In December last year, as major retailers in the US worried about “Black Friday” not arriving and cash registers not ringing, Amazon.com announced that it had its best year ever. Here’s the story and here are the numbers: Amazon reported that the buying was strongest on December 15 when they received 6.3 million orders, which according to the Dow Jones translates to a “record 72.9 items a second.” And this is not the first time Amazon has bucked the recessionary trend.
Amazon’s brand matters
The reason for Amazon’s success? It’s the Amazon brand that has done the work here. Had Amazon not established strong brand loyalty in good times, the customers wouldn’t have stood by it in bad times. More importantly, everything about Amazon is based around customer experience, and everything is marketed to the customer well.
So what can airlines learn from the Amazon brand, to beat the recession? Here are three key lessons.
1. Build a distinct airline brand
If Amazon hadn’t established its brand as the first (and often last) stop for online shopping —i.e., as the place to go for a huge segment of the online shopping population because of its value and consistency of shopping experience, it wouldn’t have reported rising sales when the overall online retail sales declined 2.3%. The key to it’s success? Distinctiveness.
Distinctiveness, or positioning as introduced by Reis & Reis, is what distinguishes a brand from another. For airlines these days, it’s something of supreme importance, which cannot be ignored as flying becomes more of a commodity. Distinctiveness adds personality to a brand that resonates with its customer. Legacy carriers with a distinct brands? Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atantic and Emirates. Budget carriers with distinct brands? I’d rank JetBlue Airways, Virgin America, Kulula.com in South Africa and Indigo airlines in India among the top.
2. Everything is about customer experience
As a recent article at MarketingDoctor mentioned, everything at Amazon is built around the customer experience. The article states that “They follow up with emails on almost each shopping experience. They guarantee what they sell and closely monitor vendors who sell through them. They personalize the experience using consumer feedback, but they don’t hard-sell or over-sell based on this feedback, since they know that the successful online shopping experience is never coercive. Most of all, they’ve done an excellent job of staking out their brand’s territory from the beginning and then sticking to it.”
I have often emphasized that airlines are in the travel services industry, not the transport and logistics industry. And once airline executives change their mindsets to this, they will start to value customer service much more. Again, airlines that successfully take care of its customers are often the most loved. JetBlue “following” its passengers on Twitter, KLM creating an online community for its frequent fliers and Indigo follwing up each booking with a personalized message has left deep impact on the customers.
3. Marketing is integral to the business
There aren’t any accidents in marketing. Amazon isn’t the beneficiary of luck in this downturn either. It’s the beneficiary of its own excellent branding strategy and a business model that has marketing built into its very core.
Airlines have often outsourced marketing, or have payed less importance to it as compared to operations and network. But the best airlines have integrated marketing in their global business operations. The best example? I’d say Emirates. Their advertisements on trains in Sydney, on malls in Toronto and on stadiums in the UK exude a consistency with the in-flight experience rarely associated with airlines.
What do you think? What are some other things Amazon.com has done right, that airlines can learn from? Is there anything you disagree with? Let’s hear it in the comments section.