Segmenting Is For The Drones

by , Jan 2, 2014, 8:00 AM
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Amazon has done more than a few "favors" for marketers. For one, it has helped consumers learn to be accustomed to -- and expect -- relevant shopping recommendations. It has taken the pain away from many an online purchase experience. And recently on "60 Minutes," Bezos has given marketers more to think about: drone delivery services.

As a marketer, I had to stop and think about the reasoning for that nationally televised idea balloon, and that's where the story really becomes interesting.

Relevant, timely marketing

It was the Sunday before Cyber Monday -- and as it turns out, also a day in which Amazon shipped 27 million packages. Like any good marketer, Bezos leveraged his news prowess to grant an interview before the biggest shopping day of the year, putting his company on the minds of millions of viewers at the right time and place (home/likely in front of another screen).

But that's not enough! Good marketers know the key is to be on the minds and lips of marketers as long as possible. And so what would generate better word of mouth than the bizarre idea of robot delivery? Not much. The plan worked -- if that indeed was the plan.

But here's the thing: Amazon and Bezos are not traditionally that kind of marketer. Amazon prefers price, consumer experience and organic growth as the major drivers of commerce. And unlike Jobs, Bezos rarely utilizes the fantasy of the future to drive people to their registers. Amazon is, in many ways, a say nothing, do-more-than-you-realize company. So could a move like that perhaps signify more?

'The first thing anyone thinks about when buying'

I am paraphrasing, but that was what one Amazon executive let go on "60 Minutes." To me that is not an insignificant statement. They were not talking about driving profits for all of their product partners; they are focused on dominating the world no matter what the purchase type, category, etc. And they are well positioned to do that in many ways. Not only do they eliminate or otherwise challenge retailers of all types, they are -- from a data standpoint -- positioned to understand purchase and viewing behaviors across multiple segments better than any of them. They know you looked at that pair of Nikes right after you bought diapers, they see that you shipped something to a friend that you also shipped to yourself. Contextually, it more than skews synchronicity -- in the meta-tagged realm of retail, there are important deductions that can be made there and actions taken.

Segmenting drones

Now, onto Jeff Bezos floating the concept of drone delivery services. Think about it logistically. Visualize it. If they shipped 27 million packages on Cyber Monday and 80% of their shipments are less than 8 lbs or "drone eligible," what would NYC look like that day? Would the hum of drones blanket the city in the sweet sounds of commerce? Of course not. People wouldn't let that happen en masse, nor would the FAA. But maybe it's feasible in select numbers. So, again, what is Amazon up to? Could this just be a segmentation strategy?

Even Amazon, with its people and purchase-driven segmentation model where data is compiling in orders of magnitude, needs to find a way to simply segment customers into more meaningful, consistent groups. Take, for example, Prime -- the paid top-tier shipping service. Prime at least gives the organization the ability to identify a “power” user who, statistically, probably spends more. With free shipping now more common, could the drones really just be a new way of securing and expanding the reach to the wealthy consumer? Is it potentially a loyalty play for the most valuable segment of their business?

The answers to these questions will only be answered by time, unless of course Jeff wants to fess up.

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