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amazon.com brand
 

Amazon.com


  Amazon.com
stacked
by Brad Cook
July 1, 2002

When you visit Amazon.com, the title bar at the top of your web browser makes a bold proclamation: “Amazon.com – Earth’s Biggest Selection.” Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but at the rate Amazon.com is going it might just be a matter of time before it’s true.
 
 

By now, most everyone is familiar with the Amazon.com brand – a proposition that can be best summarized as convenient, low-priced, efficient, personalized, and customer-service friendly. These key qualities in a retail brand go a long way to explain Amazon.com’s popularity.

The brand is a far cry from its humble beginnings in July 1995, when it modestly aimed to be the number one place on the World Wide Web to buy books. Today, not only can you pick up a copy of the latest bestseller at a discount, but you can also buy a high-definition widescreen TV, a DVD player, new DVDs, some pots and pans to cook dinner with before your big movie night, and a faster computer to use for your next purchase.

Such diversification and growth is vital to Amazon.com because it keeps the brand at the forefront of the online shopping industry. In fact, by virtue of having arrived at the party so early, Amazon.com can translate as “buy stuff online here” to anyone who wants to make a purchase without leaving home. The company has such strong name awareness that most will automatically visit the URL directly when they want to do some shopping.

Now that Amazon.com has transformed itself from the little bookstore on the corner to the mega-super-duper-full-of-stuff store that squats at the end of a monstrous parking lot, how good is the experience when you drop by for a visit? Well, the look and feel has stayed pretty much the same during the past eight years. But the layout and navigation work well for a business like Amazon.com. There’s a big difference between mom-and-pops and monolithic retailers, but Amazon.com can increase its selection of products without intimidating the consumer with rows of products that stretch on forever. Simply click the category you want and you’re whisked away to, say, the cell phone department, without wasting any energy trudging through the toy department.

One drawback to online retailing, though, is that you can’t browse the same way you can in a bricks-and-mortar store. Amazon.com tries to be helpful with plenty of recommendations based on the items you bought or even looked at recently. The downside for the customer is recommendations based on gifts you bought for people whose taste is much different from your own; the downside for Amazon.com is missing the opportunity to introduce the customer to an out-of-category product or impulse buy along the way.

The site does allow you to see why it recommended a certain item and rates your previous purchases (or the items you viewed recently) on a scale of one to five to help guide future recommendations – or decide to exclude them altogether. Depending on your nature, the system can act as an irritant that detracts from the shopping experience, like a pushy salesperson who keeps coming back with products that he’s “just sure you’ll love.” Between the recommendations, the lists titled “Customers who bought the items above also bought,” and the lists of favorites created by other shoppers, the shopper can get lost in a tangled web of product links, which might be Amazon.com’s virtual equivalent of browsing a physical store, but can get overwhelming quickly.

So what are the brand advantages of Amazon.com over other retail outlets? It excels at competitive pricing – an advantage of not having the overhead of a physical retail space. It makes up for the lack of in-store customer service by supplying reams of information about the product. And it achieves global reach without a costly, risky roll out plan of physical storefronts. (Amazon.com includes four international sites— Amazon.com in the US, Amazon.co.uk in the UK; Amazon.de in Germany; Amazon.co.jp in Japan; and Amazon.fr in France.) When it comes time to check out, the company has done a fine job of streamlining the process for repeat consumers. A click on “proceed to checkout” from the shopping cart screen brings you to a page with all your vital information on it, such as shipping address, payment method, and so forth. The shopper can easily revise the information before clicking “place your order,” which is a big improvement over the old method of clicking through several screens before completing an order.

Amazon.com’s customer service continues until the package is on your front doorstep. One can log on and track the order to see where it’s been and where it’s headed at any time. And if you want to return something, they’ve made that a snap too: Simply contact their customer service department and let them know what you’re dissatisfied with. Then take the return label from the original packing slip, place it on the box, and send it off. They’ll even issue a credit before they receive the merchandise, something that not every online retailer will do. And you won’t have to stand in the long lines that plague many physical retailers.

The mail-order challenge that Amazon.com operates under requires the customer to choose an item sight unseen and wait for its delivery. But by providing exemplary, hassle-free service, convenient ordering and a growing list of products to choose from, Amazon.com managed to beat the bricks-and-mortar alternative and win customers over to its virtual superstore. It’s nearly as amazing as the first signs of profit Amazon.com turned this year.

 
     
  

Brad Cook is a freelance writer based in Sunnyvale, CA. He has published over 120 articles in a variety of print and online media since 1995.

  
     
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