Amazon’s strategy is simple this holiday season: Low prices.
When asked to elaborate, Amazon spokesman Craig Berman replied: “Low prices, low prices, low prices.”
Overall e-commerce sales are expected to be flat in November and December, according to a report this week from comScore. And, while Amazon is expected to fare better than its rivals this season, the low-price strategy makes clear that the world's largest online retailer isn't taking any chances.
“We are head-down focused on providing customers really low prices on the gifts they want to give for the holidays,” Berman explained.
Amazon rolled out a slew of holiday-sales offers this week, including its popular “Customers Vote” promotion, where it’s offering six days of its “most ridiculous deals” (up to 70-percent off) on everything from videogame consoles to flat-screen TVs and kitchen mixers. Customers get to vote on which of three products they’d like to see go on sale each day. Only a small number of the winning product will be offered at that price. The day before each sale, a random number of customers will be invited to buy the product at that price.
Amazon is also offering “Black Fri-Daily” deals (in other words, a different deal each day) through Monday, Dec. 1, and a chance for customers to win a $10,000 shopping spree.
They’ve also spiffed up their holiday-toy list with easier-to-use navigation and more product videos.
Capitalizing on its fleet of consumer reviewers, Amazon rolled out a Holiday Customer Review Team, comprised of six of its top customer reviewers, to offer gift picks and other shopping tips. The reviewers are volunteers, not paid by Amazon, but they do get exclusive, early access to some of Amazon's best deals and get to keep some of the products they review.
“I think they pulled out all the stops,” said Jeffrey Lindsay, a senior analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “They’re far more aggressive than ever before,” he said.
Given this year’s tough retail environment, Amazon may not beat itself — the online retailer logged 42 percent sales growth in the fourth quarter of 2007 — but the 12 to 15 percent sales growth expected this year will likely crush the competition, Lindsay said.
“If you compare Amazon with its competitors, it’s absolutely killing them,” Lindsay said. “E-commerce sales are expected to be down to 1.5-percent growth — Amazon will outperform e-commerce by something like 10-times!”
Amazon is beating rivals like eBay for two main reasons, Lindsay said: Amazon’s top-notch customer service (eBay is still trying to catch up) and the quality of the Amazon platform.
“Finding what you want to buy is very easy and quick,” Lindsay said. “One quick click, and it’s on the way to your house!” he said. EBay’s auction process, meanwhile, can take a couple of days. “It’s kind of fun — but it takes two days,” Lindsay said.
Amazon also leverages its customer data well, Lindsay said. They offer customers a chance to make a wish list, then send reminders for customers to update them. They're also using blogs cleverly, he says, offering suggestions for what to buy everyone from your 13-year-old daughter to a soldier in Iraq. (Hint: an iPod!)
Not only is Amazon going to crush its competition this Christmas, it's in a good position for when the economy turns around in the middle of next year, Linsday said.
"Amazon has the scale and the cash to ride this out — they've effectively paid off all their debt," Lindsay said. "They're due for a fantastic performance next year."
You know, sometimes things just "click."
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