What your store can learn from Amazon & Starbucks


April 2018—

When it comes to customer engagement, experts think you can do better than Fortune 500 companies.

If you used Amazon this holiday season you were probably again reminded just how smooth and painless ordering online can be. If you’ve ever plopped down six bucks for an iced caramel macchiato, you’ve probably noticed how connected you feel to the Starbucks brand and its environment.

You also were probably reminded just how engaged both companies are with you and other clients. Now it’s official: Forbes Insight compiled a list of the 50 most engaged companies.

There were some surprises—Foot Locker comes to mind—but for the most part there were the usual suspects: Google’s parent Alphabet Inc., Alaska Air, FedEx, Southwest Airlines, Marriott, Lowe’s and Nordstrom to name a few.

And at the top were Amazon and Starbucks. Again, that’s not surprising if you’ve ever done business with the companies. What might surprise you as an independent furniture retailer is that many of the strategies these companies and others on the list employ to enhance customer engagement can be duplicated at your store.

Customer Engagement Examples

So what can companies like Amazon and Starbucks teach smaller brands about customer engagement? Those companies don’t just market to their customers. They actively involve their customers in those efforts. They collect insights. They repost customer photos. They respond to inquiries on social media.

Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer at Forbes Media, said, “Customer engagement is the new marketing. No amount of advertising, promotion or discounts can overcome a poor experience with the brand, whether it’s the products or service itself, indifferent customer service or a confusing invoice.”

Those concepts are important for businesses of any size, including your store. Even small businesses will need to compete with the likes of Amazon and Starbucks. And if those big companies do a better job of communicating with customers and keeping them engaged online, your store could get left behind.

“The Forbes Insights research on the topic and the development of its 50 Most Engaged Companies List provides businesses of any size with powerful lessons on what it takes to succeed in today’s environment where customer’s expectations for customer engagement are invariably compared to the likes of Amazon—no matter the product category,” says Rogers. “It takes a well-thought out, personalized approach—whether it’s a face-to-face interaction or contact through social media. It takes a commitment to transparency and honesty in every transaction. And it takes a culture that reinforces the notion that customer loyalty and satisfaction is everyone’s responsibility.”

Isn’t that what you want to aspire to every morning when you open the doors to your store? If you think only Fortune 500 companies can rise to this level of engagement, I’ve got news for you: Some small businesses—your store perhaps?—may have a leg up on larger companies in this area.

Small- and medium-sized furniture stores are often more accessible to their customers just because there are fewer team members and processes in place. And businesses that are less set in their ways can be more agile and adapt to customer insights or concerns.

Rogers says, “Small businesses typically succeed because they were founded on these principles. Larger businesses go awry because they tend to lose sight of these maxims as they grow and create siloed organizations for product development, customer care, marketing and sales and trade off great customer engagement for scale.”

So essentially, your store can compete with huge corporations by prioritizing customer engagement even as you scale. How do you do this? For starters, don’t lose sight of the importance of communicating with customers in person and online. And always take their opinions and insights into account when making important decisions about your products, services and marketing efforts.

Companies like Amazon and Starbucks continue to utilize these methods even though they’ve grown well beyond the scope of small businesses. You can emulate some of those tactics at your store and realize your own customer engagement success.

RetailerNOW is changing.

Insights Magazine will be replacing RetailerNOW as the official publication of the Home Furnishings Association. With this change, you will be able to find the same great content on the HFA website. All current members/subscribers will automatically receive the new print editions. You can continue to view content on this website until January 2020.

About the Author

Annie Pilon
Annie Pilon is a senior staff writer for Small Business Trends. When she’s not writing she can be found on her personal blog Wattlebird.