, Google, and even Snapchat—all of which are less consequential to their business. It’s clearly time for everyone to rethink this approach.

So how do you forge an Amazon strategy?

Audit your opportunities. The first step is to understand how your customers use the Amazon ecosystem—not merely what they purchase on it, but what they do on it. This involves everything from Twitch and Amazon Prime Video to Alexa and Amazon.com itself.

In doing this, you have to look beyond the obvious. For example, will your product fit into an Amazon Go scenario, and what does that mean from geo-fencing standpoint? How many of your customers are consuming content on Twitch, and do you have opportunities for a partnership? Only a comprehensive audit can tell you.

Plan for data. Amazon offers two major sources of data that can provide insights to brands: Amazon Retail Analytics (ARA), Amazon Marketing Services (AMS). They offer reports that reveal your customers’ content preferences, purchase categories, and even lifestyle information, such as the kinds of hobbies or activities they like to do. As a result, they can reveal the orthogonal interests that can help drive marketing content, targeting strategies, and even partnership opportunities.

Strategize for media. Amazon also offers data and adtech to help you target users both on and off of its platforms. Some brands will want to advertise directly on Amazon.com to drive purchases today. Others may want to target consumers using Amazon data across the Internet. Some may even want to buy inventory on the Kindle lock screen, which offers a rare, uninterrupted space for digital advertising.

Understand the significance of search and reviews. 55 percent of online shoppers start product searches on Amazon.com, and more than half of searches on the platform eventually result in a purchase. Brands should also pay close attention to product reviews; as 90% of online shoppers read and are influenced by them.

Get mad skills. Alexa has more than 7,000 skills, or third-party apps that can do everything from read books to check your carbon emissions (seriously). Brands you wouldn’t expect, like Campbell’s Soup, are using skills to find new ways to connect with consumers. Others, like Domino’s, Lyft, and Uber are adding them to enhance their existing services.

See the broader implications. A fully-fledged Amazon strategy can be a game changer for your company, forcing it to make necessary changes in a digital world. For example, an Amazon product page is comprised of elements driven by three different groups in most companies: retail, merchandising, and paid media. An Amazon strategy requires all of them to work together for maximum effect. So you’ll need to form a working group share data and optimize opportunities.

Right now, traditional brands are struggling to stay relevant against a host of upstart competitors. The sooner they start building an Amazon strategy, the better they will be able to compete with more agile, digitally-native challengers, and the easier it will be to stay in step with what Amazon will look like tomorrow. Time to get moving.

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