The Benefits of Respecting the Shopper: Amazon’s Rise to U.S. Top Performing Brand

The naming of as the top-performing brand in the US by market research firm Millward Brown is truly a watershed moment for e-commerce players who have neither the long standing history nor seeming reach of many traditional multi-channel retailers. This ranking applauds those who have toiled night and day to build a rich, rewarding and relevant experience for online shoppers and demonstrates how much power this relatively new channel has in not just supporting but creating brands.  What’s particularly interesting is that among the top ten performing brands in this study, six are products (e.g. Tide, Tylenol, Huggies), three are services (FedEx, WebMD, UPS) and only one is a retailer: Amazon.   This is crazy—how is it that an e-commerce pure play trumps national retail chains that boast web sites, sales people and physical footprints?

Simple: No Baggage. Amazon received the top ranking based on providing top-notch service as well as in providing its own product recommendations to users, “This combination has made Amazon the gold standard of trust and recommendation in the U.S.”, according Nigel Hollis, EVP and chief global analyst for Millward Brown.

Amazon was architected to displace the very nature of our in-store shopping experience by giving us a rewarding, enriched online shopping experience. The ability to have a totally personalized shopping experience in the comfort of your own home and know that you are a) seeing nearly all the potential product options available b) getting the very best price and c) able to look at the opinions of other Amazon shoppers and d) have products recommended specifically for you more than compensates for the immediacy of picking up that same product from the store down the road.  Amazon built a retail operation that put the customer at the very center of their thinking and they created the mechanisms—recommendations, reviews, premier membership—to exceed customer expectations.  In the 16 years since Amazon launched, they’ve repeated this process millions of times to the point where they have achieved total credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of the consumer.

So what’s a national retailer with a multi-channel footprint to do?  Embrace your “baggage” and you’ll find that it’s actually your golden opportunity. Evaluate sales floor opportunities, personnel, online experiences, and customer call centers and look for ways to put the customer at the center of your thinking across all of these channels.  This exercise probably sounds challenging and that’s because it is!  It means breaking down silos of thinking and operations.  It means using core data and analytics across your organization in a holistic fashion to create synergies for customers regardless of what channel they are shopping.  It means identifying new methods and/or polishing old mechanisms with the objective of delighting customers. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it means recognizing that shoppers actually want to be persuaded to be loyal customers to your brand. You just need to give them more reasons to vote for you with their dollars and their brand loyalty.

My interest in the topic of cross-channel brand management isn’t just limited to this blog post. In fact, I’m about to embark on a national tour with Paco Underhill, the celebrated author of “Why We Buy” and the CEO of Envirosell to address the various issues faced by retailers as they try to help their customers cross channels. Any retailer that says they don’t consider Amazon a competitive threat need to look no further than the Millward Brown report as the true temperature gauge of where today’s shopper is vesting their brand loyalties.  In cities across the U.S. we will be meeting with retailers to highlight the areas of opportunity—and to be honest, dysfunctionality—in their organizations that are keeping them from competing with the likes of Amazon.

To learn more about and register for our upcoming event in New York on March 24 please visit  Registration is not yet open for our San Francisco (4/27) and Chicago (4/29) events but drop us a line if you’d like to attend one of those events.

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This post was written by David Selinger

ABOUT David Selinger
David is CEO and founder of RichRelevance. He first garnered international recognition as an expert in the field of eCommerce data analytics and personalization with his groundbreaking work leading the research and development arm of Amazon’s Data Mining and Personalization team. In that role, David increased Amazon’s annual profit by over $50 million (25% of US profit, 2003) setting the industry standard for recommendation services. To view David's full profile, click here.
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