This year, Prime Day made history with more than 175 million items sold during this made-up holiday. From technology to logistics to exponential network effects, no titan has come close to Amazon when it comes to defining the future of commerce.
The largest and most important aspect to Prime Day is not ultimately the sales themselves or the 48-hour span, but the Prime memberships. The membership keeps consumers locked into Amazon's orbit for a year at a time, and gives Amazon a chance to win their loyalty when it comes time to resubscribe.
Arguably, the shining star of the Prime membership is shipping at no added cost-- but people tend to forget that Prime shipping isn't free since you pay the membership.
So what does the Amazon's success have to do with small businesses, especially those building a brand and a retail audience? The holiday actually sets trends that spill over into benefits for smaller retailers as well. Here are some ideas for small businesses to think about and take advantage of Prime Day practices, if they haven't already.
Identify ways to guide your customers back.
According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, Prime members shop an average of 26 times per year, about twice a month, and even non-Prime members shop 14 times per year, or about once a month. There are many other ways to think about creating a return customer.
For instance, according to packaging company Lumi's CEO Jesse Genet, the subscription model is being used more and more in unexpected categories, like skincare.
A customers' first purchase is a container for the product with the product inside. After that, they just order product refills that come in smaller packaging. When customers buy into this more sustainable refill model, they're more likely to stick around because there's less guilt when there's less waste to toss out.
On the surface, this is convenient for the customer, but the convenience goes deep into the supply chain. When customers subscribe to a product, companies have a lot of up-front data to plan for quantities, as well as fulfillment, and shipping costs.
Spark authentic conversations with your customers.
Many consumers still think of Amazon as a place for generic goods, not unique brands. Amazon is trying to change that. (Look no further than Lady Gaga launching her beauty brand Haus on Amazon). Meanwhile, smaller direct-to-consumer companies have long been having an authentic two-way conversation with their customers.
Smaller direct-to-consumer brands can use digital storytelling, 1:1 customer service interaction to develop and more authentic relationship with customers. Bikini Luxe, for example, sells designer swimwear online and uses unique social media tactics to engage with its audience. The company isn't afraid to take risks, posting a picture of Miss Universe contestant Natalie Roser in a bikini on LinkedIn with the caption, "Is this appropriate for LinkedIn?" The controversial post garnered 50,000 views and boosted sales by 20 percent.
"Fast and free" shipping can boost sales.
Shipping can be costly and incredibly complicated. At the end of the day, nothing is free and the consumer always ends up paying the cost. The only question is whether it's baked into the product price or broken out.
We've seen retailers offer free shipping for promotional purposes but still make it work for their own bottom line. Whether that's free shipping over a certain order value or free shipping for a specific category of items (to clear out old inventory), they always pair free shipping offers with a specific call to action for the customer. That way, they can attract customers with free or discounted shipping without eating into their own margins.
The best small businesses are becoming masters of building customer loyalty but there isn't just one solution out there. It's about knowing customer preferences and offering ways to bring them back, that also compliments their behaviors and preferences. Most of the time, it's an empathetic relationship with your buyers combined with a spark of creativity.