Overall Loyalty Driver Score: 29.0
Amazon Prime might have the highest membership of any loyalty program in existence, at some big number north of 100 million subscribers each paying $119/year for access. We are all pretty familiar with the basic reasons for joining, which is to get free shipping plus next-day and two-day delivery on, gosh, what seems like everything. To double down on these efforts, now you also get to stream Prime content, which is probably slightly less of a deal since the annual cost of the membership went up $20 with this addition, which is higher than either Hulu or Netflix.
The foundation of Prime is how great they are at Financial and Time and Recognition drivers. They are interwoven tightly such that we are pretty sure we are saving money on shipping by being Prime members (without really doing the math), but we are certain they save us time with so much two-day shipping and by Recognizing us through storing payment information and every address we have shipped to. We preach this over and over how much that Recognizing your customer can save them time and make them loyal to you. Many miss this easy point.
The genesis of the loyalty to this program for most starts with free and reduced-rate shipping around Christmas, when we are all scrambling to both find ways to make our holiday dollars stretch farther, as well as making these decisions too late, but still being able to get them quickly. Amazon isn’t particularly great at Content or Emails and they seem to have abandoned a lot of their predictive email nudges of products that might make sense given past purchases; however, they are so strong in so many areas it makes their other lesser drivers insignificant. If you don’t believe they are the leader, we will restate: over 100 million people pay $119/year to be part of this. Beat that!
TIME – 33
Whether on the site, in-app, or through their lockers, Amazon Prime is conscience that Time is the currency of loyalty, and they want you to keep as much as you can. Through storing payment information and shipping addresses, to removing clicks in the shopping cart, Amazon is the standard for all companies to live up to for frictionless experiences. Just as a test, starting at google, we purchased an inflatable kayak and were fully checked out with email confirmation in 4 CLICKS. That is not just impressive, it is otherworldly. Just so that you have your eyes on the ball, we took our time reading the reviews and the specs of the kayak. But when we were ready to buy, it was lightning fast. You won’t waste valuable transaction time with Amazon. And it keeps us all coming back.
Their website is their store, and they’ve been working in eCommerce for over 20 years, as long as anyone. It’s not just that they are experienced, they have near-constantly been tuned-in to the customer and what each of us needs.
Streamlined in-store/on location experience – 10
Much of this is driven by Recognition and payment information and shipping address storing, or at least that is the easiest part to see. However, what you miss on their site is that there are no added pages to the process, which means no added page load time to get through the shopping cart. It is a small detail in the transaction speed, but a simple and important one.
Streamlined website/app shopping experience – 8
The app experience is very solid and will feel like the website. We are probably being a little hard on them here as we imagine we are judging their app more in relation to their website than to other ecommerce apps. You will find the same smooth experience on the app, but just less information and less digestible than on the site. We are guessing they know their customers best and perhaps they are mainly desktop or mobile site customers as opposed to app customers, as their app doesn’t have a great rating at 3.3 in the Apple Store despite being #1 in shopping. However, with 53,000 ratings, it’s hard to argue with the survey scores that claim the iPad functionality is lacking.
Smooth BOPIS experience – 5
Amazon created their lockers, which isn’t exactly BOPIS but as close as any web-business has created. With the lockers, you can select your purchases to be delivered here for many reasons, although concerns over package theft top the list. Mainly housed in grocery stores by the RedBox machines, these utilitarian cabinets and their BOPIS experience passes the bar, but with no recognition or smooth in-store experience, there is a lot lacking.
Proactive communications and management – 10
Granted, they are not as good at this as they used to be, but they have always been frontrunners. As customers, we always know where goods are in the process, when backorders become available, when sizes or colors become available, as we are notified quickly and concisely about it. The key to most of their communications, that most brands plow right over, is that they aren’t trying to get more shopping out of their customers at each comm. The email takes care of business and assumes (rightly) that if you need something else, you know where to find them. This attitude creates cleaner more purposeful emails that are fast to read as the necessary information is not buried somewhere in upsells.
For more detail, long ago Amazon would send nudges about companion products and the like, which, we suppose, didn’t save time since they were additional emails. These comms seem to have been replaced with recommendations on their site when logged in, but even those have been scaled back. Perhaps, they have noticed that this can all become noise in this heavy email era, and that they only have so many shots at you and your multi-divided attention. If that is the thrust behind this, it is slow clap worthy.
