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A new retail player enters your market. Now what?

Amazon has arrived in the Netherlands. What 5 lessons does this teach eCommerce brands about how they should respond to a constantly changing customer landscape?

A full launch of the Amazon Netherlands marketplace has surely been on the lips of every Dutch eCommerce team for several months now. Should local brands jump the gun to be the first seller, or wait to see how it unfolds? Dive in and go big, or dip your toes in first?

We recently joined the WPP Amazon summit to understand more about what Amazon’s arrival might mean for local brands.

This was a great event that prompted us to share our own experience with change management for customer experience in general, and what it should mean for you when a new player arrives on your doorstep, ready to disrupt – whether it’s a giant retail marketplace or a trending customer channel.

Don’t panic

Amazon is set to become a dominant Dutch player, but brands should see it no differently to another strategic platform like Google or Facebook. It’s healthy to be cautious of new retail players – particularly giant intermediaries that can take control of your valuable customer insights. But new entrants can also shake things up, and get companies to think critically about what they want to achieve and why.

Today’s Amazon will be tomorrow’s next big thing, so treat this as a chance to build the right systems, processes, and teams to test and learn from new customer touchpoints.

Start fast

What does it cost you not to be on a platform like Amazon? Regardless of your specific wholesale vs. direct-to-consumer strategy, and what you think makes sense for your current and future customers, you at least want to start early and show up in a new shopfront.

The faster you get a foot through the door and learn about how a platform like Amazon contributes to your customer’s journey, the earlier you can find your fit in this new landscape. Showing up early also means you get to represent your brand and product category in the best possible way – before someone else does.

Define a pilot (with the right people)

Next, it’s about scoping a pilot with a multi-disciplinary team: define how you try out this new marketplace, and who needs to be involved. Continually innovating to remain relevant requires a mixed group of minds and perspectives to cover all bases of the customer journey – from supply chain and orientation to pricing and purchase. Elect your pilot team to reflect this, with the right blend of expertise across sales, marketing, logistics, and finance.

Test small

Then you can set time limits, constraints and boundaries for what you want to learn and achieve by selling through a new platform. Relinquishing your entire product inventory to an unknown market entrant is, of course, unwise. Customers may use Amazon with all its volume for orientation and as a comparison site – to find and conduct research on a particular product in terms of its price and varieties – but will buy it later elsewhere.

This means starting small is the best way, testing incrementally to understand how your customer’s journey has changed, and where you can add and generate the most value.

Always own your customer’s journey

And lastly, always keep an eye on the bigger picture. Having a ‘go big or go home’ approach to new marketplaces means being a slave to short-termism, or missing potential opportunities to learn and innovate with emerging platforms and technologies. Embracing change, being present, starting small tests and taking these seductively ‘easy sells’ with a pinch of salt is a healthy way to be where your customers are whilst safeguarding their experience and staying true to your brand.

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