Returns

What can independent B2B businesses learn from Amazon about keeping customers coming back?

I predict one day Amazon will fail. Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years.”
~ Jeff Bezos

Amazon will go out of business – though probably not on its 30th birthday, only 5 years from now. 

YouTube and the rest of Google will go out of business. So will Facebook and Twitter. Gone.

Or transformed into something completely different, like Sears. Sears dominated a kind of early-online shopping, the mail order catalog – you could order an entire house from Sears in 1906.  Some are still standing.

Amazon.com accounts for 50% of all online purchases in the United States. But for a generation, Sears accounted for over 90% of mail-order shopping in the United States. They seemed much more eternal than Amazon now seems. They still have 100s of department stores even after declaring bankruptcy in 2019.

But it appears Sears is en route to becoming just an online store. They have invested heavily in their web presence and, by objective standards, it seems better designed than Amazon.com. Its homepage UX is superb and it’s well-designed in other ways – it has useful product listings and product pages. Its shopping cart and checkout process work well. A lot better than the messy experience of shopping on Amazon.com.

This is an unfair comparison since Amazon is an open marketplace supplied by 10’s of thousands of independent merchants. The diversity of products and services makes is extremely difficult for Amazon to present coherent product listings, let alone a coherent homepage.

But the point is – Sears and lots of mass merchants have better online stores than Amazon.com. So why does Amazon do so well? Why will it sell about 300 billion in 2020?

Because Amazon focuses religiously on orders, order tracking, and order returns.

In this one category group, Amazon.com is the best in the world. I highly doubt that’s accidental. Nothing makes buyers happier than knowing when they are getting what they have bought. And knowing that they can return or cancel that order easily. And knowing both processes happen fast – faster than anywhere else.

There’s always something for us small boutique, B2B knowledge-businesses to learn from the business giants. Especially when it comes to productizing services. Here the question is, how can you make order tracking and returns part of your business? 

My best,
Rowan