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Will Jet compete with Amazon?

July 31, 2015

jessonline

Jet.comJet.com makes a serious play to compete with Amazon

The approach is based on a lower pricing strategy, combined with fast delivery. It’s a major, gutsy play for Jet.com’s founder and CEO, Marc Lore. No one has seriously tried to beat Amazon on price – until now. But if anyone can do it, the founder of Diapers.com, Wag.com and Soap.com can. After successfully building these powerful brands, defined by amazing branding, customer experience and convenience (personalization- reminding me that it’s time to reorder, and making it easy to do so; free 2 day shipping, even on a 40lb bag of dogfood), Lore sold Quidsi brands to Amazon for over $500 million.

So it’s just a little bit epic that he’s going after Amazon now.

Jet.com launches with a strong brand image and point of viewThe key differentiator for Jet.com is that Lore creates beautiful and engaging customer experiences that create a devoted customer base with loyalty and an emotional connection to his brands. And from that perspective, Jet doesn’t disappoint. The site has a powerful brand identity and a great customer experience. The search is powerful, the sort features are what’s needed, and the selection seems robust. The homepage promises ‘club price savings’, which alludes to Costco as well as Amazon’s prime pantry. Jet is going directly after Amazon on price, showing comparative pricing against Amazon on every item, to demonstrate the savings.

How is Jet.com doing it? They’re sourcing wide and far- and instantly serving up the prices that are lowest based on your location and things that are cheaper to ship together. Jet will show ‘smart savings’ on items that work well together. every time you add to cart, an animated calculator comes up to show you how many items are now cheaper on the site- it has a little bit of a slot machine effect, of making you feel like there’s a reward with every transaction.

There’s a ways to go- Jet is operating at a huge loss currently, as it gets the infrastructure in place to do this efficiently. From a customer perspective, there’s work yet to be done- product descriptions at the thumbnail level don’t always make it clear what the quantity is for the price, so it can be a little confusing. In the shopping cart, I see how much I’ve saved per item, but no subtotal for line items I’ve ordered in multiples. They need to add a quick-view feature to the search display- something Amazon doesn’t have, so could be yet another differentiator.

Jet.com's smart cart savingsIn the shopping cart, you can save even more if you select certain payment methods, or to waive the ability to have free return shipping. More incentive to checkout. On my $50 purchase, I saved over $9- not bad.

The biggest obstacle for Jet in driving repeat purchases, is that their creative sourcing means that an order ends up shipping in many multiple packages: My order of 8 items will arrive in 5 separate shipments. I’m not paying the added cost- Jet is absorbing that. But as a customer, I don’t like the inconvenience and waste associated with receiving that many packages and keeping track of whether everything has arrived.

Will Jet give Amazon and Walmart a serious run for their money? Maybe. I hope so, because the competition is good- and I  love a site that takes the time and effort to make the customer experience feel like a wonderful place to be. It’s a differentiator that matters- Amazon has never tried to go there, and Walmart failed when they tried- their customer associates a certain over-crowded messiness with savings. It could be the differentiator, combined with price- that makes Jet.com a serious contender.

You’re being followed.

August 12, 2013

jessonline

Your shopping mall just got a little smarter. Now there’s technology that allows stores to track customers movements through a store- where they stop, where they try on, when they buy- or what they look at before they walk out. It’s the same, in concept, to what retailers look at online: the customer path from the time  a customer arrives, until the time they leave- what they add to cart, what they look at and for how long, and where they are when they decide to leave.  Now stores can mine the same kind of measurable data: conversion (of those who come in, what percentage buys) and abandonment, and a glimpse into what’s generating interest as they walk through the store.

What could be controversial is that this tracking happens via your cellphone signal. If your wireless is on, the store software can ping your phone to keep track of where you are and what you’re doing. Is it an invasion of privacy? While it seems a little unnerving to be followed around like this, it’s really no different than what virtually every website does when you browse a site. And to be fair, we all know that there are abundant video cameras in stores and malls, so it’s not as if we couldn’t be watched before. As with website cookies, if you don’t like the tracking, you can turn it off- in this case, by turning off your phone’s wifi setting.

