Why eComm Brands Need More Than Prime Day (And Amazon In General)
As an email marketing strategist, my main goal is to help my customers achieve growth. And true growth comes from a) understanding and leveraging your data and b) building great relationships with your customers. PERIOD. Email is less about trying to get the promotional buyer at that one key moment of each year and more about sustainable growth - building loyalty and creating a referral loop that is an endless engine of new customers. That's why Amazon can be a real problem in achieving sustainable growth.
After seeing some chatter about this very topic, I felt compelled to join in. As I find myself working more and more to help these eComm companies take back some control from Amazon.
Have questions after the episode? Send them my way - email@example.com
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Why eComm Brands Need More Than Prime Day (And Amazon In General)
As a Klaviyo partner who works with a ton of early-stage startups, I was excited to see an article published by Klaviyo focusing on why brands can’t pin their hopes on Prime Day. This one pulled on my heartstrings because every day, for me, I am working to help these companies take back some control from Amazon. Let's back up a bit and set the stage.
With Prime Day, Amazon has created one of 2021’s biggest shopping events aside from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Because of the pandemic, which led to Amazon's own fulfillment problems and an economic crisis that rivaled the Great Depression, 2020’s Prime Day took place in October. That’s a time when both brands and consumers were getting ready for the holiday season.
Amazon reportedly sold $10.4 billion worth of products during Prime Day 2020, according to Digital Commerce 360. This was up 45.2% from the year prior, in part because of the events moving to the top of the holiday season and the growth in overall eCommerce activity. In 2021, Amazon bumped Prime Day back to June 21st and 22nd, a time that ushers in summer and shopping for seasonal events like Fourth of July and back to school.
While industry experts expect growth to slow in 2021, they still project that Prime Day sales are going to top $12 billion. With over 200 million Prime members and an even greater non-member audience, selling on Amazon can help brands expand their reach and gain access to new customers, but those customers usually aren't engaged with the brand itself. Often, this access to new customers comes at a hefty price, namely monthly subscription, referral, closing, and fulfillment fees.
Fees aside, the biggest price brands pay to sell on Amazon is the lack of data they get and the missed opportunities to create long-lasting connections with customers. This is a huge price to pay for small brands looking to grow. As an email marketing strategist, my main goal is to help my customers achieve growth. True growth comes from A) Understanding and leveraging your data and B) Building great relationships with your customers.
True growth comes from understanding and leveraging your data and building great relationships with your customers in marketing.
Email is less about trying to get the promotional buyer on that one key moment of every year and more about sustainable growth, building loyalty and creating a referral loop that is an endless engine for new customers. Many forward-thinking brands know they can't pin their hopes for sustainable growth on Prime Day or Amazon itself.
Channels run by third parties can change their rules and algorithms with no notice, leaving brands with little control over how or even if their products are displayed to potential customers, not to mention that they own the data. Can you imagine a world in which you have 10,000 customers that you cannot even email?
If you are an eComm brand with an Amazon store, this is your reality, not to mention that Amazon isn't keen on showing them up on the best prices on your website. Instead, many merchants have taken ownership of their growth and rely on the channels that are directly within their control like email, website, and mobile to deliver a highly personalized and compelling experience. Here are some real examples. One lifestyle brand started selling on Amazon to test how customers would respond to their products, but the lack of data they received and their inability to engage customers after a sale helped spur the company's decision to create their eCommerce store.
They analyzed their profit margins, looked at a little customer data they had from Amazon, and realized that a large portion of their revenue was going to Amazon's fees. Selling on Amazon was helpful to reach a wide range of customers but it didn't give the rich data back that they needed to learn more about customers, create relationships with them, and increase average order value. Also, customize messaging to different segments, and drive long-term customer lifetime value.
Without first-party data about your customers, it's nearly impossible to develop long-term relationships with them, which are crucial to the growth and sustainability of your business. With Amazon, you can't provide customers with educational information, videos, blog content, and other educational resources. You are stripped of your voice. Most brands have a lot more to offer than just transactional eCommerce in a marketplace. This is usually when the realization sets in that your company needs your own eCommerce store to help collect customer data and have more control over your customer experience.
Another example, a men's grooming company initially used a third party to sell their products on Amazon. It works well. The brand thought about bringing that function in-house so they could invest more in selling on Amazon but when their products sold out on Amazon, they noticed an unanticipated surge of sales on their own eCommerce site. The real question is, why bother managing two different channels when you can just focus on one and make it great?
Another example, a family-owned CPG company that has been in business since the late 1920s, the brand sells its products on its direct-to-consumer website and Amazon but found the latter to be challenging. Their sales almost cut in half over the course of about a month simply because Amazon misunderstood three of their top listings. Amazon claimed that they were advertising in a way that went against their terms of service but it wasn't. It took 1.5 months to get them to turn it back on. By then, the sales were never recovered.
