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Price Matching Amazon

Below is an amended version of some suggestions offered in a longer article at CBA Online. I didn’t want to steal the entire piece, so I encourage you to read it there, including the full introduction.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em; right? Some of you are immediately thinking that if you start cutting prices you won’t survive. I would argue that if you don’t respond you won’t survive. We can’t pretend what we jokingly refer to in our store as “the A-word” doesn’t exist. Perhaps instead of worrying about our stores “showrooming” for them, we should see them as “creating awareness” of products for us.

Click the title below to read the article in its original form, with the full introduction.

How to Make Amazon Price-Matching Work for You

 

  • …Sue Smith, store manager of Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and current CBA chair: Don’t send away empty-handed a customer who is standing right there. “I always say to my team that it’s not about the transaction in front of you,” she explains. “It’s about the next one, and the next one, creating an experience where you are inviting them to come back again.”
  • Erik Ernstrom, manager of business intelligence at Parable, agrees that trying to price match is vital, without giving away the farm. Plus, he notes, making a sale even at a discount provides the opportunity to sell something else such as a case and highlighters for a Bible purchase.
  • “Take a 50 cent hit and upsell,” agrees [Christian Supply’s Zach] Wallington. “That’s something Amazon won’t do.” It’s also part of the appeal of the Get It Local program to suppliers…
  • When it comes to showrooming—when in-store shoppers use their phones to price match online deals—Baker Book House’s staff is encouraged to engage shoppers who are on their phones by asking if they can help and telling them that the store can match anything they might find.
  • One independent retailer who found he couldn’t price match an online Bible deal “shifted gears and discussed Bible cases, tabs, and other stuff, which she did purchase from me,” he says…
  • “You have to play the game,” says Smith. “Call the publishers and see if you can get a discount.” Many times suppliers are willing to work with stores as much as they can because of the potential additional in-store sales.”
  • An additional card that indies can play against Amazon is the community buy-local one. If you have a good relationship with a local church, Ernstrom says, you might be able to point out that your store not only supports it by resourcing its members, but sometimes indirectly employing them and making it possible for them to tithe.
  • Good merchandising is another effective anti-Amazon strategy because it can counter the perception that the online retailer is cheaper on everything. Actually, it’s usually only the top 150 or so frontlist items, notes Wallington.
  • “You always have to have things on sale; if everything is full price you’ll never win,” says Ernstrom. “You have to have sales throughout the store—every section, every endcap. If they get the impression everything is full price, they’re going to think they can get it cheaper somewhere else.”

Read “To Price-Match Amazon or Not to Price-Match:” Part 1 in the December issue of Christian MARKET, and Part 2 in the January issue.

The one thing I would hasten to add to this is:

  • Amazon has no built-in spiritual discernment. There are no filters; no vetting of what might be included in their religious, inspirational or Christian categories. It would be relatively simple for a customer who is just browsing to end up with Mormon or New Age content. (We recently had a case where a book ended up in a church library for just that reason: No discernment.)

and also:

  • The Christian store offers the opportunity to physically examine the product before purchase.
  • Your store offers simple over-the-counter returns or exchanges in the case of duplicate gifts, product not desired, or factory defects in printing or CD/DVD manufacturing.
  • Christian store associates can offer better informed suggestions of other products the customer might appreciate; rather than the “other customers also bought” generated by an algorithm.
  • Conversely, as we get to know our customers well, we can warn customers off titles which are not as suitable to their doctrinal position as something else might be.
  • Whether it’s on sale, or even full price, we don’t change prices every hour. There is a measure of price stability in our stores.
  • We’re customers of the products we sell. We read the books, we listen to the music, we watch the movies. We’re better informed. Many of us have had our lives changed by Christian books and music.
  • You never know who’ll you meet at the Christian bookstore. It’s a social gathering place, not like the isolation of purchasing online.
  • We support local events by creating awareness; we hang posters for church events; we sell tickets for Christian concerts; we donate prizes for Christian fundraisers.
  • Our profits are poured back into Christian causes. Our employees give to their local church and provide volunteer help or lead small groups.
  • We support and display books by local and regional authors.
  • We have products that online vendors simply don’t carry.
  • We refer people in the broader community to local churches, and refer Christians for Christian counseling.

We have a lot to offer. I would suggest that owners and managers go through both lists above at your next staff huddle, so that everyone is on point and passionate about what we can offer. You may even wish to post this list; there’s a store website version of many of these points that some of you have used. I don’t know which store I ‘borrowed’ it from, but it’s on mine and I’ll post it here if enough people ask.


The graphic at the beginning of this article is part of an infographic that is available for free distribution from the Institute for Local Self Reliance. I’ll post the full infographic here tomorrow, but if you want to jump the gun, click this link.

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