FINANCIAL – 41
The association with the Amazon brand is savings and infinite shelf space. They have everything. You have options on used gear. Their volume alone creates the pricing for the market. When buying almost anything that can be shipping, we think to check Amazon before buying direct. Always. We have to check to Amazon before we buy or we are giving away money. This is a fact of the ecommerce buyer’s journey. That itself is price-based loyalty. They have developed a brand that feels dedicated to providing us with every product imaginable at the lowest price.
Perceived or Actual Savings – 10
The perceive savings here, both as a Prime members and not, are so ingrained that we often don’t even think to shop around. To be fair, of course we shop around. However, our assumption is that Amazon has the lowest prices because they always have. And if they don’t, many things we can buy used.
If you are a Prime member, you will receive free 2-day shipping, and it is very easy to see that this is an actual benefit and not some shell game, when prices are as low as they are. Whether or not you buy enough stuff to eclipse the $100 in shipping (assuming $19 is for Prime streaming) is up to the individual, but we can guess this is somewhere below 10 purchases, assuming the average lightweight, 2-day shipping will cost $12. On average across all products, it’s probably 6-7 purchases/year or 1 purchase every couple of months. It might pay for itself for Christmas shopping alone.
As environmentalists, we may not need 2-day shipping on each thing we buy, but we all would opt for getting things faster if there is no added cost. Perhaps we are getting discounts for things we don’t need, but where convenience collides with cost, it’s hard not to award Amazon with more than 10 points in this category.
Select or members only pricing – 10
Members receive free 2-day shipping on nearly all purchases from the website and app. It’s hard to find items that cannot be shipped within that time frame. 2-day shipping is their rule for Prime members and not the exception. There are many ecommerce businesses who create most of their margin on shipping, and shipping feels very expensive these days, so this is not a small benefit.
Reward/Loyalty points – 8
The Amazon Prime card returns 5% cash back on Amazon Site and App purchases, as well as Whole Foods; 2% back on restaurants, gas stations, and pharmacies; 1% back on everything else. In the abstract, this is a standard card offering these days. You can find a near exact deal with the REI card and many others. Whether this is the barrier for entry or the max that good brands offer, it is about as good as we are likely to find in this day of retail. If you are a huge purchaser through Amazon, this can notch things up and certainly if Whole Foods is your grocery store of choice.
Sign up Bonus – 6
The Amazon Prime card comes with a $70 gift card to Amazon, which is a decent little bonus, but more of a nicety and not something that encourages as certain behavior. Above the norm of nothing, but well below airline cards offering 50k miles.
Longer lasting products – 1
Durability and high-quality goods can certainly be found at Amazon, but this is not what they are known for and typically not why people shop the brand. Customers shop here for savings and endless inventory. If something doesn’t last long…well, it didn’t cost much anyway.
Perceived personal value – 6
There isn’t much cache in either shopping at Amazon or being a Prime member, but there is a little. Being a member of Prime has sort of a wink to it, but not much of one, as nearly everyone has it. That wink is more meaningful if you happen to be talking to one of the only people who isn’t a member on December 20th, after having just bought all her nieces presents on that day that were guaranteed to arrive well ahead of December 25th. Wrapped. Beyond that, there isn’t much pride or personal gravitas awarded to members.
We are all making choices about which streaming services to purchase, between Netflix, Prime, Hulu, HBONow, and whoever else. Certainly, customers are making choices if they also still subscribe to cable. Those who aren’t and watch a lot of programming are just subscribing to all of them. However, it is a common situation to be talking great shows with a friend and for them to reveal that some hit show is on Prime with almost an apology, but not an endorsement to spend $119/year for the pleasure.
CONTENT/LEARNING – 5
Amazon gets its lowest marks in Content & Learning, as they don’t engage in it. Despite having AmazonFresh, Whole Foods, digital books, Kindle Cloud Reader, streaming service, credit card, and the biggest online marketplace in the galaxy, they do not engage in teaching customers how to get the most out of their Amazon experience. Given their incredible influence over other companies and impact on consumers across the globe, it is a huge miss. We wish we could award them more than 10 for their Financial Driver, and we likewise wish we could award them less than 1 for their Content & Learning.
We are certainly much more critical of Amazon than other companies for dropping the ball here, but this is because they are such a giant influence on how the rest of the business world operates. While it is unreasonable for them to provide content on each product or product type in their inventory, we feel they should at least make this effort with their own products and reveal how best to get the most out of them as a starting point. Content done right here not only creates a giant base of power users, it will also encourage other brands to follow in lockstep or be left behind.
