Yes, that Amazon!
The Amazon leading eCommerce for the past 15 years. Earth’s most customer-centric company. Obsessed with making their customers happy. The same Amazon that will quickly sacrifice short-term earnings for long-term loyalty at any given moment and despite any costs.
The Amazon that 10 years ago shared 10% of WalMart’s customers, only to reach 60% today. The Amazon that does almost 2000 marketing tests a year, continuously measuring and optimizing inputs rather than outputs. The same Amazon that invests 15 billion a year in R&D. More than Google or Apple.
Says Bryan Eisenberg in his new book – Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It.
If you remember, I met Bryan at GPeC, last fall, during a one-day Buyer Legends workshop. Extremely friendly, very well structured and full of A-Ha! moments that day. Basically, Bryan’s the eCommerce wizard you want to go to when you want your online shop to grow like Amazon. To foster that internal growth mindset. Or when you want to align customer brand expectations with business metrics. Or for innovative learning experiences and keynote presentations. With extensive, a few decades worth of eCommerce experience, he’s your guy.
Another cool thing Bryan has agreed to do was to offer us an awesome interview. We knew about his new book, Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It, ever since last year, at the conference, when it was still in “production”. And we were thrilled to see it out and about! It’s an extremely insightful book, very funny, a pleasant and valuable read. If I were you, I’d read it (at least) twice – once for myself, to absorb all insights and once for my customers, in order to truly help them and add real value to their experience.
These being said, you can imagine why we would let neither Bryan nor his book go below the radar since it provides valuable information throughout all the noise out there. So, here it goes:
Intro: Hey Bryan, we’ve met last year at GPeC. You held a one day, insightful workshop on Buyer Legends that still runs through my mind from time to time. For that, I’ll start you off with an easy question.
AYG: If you could trade lives with any person – dead or alive – for a day, who would it be? 🙂
Bryan Eisenberg: Honestly, I love my life. I don’t think I would want to trade lives with anyone for even a day.
AYG: Fair enough. Now, you wrote this resourceful book, scattered with precious A-Ha moments – Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It. You not only point out Amazon’s pillars to building an agile customer experience, but you also mention the essential and easy-to-mirror tactics to scale businesses that last. Such as online shops, for instance. 😉 So, I was wondering, what drove your interest in studying the giant for so long?
Bryan Eisenberg: I have been studying Amazon since its early days in 1995. I admired much of what they did but had my doubts if they could really survive over the long term. While we consulted with many great companies teaching them about customer experience, analytics and conversion optimization, not all of them grew the way Amazon did. We needed to understand what it was that drove their success so that other people could learn from their “playbook.”
AYG: Business-wise, building online shops, we completely resonate with crafting the best possible customer experiences to both our customers and our customers’ customers. 🙂 Now, you have a vast and impressive experience in this area and have seen quite a few online shops in your life. So, in your opinion, in which areas could online shops do more for their customers?
Bryan Eisenberg: Just like Jeff Bezos, we need to focus on those things that never change. Customer will never say they want their package slower, so get it to them faster. They will never say I want to pay more, so find ways to lower costs. They will never say they want the experience to be a hassle, so find every way to make the experience as friction-free as possible. Then we need to focus on what value the online shop brings to their customers and how they plan on delivering it. There are many ways to differentiate other than on price. It can be based on knowledge, high-touch service, and customization, the uniqueness of products, etc.
AYG: Quite a popular question for young online shops is “Do I start solo, or do I find myself a marketplace?”. So, I bet our readers would like to know what’s your take on marketplaces vs. solo shops? As in, when would it be best for a digital business to sell in a marketplace, to stand tall as a one-brand-shop or when’s the best time for both?
Bryan Eisenberg: Marketplaces are great because there are customers there already. For example, when the InstaPot launched on Amazon and created an amazing viral success. The key is to develop a unique product, be passionate about solving your communities’ needs and developing relationships with those customers.
AYG: In your book you also lean towards investing more in infrastructure rather than marketing. Since we’re Magento developers, we’re naturally biased towards this platform. And though it’s a bit more expensive, it’s solid, complex and easily scalable. (Just curious, would you agree?) And what could developers and their agencies learn from Amazon, infrastructure wise?
Bryan Eisenberg: I want shops to focus on technology that keeps them lean and agile. They need to have the resources to innovate and continuously improve. Technology should support the business not hold it hostage.
AYG: A different angle. You know the saying Haters gonna hate. Well, Amazon’s bound to have its fair share of that, too. Being the best, putting others out of business and being universally loved don’t quite go together, do they? So, on the other side of the internet, there’s also this pale idea to avoid the giant – I think it might’ve started back in 2015 with that NY Times piece on Amazon’s work practices. What do you make of that? And do you think it has any potential of harming the giant?
Bryan Eisenberg: Absolutely. If you are being disruptive to an industry or in Amazon’s case several industries, people are going to hate on you. It is frightening to be their competitor. That is why I hope my new book, Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It, shares with them a page from their playbook. Then they can learn to disrupt their industry on behalf of their customers. There is no question that working in the world’s oldest startup must be difficult. Every startup is a challenge and one that has been doing it for two decades it must be even harder to sustain. However, Jeff Bezos addressed those allegations and I have had several friends who worked there who said it was a challenging but great environment to work in.
AYG: This one’s another personal curiosity – when you think alternative-to-Amazon, what comes to your mind 1st?
Bryan Eisenberg: Obviously marketplaces like eBay, Walmart and Staples are interesting, but Alibaba also fascinates me. We should all be studying eCommerce in China to understand our digital future.
AYG: But, back to the book, how’s your take on Amazon different from most of what’s been written about the eCommerce leader of Today? And how does it help startup online shop owners or the smaller businesses which usually get swallowed by the giant?
Bryan Eisenberg: I think our book will give shops of all sizes hope that they can find a way to experience true growth by leveraging the “flywheel” of Amazon’s four pillars of success that we illustrate in the book. They will also take away how to get their team from board room to stockroom aligned to deliver an amazing customer experience.
AYG: Witty anecdotes, stories to prove points, I must admit – I knew you were a great storyteller ever since the conference! What’s the best “inside” story you’ve got on Jeff Bezos? (I bet you didn’t see that one coming)
Bryan Eisenberg: Two of them to show how obsessed he is with the customer experience. He will not allow anything to be tested above the fold of the product page without his permission. Below the fold, is not an issue. Two he keeps an empty chair in the boardroom during all meeting to represent the customer so that they have a seat at the table and in all decisions.
AYG: Since we’re talking heroes, I find role models play quite an important part in building one’s character. Who was your childhood hero?
Bryan Eisenberg: I had many heroes from sports to movie characters. I guess what I appreciated about each of them was their quest to continuously explore and improve themselves.
That’s all, folks! Bryan Eisenberg answering our Top 10 discussion points on eCommerce, Amazon and his new book – Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It. Bryan is easy to find on his personal website or Twitter. And so is his book… on Amazon. 🙂
Bryan, thanks tons for taking the time to respond. Connecting with you is always an insightful blast!