There’s a juicy fight going between Amazon and Google. First prize is first place in the home-delivery standings, multi-channel retail’s crown jewel.
And while talk of drones may get headlines, Amazon can’t wait for the weapon of the future to win the day. Instead it’s using a referral campaign to acquire and retain customers. (It’s not alone: our brand-new retail survey explains why referrals are among the top marketing channels for acquisition and referrals.)
This looks like a move to counter Google, which fired a recent shot across Amazon’s bow. It expanded Google Express on-demand delivery service into more cities and added products from more retailers. Clearly a swipe at Amazon, which Google considers its biggest search competitor. Amazon, of course, offers Prime, which gives customers free two-day shipping on their orders (along with other perks).
Amazon’s turning to referrals makes sense. Referrals take advantage of existing Prime customers’ enthusiasm for the service and the trust that they share with their friends. (Per Nielsen , recommendations from family and friends are the most credible form of advertising.) Plus, unlike drones, referrals don’t require FAA approval.
So far I’ve seen Amazon put referral CTAs on Prime users’ homepages:
They have them on the advocate landing page (see first screenshot above). They also have one on the landing page for free 30-day Prime trials. I haven’t seen any in their email streams, though they may be there for Prime members (I’m not one).
If they’re not, that’s a real missed opportunity, as Amazon has so many email streams…order confirmations, promotional emails, shipping notices…that’s a lot of owned media Amazon wouldn’t be taking advantage of. The same can be said for its packaging. On-package referral CTAs reach customers at the time when they’re most excited about a brand: when they receive product. Amazon’s already tries its packaging as an awareness vehicle for the Fire phone (which hasn’t produced much sales lift, it seems). Referral CTAs are a better play because they allow people to share a direct path to purchase with friends, placing them deep inside the funnel instead of simply building awareness.
Of course, Google is no stranger to using referrals itself. It’s releasing its new Inbox app a few invitations at a time…and then letting users invite friends:
Invites away! And, on Thursday, Inbox users will get invitations to share with friends. We’ll let you know when.
— Inbox by Gmail (@inboxbygmail) October 29, 2014
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google fire back with a Google Express referral program of its own. What will the next salvo be in the home delivery wars? I’m going to order some popcorn and watch the fireworks.