Empathy is what makes Amazon different
Slate.com ran an article last week titled I Want It Today: How Amazon’s ambitious new push for same-day delivery will destroy local retail. If you haven’t read it, it’s a good read. The gist of it is as follows:
But now Amazon has a new game. Now that it has agreed to collect sales taxes, the company can legally set up warehouses right inside some of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation. Why would it want to do that? Because Amazon’s new goal is to get stuff to you immediately—as soon as a few hours after you hit Buy.
Whether or not Amazon can pull it off is up for debate. But I’ve got a lot of respect for Amazon. Sure, they have great prices and selection. And I love Amazon Prime. But what stands out is their user empathy. They make the process of shopping as painless as possible. They try to provide objective customer reviews. They make returns easy.
But most of all, they respect their customers’ privacy. Amazon doesn’t sell my address or info to other 3rd party retailers. They don’t fill my mailbox with catalogs and junk mail. They understand I don’t want that.
Contrast that to Crate & Barrel. Sure, they’ve got great products. But when my wife buys something online, they put her on two mailing lists: one for the Crate & Barrel catalog and another called the “Rent List”. The “Rent List” is where they basically sell (or rent) your mailing address to other retailers. So, after buying something online at Crate & Barrel, we start getting catalogs from a bunch of retailers. That sucks.
The same thing happens for a lot of online retailers. I can’t buy stuff online at GAP or Banana Republic because they sell my mailing info. Lucky Brand as well. Probably most of the top online brands do that. Again, that sucks.
Sure, I can understand. They’ve been “monetizing” their customers info for many decades. Imagine, if you can make an extra $5 per person who buys something from your site by just selling their info to other retailers. That’s a significant profit margin. Why wouldn’t you do it? Well, the reason you wouldn’t do it is if you respected the customer’s privacy and had empathy. That’s what a lot of retailers are missing.
But for some reason Amazon’s got it. They’ve managed to build a successful business without selling their customers mailing info, and they make sure even if you buy in their Amazon Marketplace that third party retailers don’t mail you unsolicited catalogs or junk mail, or spam email.
If Amazon is successful at disrupting local retail, it will be because they’ve got user empathy in a retail world where it’s sorely lacking.