Amazon has been the success story in the retail industry for quite a while now (and also the cause of many sleepless nights among its competitors). But according to New York Times best-selling author Bryan Eisenberg, any retailer — even a lemonade stand — can adapt Amazon’s Four Pillars to its own business model. That was Eisenberg’s message during his keynote presentation at the 2017 Retail TouchPoints Retail Innovation Conference, held May 9-10 at the Apella in New York City.
The Four Pillars — customer centricity, continuous optimization, a culture of innovation and corporate agility — are not kept in a secret vault: “They are shared by Amazon recruiters,” said Eisenberg. In his presentation, he provided practical advice for how brands can make the Four Pillars work for them.
“A great brand today is customer-centric, data-driven and managed by narrative,” said Eisenberg. One way companies can capture the power of narrative is to require executives who propose a new product or service to begin at the desired end-point: writing what would be a 5-star customer review. “Then they work backwards to create the thing that would prompt such a review,” said Eisenberg.
Much of a brand’s ability to be customer-centric depends on execution. “A company’s actions express its beliefs,” said Eisenberg. What often erodes a customer’s relationship with the brand, however, is that “they don’t meet your best employee on his or her best day,” said Eisenberg. “They meet your average employee on an average day. Unfortunately that’s what happens in every store, every business day.”
As for innovation, it’s not always about technology laden with the latest bells and whistles. Eisenberg gave the example of Spence Diamonds, a jewelry retailer that eliminated forbidding glass cases in its stores, making it easier for customers to come in and try on engagement rings. To cut down on theft, the store stock consists of cubic zirconia; the actual products are made when a customer makes a purchase.
Retailers also should copy Amazon’s relentless focus on testing every aspect of the customer experience. “In 2004, Amazon was running 200 tests per month; last year it was up to 1,900 per month,” said Eisenberg. “That’s part of how they align their customers and their business objectives.”
Eisenberg recommends that retailers ask themselves:
• How do you measure success?;
• How often are you experimenting?; and
• Are you testing ideas from the board room to the stock room?
Eisenberg quoted Jeff Bezos in explaining the strategy: “Jeff Bezos says ‘When things get complicated, we simplify by saying, What’s best for the customer?’”. A strong customer focus is not only good for consumers, it’s good for the retailer’s bottom line. Eisenberg quoted data showing that for each one-point improvement in a retailer’s customer experience rating, companies generate an additional $244 million in annual revenue.