Of course, NOT creating useful content is not going to hurt Amazon nor weaken Amazon Prime. But as leaders, they should be leading here.
In the breakout, we are just going to complain more specifically, as opposed to generally.
How to use products – 1
Most of their own products are fairly self-explanatory, but it never hurts to cover these bases and to keep them fresh, as public trends develop and use-cases evolve.
How to get the most out of products – 1
Here is a big miss. They could offer low-frequency shopping hours at each Whole Foods location for members. Ways to lengthen Kindle battery life. Ways to use their credit card for purchases that aren’t common card purchases. Telling users which areas are in hot zones for thievery and encourage using their lockers. This could go forever. And with their customer data, they could chisel user-behavior in some incredible ways if they cared to and we accept.
How professionals use these products/services – 1
They could absolutely ruin this area with their buying power. Imagine a TV or movie star talking about the films they watch over and over, that are miraculously only available on Prime. Or what stars binge-watch on Prime. These could be crafted with a level of detail about the programming that leave little doubt, while being programming unto themselves.
Or authors doing the same thing with Kindle. Seeing a particular writer’s personal Kindle. That could be thrilling.
Famous chefs not only shopping at Whole Foods, but how they select meats or cheese or fruits. Dang it so much. Why doesn’t this exist already??
Instructional / advice / etc. – 1
Meh. You can find this anywhere, and YouTube has probably won this battle. But imagine the cross-purchasing that could happen while digesting this content if correlating products mentioned in the instructions were surrounding the content.
Downstream/Iterations/Predictive – 1
This is the biggest loss. Given their sheer amount of customer data, they could not only predict what is most likely to be used or needed next given a previous purchase or group of purchases, but they could do this with an astonishing level of accuracy. Amazon may not be interested in playing favorites with their inventory, but we would sure like them to do just that. Not only which things to avoid if certain conditions are present, but which specific lines or types of products are more correct, irrespective of price.
Maybe this is too political of a stance for them, but if we go back to Recognition and Time Drivers, if they know us and want to save us time shopping, then offer us a faster path based on what they know about us. It would be our option to trust them for a time savings or not and continue to shop and be sure. We imagine most would choose to still shop for certain things and to trust on other things.
Long ago there was a book written called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz (available on Amazon). In this, Schwartz posits that in some situations we like to have a lot of control over our choices (restaurants), in others we would like some control with some guidance (enrolling in courses for the semester), and still in others we want to be told (doctor’s office). It seems Amazon should zoom in on purchase behavior where customers demonstrate they don’t need control and just need to be told what to buy (chip clips, paper towels, etc) and be more hands off (like they are today) in areas where customers just need to explore all the options because they believe they are such unique individuals that there is no way they would go with the crowd on this one.
ACCESS – 35
The Access Driver of Loyalty for Amazon is fairly hit and miss. They kill some areas, such as products with Prime Streaming and Amazon Lockers, but ignore various other Access paths that seem well within their grasp. If they were a smaller company, with less capital and less of a footprint, maybe this can all be attributed to needing to focus on certain elements to survive. And potentially this is what makes them so good at the things they do focus on. Yet, with their level and longevity of customer data, they could offer Access to many areas they ignore today without a ton of effort.
In-store/at location – 8
Amazon does not offer much within their website or app that is exclusive to members…except the all important free 2-day shipping. We mention this point dozens of times through this page, but this is really no small thing. Both the price of this and the convenience of getting almost anything—whether you need a rush delivery or not—in almost no time. It is offered and executed fairly casually, but this is a service that still escapes nearly every other company either in terms of turnaround or cost. And they do it for 100 million people.
There isn’t a ton of sex appeal in free 2-day shipping, but an outstanding meat and potatoes offering to keep us loyal. However, there are more things that could be offered given their enormous inventory and their decent swath of branded products they own without doing a ton.
Exclusivity – Places – 5
There aren’t many traditional “places” that Amazon controls or provides Access to, beyond Lockers and Whole Foods, and with the exception of the Lockers, their isn’t much exclusivity for members vs anyone else. The lockers are a nice perk for those buying sensitive materials or living in high-theft areas, but we feel there is an enormous miss with Whole Foods or anything else creative that Amazon could summon in some to-be-named-later partnership.
Exclusivity – Events/People – 1
Here again, as luminaries in ecommerce and business in general, they could provide exclusive access to any number of people or events, just given who they are. We discussed access to chefs, actors, athletes, writers, book signings, VIP seating, red carpets, award shows, cooking classes, the list would end at some point, but could go on for a while. All of the potential Access to events or people could reinforce the brand through various ways. Seriously, you want the King Crab caught by a specific boat on Deadliest Catch? It’s only available at Whole Foods. Pick your boat.
