If any other company were to launch e-mail marketing tools in 2021, it would merit a yawn. When it’s coming from Amazon, however, it represents a sea change in the potential to manage digital customer experiences.
As shown in a video that was posted to YouTube back in February, Amazon is rolling out a tool simply called “Manage Your Customer Engagement.” It will allow sellers on Amazon to send customers e-mail campaigns about new product launches, special offers and discounts. Sellers will also be able to monitor the results of their campaigns.
The video is remarkable to watch, in the sense it assumes the viewer has never heard of e-mail marketing and had no idea that connecting with customers regularly could improve retention or grow your sales. Were it not for the Amazon logo, it’s the sort of animated explainer that could have been made more than five years ago.
Perhaps the launch of Manage Your Customer Engagement feels like a blast from the past because, until recently, Amazon has been reluctant to let sellers get close to this kind of data.
As CNBC reported in its coverage, communication between sellers and buyers on Amazon has historically been limited to service and support issues. This may have spared consumers from getting on too many marketers’ lists, and even now there will be some guardrails:
"Shoppers’ contact information will continue to remain private. Amazon will give companies aggregate data when they use the tool that shows them how many emails will go out when they decide to share marketing campaigns with their followers."
Customers will also have to opt in to follow a company by pressing a button (and there’s no information in the video on how to encourage them to do that). Plus, the tool will be limited to sellers who are part of the company’s Brand Registry program.
The rise of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, along with the increased sophistication of commerce tools such as Magento and Shopify, is probably putting pressure on firms like Amazon to ensure their marketplaces don’t become a barrier to developing customer relationships.
On the other hand, offering tools like Managing Your Customer Engagement could change the perceptions and expectations around Amazon’s own customer experience.
When I buy something on Amazon today, for instance, I often don’t think of it as buying from a particular book publisher or apparel brand. Because the purchase happens on Amazon, and because it arrives in an Amazon box, it feels as though I bought the item “from” Amazon.
Manage Your Customer Engagement and the follow button raises the possibility that Amazon could be seen as simply a conduit, or a place to become introduced to brands with whom you’ll get better acquainted elsewhere.
If a seller has its own website, for instance, you could opt in for its own e-mail list — which it could use to segment and personalize communications beyond what Amazon allows. You could also opt in to text messages, follow them on social media or communicate via other touchpoints.
By opening the door to e-mail marketing, Amazon is encouraging sellers to think more strategically about their CX. That means it will also have to provide more education and insight on CX — and recognize that, depending on the brand, the best strategy might turn out to be focusing on your own platform, relying less on Amazon, or even leaving its marketplace altogether.