Bryan Eisenberg Discusses Customer Engagement and The Four Pillars That Drive Amazon’s Success

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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is a leading expert in online marketing, conversion rate improvements, content marketing and persona marketing. He is the co-founder of BuyerLegends and the New York Times best-selling author of five books, including Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It.

Below he talks about the emerging needs for brands that are looking to engage customers better and touches on his “four pillars of Amazon” – customer centricity, continuous optimization, a culture of innovation and corporate agility.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Are companies spending enough time paying attention to customers?

The biggest challenge is that what got companies to where they are now, at some point, stops working. We’ve found there are four key challenges that impact growth.

Here’s the first one: While they may believe they’re customer-centric, a lot of the decisions they make tend to be driven by what we call “hippos” – the highest paid person’s opinion. Are those decisions customer-centric?

There was a study a few years ago that asked executives whether they felt their companies were customer-centric, and 95% of them said yes. But when they asked the customers of those companies whether they felt that company was customer-centric, only 8% said yes.

The second major challenge is we have a much harder time keeping up with customer expectations. Every customer expects the seamlessness of an Uber, the communications of Zappos and the speed and efficiency of an Amazon. That’s why you’re seeing a ton of disruption. Who’s the largest accommodation provider today? It used to be the big hotel chains, and now it’s Airbnb — and they don’t even own any property. They simply stay ahead of customer expectations.

The third major challenge is what I call systemic growing pains. If one employee doesn’t treat the customer right, and the customer leaves a review and you don’t respond to it, it spirals.

The last challenge is one of the deadliest. We have so much data and content, but very little of it leads to direct action. Content and social media marketers are obsessed with impressions, reach, views and clicks. The problem is we use those numbers to feed our egos.

Let’s say we created a really cool viral ad that had a million impressions. If 10,000 of those people visit your landing page, it means 95% of them leave. If 500 of the 10,000 click and learn more about your product or service, maybe 200 fill out a form, but only 20 of them complete it. Of this 20, maybe only two people actually buy. Will those two people be satisfied enough with the whole sales journey to keep telling other people about it? Most of the time companies never look back and ask what happened to all the other impressions.

This is the problem with content and social media marketing. We worry about those vanity metrics. Instead, let’s ask if we were targeting the right people.

When you present these kinds of insights to clients, are they surprised?

We were in a client’s offices, and they showed us a textbook-sized book of reports. We started asking questions like, ‘Why does your customer come to you? What is it about your products that matters to them? What makes them continue buying from you?’ They couldn’t answer because none of it was in the data. So, the client took this massive binder of reports and dropped it in a garbage pail.

How do brands miss the mark in the customer journey?

Emails or ads might catch someone’s attention, but they get to the landing page and it doesn’t follow through on the promise. A friend showed me his ad copy that said he is one of the most unique and desired speakers of our time. I said, “Are you making that claim or are other people saying it?” If it’s Rolling Stone magazine or Richard Branson saying so, you’ve backed up that claim. But people often don’t understand where the value is for their customers. That’s the genesis of the four pillars.

Why Amazon?

Jeff Bezos said he wanted Amazon to be Earth’s most customer-centric company. He understood what most of us didn’t — that customer centricity is not about just going that extra step. Amazon uses the data from everything you do — every affiliate site you visit, every book you read, every photo you upload and every show you watch. They’ve gathered and mapped those details to serve customers in the way they want to be served.

That’s what we need to think about in terms of the agility. That’s why startups are eating peoples’ lunches. The fast fish is eating the big fish because they’re agile and nimble.

We teach that there are only two things you constantly have to do: Reduce friction internally and externally, and continue to motivate your customers. That’s it. If you’re relentless at doing those two things, you’ll ultimately succeed in the long-term.

What are brands doing right in terms of user experience, and what do they need to be thinking about that they’re not?

A lot of brands have been spending a lot of money on collecting data. Today, most companies have somebody who’s taking a look at these reports but may not be creating an action plan out of the data. Things get left in silos. You’ll see an ad and a landing page that seem to be completely congruent and relevant. Then you go through the sales process, and it feels completely disconnected.

Amazon and Apple don’t have teams any larger than what two pizzas can feed. They have merchandisers and business people and coders and analysts, and they’re basically running their own mini-startup. It eliminates a lot of those silos.

I also think many businesses don’t realize that customer experience is a brand problem. It involves everybody end-to-end, from janitorial to the boardroom to the salespeople to customer service.

You write about aligning customer brand expectations with metrics. Can you say more?

Amazon category managers look at inputs, not outcomes. They don’t worry about the conversion rates per se. They focus on four key inputs:

  • Selection: They aim to have seven times the category depth of any of their top competitors. If you have more options to choose from, you’ll probably find something there.
  • Price: They try to stay between 5-13% lower than their top competitors. They built technology that changes the price up to six million times a day. They don’t have to be the lowest price, just competitively priced.
  • Availability: It gets to you right away. Their logistics and operations are far superior to just about anybody else’s out there.
  • Experience: They look at their customer satisfaction index and tend to score 30% higher year after year.

When you think about it, selection, price, availability and experience are the core of your brand. Every business should have something similar but not identical, because every brand has unique value. Our job is to identify what values are important to you, talking to your customers, and helping you focus on finding those customers.

It’s finding the right data that’s relevant to the experience that you want your customers to have. It’s understanding customers at such a deep, cellular level that you have strong empathy for the way they want to buy, not the way you want to sell to them.

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