Exclusivity – Product – 10
Amazon has some pretty great and exclusive products that we use so much it’s easy to forget this as an act of loyalty to their brand. As Amazon Prime members, we have access to their streaming channel, to the Kindle app and all of its various content. Both of these are leaders in their space. Certainly, Netflix is out in front with the amount of content they produce, and bravo for them. But if you want something old, some nostalgia fix, Amazon is the place to turn to. You’ll need a Fire Stick to make it all happen, which is an overlooked product that gives us access to the streaming channel. That have mastered the delivery of content by multiple products.
Lead time – 6
Amazon used to be pretty great at this to a point where we are confounded as to why they’ve stopped. Maybe they realized they didn’t need to because products will sell no matter if they provide lead time. While their scalable products of TV shows and digital books can’t sell out, we have often found products on their site are unavailable, food items sold out at Whole Foods, and the like. While lead time may not ever solve this, if it did give Prime Members the first crack as opposed to the general public, that will drive loyalty.
Further, if they know my purchase behavior and know that it likely intersects with multiple products that are facing dwindling supply, that is something easy for them to deliver, something all members would want to know, and this would encourage non-members to join.
Information/Intelligence/Data – 5
Disappointing as this is, most companies, even Amazon, are not very good at this. They are surrounded by an ocean of data to be able to pass around trends to customers, as they relate to certain categories or specific products and what they already know about each customer’s purchase behavior. Helping customers stay on top of continued renewal in and optimization of their own purchase behavior. And hey, if they don’t have a high level of confidence, then don’t provide any information. It could even be reserved for power users to get even farther, like a consumer margin account.
RECOGNITION – 31
Amazon has always been a leader in recognition, even in its simpler forms of yesteryear, helping us to understand that certain products are typically bought together (or should be) populating the gutters and rails of its logged-in site with past purchases and your next likely purchase, and then onward toward storage and retention of payment information and shipping addresses. While they are certainly dialed back their email nudges and haven’t forged much farther ahead than this, they have always been the brand to copy, and their plateau in recognition is likely why the market is not pressing this further. Also, we’ve had a few interruptions with personal data, so it also might not feel like the area to pioneer at the moment.
In-App – 7
Very decent and mainly above the competition in their app to remember much of the same information, such as shipping and payment information, as well as some of the now-standard touch-recognition. You don’t get the same level of treatment as on their website, with the robust sections of “users who bought this also bought this”, but nobody really expects that on mobile, though debatable on tablets.
Individual Emails – 5
They are no worse than another else, but they used to be pretty great with email nudges that kept them in our minds and kept us shopping likely more than we needed to. We give them credit if they decided to lay off our inbox and further credit for braveness if they realized that it just wasn’t needed anymore, as customers trust the brand so much that they will come back whenever they are ready. However, no matter the reason, there is a happy medium in here where they could continue to express their brand and further create the loyalty to all of their offerings by staying in touch more often.
Newsletters/Blasts – 1
In-Store – 8
There isn’t much effort given in Whole Foods to separate the loyal from the passersthrough. (Whole Foods was once on its way toward this very end in 2017, but it was halted when Amazon purchased them.)
On-Website – 10
Much to appreciate and admire here with Amazon, both with Prime and just the site itself. As mentioned many times previously, their storing of payment and shipping information, as well as surrounding a customer’s feed with recommendations passed on past purchases was started and perfected at Amazon. They use Recognition to help (crossing Loyalty Driver streams here) Save customers time, removing clicks from the purchase path. While these efforts were fairly novel several years ago, today they are becoming the norm, but still so so many companies have proven capable of storing payment and shipping information, but still fail at making the checkout process any more efficient.
Stored Memory – 10
As with REI, Amazon does a great job of having your past purchases readily accessible. This is a fairly new piece that is so easy for companies to provide. It isn’t dynamic and pulls straight from the customer account, which means it’s not a heavy tech build to provide a customer with their own past behavior. We feel this will become the norm at all high-volume retail and ecommerce companies, as they recognize that customers often either want to buy a similar or same product as they have in the past or if they want to avoid doing this. It is a smart and easy way to put power back in the customer’s hands without forcing them to use it or see it if they don’t want to. But it’s additive to the experience without being expensive or distracting.