What this shows is that you have to build your customer list. You have to own the relationship with the customers, no questions. Instead of additional battles with Amazon, this CPG brand focused on building their customer list, segmenting it effectively, and creating a personalized marketing experience to drive their growth. Now it's your turn. How can you create your momentum around Prime Day? Entrepreneurs and brand marketers increasingly realize the power of their digital channels and they're swooping into the mid-year shopping season with steals and deals of their own.
According to Modern Retail, consumer behavior has shifted over the past few years, such that people are actively looking to shop in the middle of July and it's no longer relegated just to Amazon. This behavior changed even more when consumers were forced to adapt their preferences during the pandemic. Consumers have also shown an affinity to cut out the middleman by buying directly from brands themselves. Thirty-nine percent would prefer to shop directly on a brand's website rather than a marketplace website. Thus, D2C brands must be ready to cultivate a seamless experience for shoppers straight from their site, from checkout to the last mile delivery.
Savvy eCommerce brands have created their online shopping events and the goal is to engage customers and claim their portion of the imminent consumer spending. Here's a couple of examples. Chubbies, a men's apparel brand known for its shorts, created two branded holidays to drive sales, one in July and the other during the holiday season.
With an Amazon store, you can't provide customers with all the necessary educational information. You are stripped of your voice.
Chubbies’ Julyber Monday event was originally designed to help men get new shorts ahead of July 4th. Its Thighber Monday holiday coincides with Cyber Monday. The events have been so popular that Chubbies introduced ChubFest 2020, which was positioned as two weeks of insane deals that would include Julyber Monday. The two-week event featured deep deals, new products, limited inventory, and free gifts.
Another furniture and home goods online retailer, Wayfair, hosts its 48-hour Way Day event, which features the biggest discounts the brand offers each year across hundreds of thousands of products. In 2021, the event took place on April 28th and 29th and shoppers got access to better-than-Black-Friday-deals without the need for promo codes or coupons. Billed as its biggest sale of the year, Wayfair deeply discounts products like furniture, home decor, and more during this annual two-day sale.
Nordstrom hosts its annual two-week anniversary sale, during which the retailer introduces new fall merchandise and clears out summer styles at deep discounts. If you’re a cardholder, you can get early access based on their level of spending throughout the year, though the sale opens up to non-cardholders after the early access period.
This sale, held both online and in-store, started long before Prime Day, but its popularity has grown significantly because of the emergence of influencer marketing and other digital marketing channels. Typically held in July, Nordstrom moved the event to August 2020 due to store closures and concerns about the pandemic. In 2021 though, the major sale returns to July with a preview that kicks off on July 6th.
Target is another retailer that holds an annual summer shopping event online and in-store to compete with Prime Day. Its Deal Days event, which typically coincides with Amazon’s Prime Day, offers shoppers deals of up to 40% off merchandise. The premise? You don’t need to be a member or a cardholder to score great deals. In 2020, Target moved this popular event to October 13th and 14th to coincide with Amazon’s Prime Day. In 2021, Target has expanded its Deal Days to a three-day event that will take place from June 20th to 22nd, featuring hundreds of thousands of discounts.
The key here with all of these is that these are all businesses owning their channels and being able to work alongside a Prime Day event, do great for their business, build better relationships with their lists, and be able to segment people. This is exactly the type of thing we want to focus on when we're thinking about how we can move away from needing Amazon so much.
Another great example is having a sample sale. If you have a small business and typically you've relied on Prime Day yourself, having a sample sale similar to Nordstrom’s approach where you're getting rid of some inventory as you're bringing new in is another great way to own your own channels. Hopefully, you see the value in doing so.
Selling on Amazon can help brands gain access to new customers, but brands have to go deeper than simply acquiring customers through a transactional marketplace if they want to grow sustainably. Brands must be able to collect first-party data and use it to develop time-tested connections with customers. The most effective marketing operations exercise control over every customer interaction, including email, website, social, call centers, every customer touchpoint, making sure they are relevant and delivering value because that’s how you keep customers.
You have the power to take ownership of your growth and uniquely engage your customers through the channels that are within your direct control. Use the first-party data you capture from your interactions with your customers to deliver more personalized experiences. Use your digital channels to tap into the massive summer shopping season and nurture relationships with your customers throughout the rest of the year. This will help you stand out from the competition and compete for a share of shoppers’ wallets during the ultimate holiday shopping event, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and beyond.
Hopefully, this gave you some perspective on how to shift your model if you're finding yourself relying too heavily on Amazon. One thing I will also add is that once you have customers on Amazon, it is hard to migrate them over to your web channel. Working to build a solid acquisition to web to nurture presence is going to be the best way to go.
Send your questions to Conversations@EmailGrowthSociety.com if you have any. Thank you Klaviyo for the outstanding content. Being in the trenches with these little guys has made me see the impact firsthand. I personally try to always go to a brand's website now and not purchase on Amazon. With that said, start owning those channels and happy emailing. Bye.