When Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in June of this year, brick and mortar grocers collectively shuddered: Amazon, the king of commerce, had continued its play into offline retail. Starting with the opening of Amazon bookstores (they currently have seven physical retail stores across the US), Amazon is leveraging its decades of data in order to change the way consumers shop in brick-and-mortar stores.

“We have this 20 years of information about books and ratings, and we have millions and millions of customers who are passionate,” said Jennifer Cast, VP of Amazon Books.

As Amazon moves into the grocery space, they stand to benefit from that same data that built their preeminence in the online world.

And so, the question remains: How can pure offline brands survive Amazon’s unchallenged move into their space?

You’ve probably heard all the same talk I did.

“Robots and AI are the future!”

“Automation and personalization are the next great wave of customer engagement!”

A robot that’s going to handle customer requests? An automated system that’s going to craft personal messages delivered through the right medium at just the right time?

How stinking cool is that?! Sign me up.

 

Your customers have a voice.

Your customers use that voice to leave feedback about your business within seconds on social media and online review platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

It’s essential that you customers to use their voice, to leave their feedback for you and other customers to see. This will give you the opportunity improve your products and services (based on customer experiences) and to develop relationships with customers by responding to their feedback.

Here are three ways to empower the Voice of the Customer at your business.

As engagement, loyalty, and customer success pros, we have a lot of tools to work with. Loyalty programs, incentives, gifts, rewards, content, data, and communication channels like email.

All those tools capture a little bit of real estate in the customer’s mind. They get people to take action, tugging them a bit closer to the brand (and hopefully the next purchase).

We've got all kinds of toys to pursue customer loyalty. 

And yet, we're nearly powerless to influence perhaps what matters most to customers in the long run.

Every customer is a member.

At least, that's an argument I've tried to make a couple times here. To me, "customer" implies someone that completed a transaction, while "member" signifies relationship, belonging on an ongoing basis.

Even if your business model is not subscription- or membership-based, you can benefit from that member mindset.

A key function of having members instead of customers? Engagement.

What's that?

Keeping their attention, and hitting them with the right value and the right touchpoints at the right time.

Keep people engaged, and renewal - or just the next transaction - will take care of itself.

Easier said than done, right?

So long as you are not doing business in a third-world country, the target market for your business is definitely using email. By the end of 2017, more than 3.7 billion of the world’s population will be using email. Rather than attempting to develop and distribute content and advertisements for your business in hopes that they will magically fall into the laps of people who are interested in your brand, directly reach the inboxes of your consumers.

By gathering the valuable contact information of email addresses from having people subscribe to your email list, you can generate brand exposure, recognition, and identity that will lead to more sales and an overall more engaged following.