This technology gives stores the opportunity to better learn from what customers are doing- which, in concept- gives them the opportunity to improve the presentation to better serve customers. If they see that no one stops at the first sets of tables, or that certain racks get missed altogether, it might give them better ideas about how to re-configure the displays.  By simply making what people want easier to find, they could sell more. So that could be a win-win.

The problem, as with web analytics, is that the data alone doesn’t give you the whole picture: now you know WHAT people are doing, but you don’t know WHY they’re doing it, or how they’re feeling while they’re doing it. This is still an important problem to solve- the things that make it hard to shop, like too tightly packed racks, or hard-to-find size labels, or a limited size range- these are things that affect my abandonment rate- but tracking my wifi will not reveal that.  There’s no substitution for asking your customers what they think- not just the ones that buy- but the ones who don’t buy, too.

Next, we need to develop more sophistication in how we get that data. Surveys are okay for online shopping- but they are often long and tedious. Net-promoter surveys are great, because they ask just two questions: Would you recommend us to a friend? Why or why not?

What I want to see happen is the equivalent to the tapping a word on my kindle to see what it means: I want to see a way to provide feedback in context, in the moment- as it’s happening. That’s going to  be the most meaningful information to get. Now that I think of it, when I notice a typo in a Kindle book, I wish there were a simple way to highlight it and send an alert, in the moment, in context. Amazon, take note.

Oh, the things you can buy

November 30, 2011

jessonline

Did you know you could buy paper towels on Amazon.com? Bottled water? Laundry detergent? I do now. My sister showed me the mom’s club, where you can subscribe for automatic replenishment to get discounts on things like diapers or laundry detergent. She buys everything online- diapers, cleaning products, hair products- the works. And with free shipping, why not save the trip?

subscriptions for savings

Subscribe to the mom's club on Amazon.com for savings on replenishment products

Until now, I haven’t had much interest in buying groceries online. I dabbled with it during the initial launch of all the online grocer sites, years ago. I couldn’t stand the waste involved with all of the packaging: the laundry detergent came wrapped tightly in cellophane, sunk into a huge box four times it’s size, with loads of those foam peanuts. I ordered two grocery bags worth of stuff, and had enough recycling and garbage to make the garage look like the week after Christmas. Not to mention the size issue. I had never paid much attention to the number of ounces in the average cereal or cracker box- so I ended up with sizes ranging from Brooklyn-corner-store-tiny, to Costco sized gigantic, feed-a-family-of-eight sizes.

But now that I’m commuting again, leaving at 7 and returning after 7, online shopping has a much bigger appeal. I just don’t have enough time to do it all on the weekend.

Last weekend, my sister introduced me to Wag.com, Soap.com– and its associated sites, including diapers.com. Four sites, with a shared cart. Lots of introductory offers, and premium, free 2-day shipping for first time orders. Yesterday I ordered a 35 pound bag of dog food, a 25 pound box of cat litter, a mega-12-pack of paper towels, various organic food items and method soaps, paid nothing for shipping, and it’s all coming tomorrow. Saving the rush trips to store before the weekend is like a gift. Amazon actually owns those sites, too-having acquired the parent company, Quidsi, Inc, for $500 million back in March, but keeps the branding unique and the web design is beautiful. The sites are clean, elegant, and shopper friendly.

Soap.com homepage with recent orders

Soap.com remembers what I ordered, and makes it easy to re-order- right from the homepage.

I never thought I’d want to buy paper towels on Amazon. But times have changed. I need easy, now. And getting big, heavy things I need delivered to my door is very, very easy. I’m a convert.

Are you shopping for groceries online? Let me know where you shop, and what you think about the experience.

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