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All Good Things Must Come to an End


And, according to Amazon, that means the end to lower cost Prime membership.

The company recently notified Prime Members that their annual memberships will go up by $20, citing increased fuel and transportation costs as part of the reason.


Amazon letter




Prime members whose subscriptions renew prior to April 17th may not see this increase, at least not this year. However, if your membership expires after that, be prepared to pay a higher fee. You may have noticed that Amazon also (quietly) raised the minimum purchase to $35 from $25 to qualify for free shipping.


There are rumblings online, of course, about this increased fee. Some are unhappy, while others see it as a necessary increase, as the company has not raised this cost since its inception.


Amazon has a good thing going, but all good things must come to an end, or change, to continue to keep Amazon at the top of their industry. In December, I recall Amazon boasting about their one million (or close to it) new Prime membership subscriptions. While quite impressive, I wonder how many of those customers took the trial to help with their holiday shopping, especially if time got away from them and they were doing a lot of last minute shopping, and then canceled before the trial was over. That might play a part in Amazon’s decision to raise prices, as this may have cost the company more than they anticipated, hoping that more of those free trials would turn into subscriptions.


I also think they pushed the envelope a bit with their promotion where customers could order as late as December 23rd or 24th and get same day delivery. With a Prime Membership, the additional cost for this was very minimal as I recall.


The factors above, coupled with the ever increasing cost for such things as fuel and transportation, likely played a part in Amazon’s decision. They do have a great model, and I’m not anticipating that the company will see a huge fall off in their Prime Members. Today’s customer is so into immediate gratification and quick purchasing processes that I think Amazon still has a good thing going, but perhaps they pushed it too far during the holidays and are now seeing the need to scale back and make sure their processes aren’t hurting them financially.


What are your thoughts about Amazon’s price increase? Necessary or greedy? Do you think that their holiday push hurt them in any way? We’d love to hear your thoughts – comment below and join in the discussion!




Hotels Listen: Changes For The Good Of Customers


The days of 11am check out at many hotels is starting to fade away, at the request and feedback provided by customers.


Last week, the Palms in Vegas announced that they will roll out a 24 hour check out at no additional charge. They are allowing guests to leave at the same time they arrived, meaning if you check in at 4pm on Friday, and are staying until Sunday, you won’t have to check out until 4pm on Sunday instead of the typical 11am or noon checkout.


Other hotels have adopted this new policy as well:


Westin Hotels & Resorts: “Make Monday Better” program allows for a free 3 p.m. checkout on Sunday


Hyatt Union Square New York: guests can stay for 24 hours from Thursday to Sunday


The Peninsula Beverly Hills: “Peninsula Time,” is a program that lets guests stay at the hotel for longer than 24 hours. Guests can check in and out at any hour of the day or night at no additional charge.


Why the change? Experts in the industry are citing that the standard 11am or noon checkout was created for the good of the hotels, specifically the housekeeping staff, and not the customers. With competition increasing, and customers making their needs and desires known more now that ever, hotels realized that they had to change their standards and make adjustments to keep their customers happy.


The “old way” of thinking was more of a benefit to the hotel and housekeeping staff. The early checkout allowed the staff to turn over rooms in time for the 3pm check in, and the majority of housekeeping staff may have been scheduled during these hours to accommodate the schedule. However, hotels are making changes to the way they do things in order to show their customers that they’re listening.


The late checkout policy is slowly being adopted and will certainly make hotels rethink what they do. Some have started rolling out a late checkout on Sundays, simply because it’s a slower traffic time and they can test the waters without becoming overwhelmed. Once it is implemented, hotels can re-evaluate and determine the next steps.


Actively listening and taking steps to make significant changes can be effective in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty – not only are the changes customer centric, but they show guests that they really ARE listening to what they think about their experiences.




Improving the OmniChannel Experience


There have been a number of news stories in recent weeks about omnichannel marketing, and “getting it right” when it comes to mobile. Brick and mortar stores understand the importance of mobile sites, digital marketing and purchase abilities, and making it all seamless. But, that can be more difficult than people think.


Take, for example, American Eagle’s challenges that they recently shared at Etail West 2014 during “The Keys to Omnichannel Success at American Eagle Outfitters” segment.


A couple of their challenges are not unique to their business, and are good examples of considerations to make and test when rolling out omnichannel opportunities for customers:


1. Make sure online and mobile match: one challenge the retailer shared was ensuring that when customers clicked on email links from their mobile devices, that they had a landing place to reach. They found that customers were reaching a page that said, “Sorry, you can’t do this on mobile, but keep checking back.”


2. Honoring loyalty without frustration: another experience they shared revolved around customers who needed to sign in to continue on their online journey. They found that customers would stop where they were to sign in, and the site would reroute them to the home page, rather than the last page they were on before signing in, creating frustration and what experts refer to as “friction” in the customer journey.


On a similar note, also at ETail West 2014, 1-800 Flowers shared their experience with digital footprints – a way to track data across devices. One of their goals sheds light on another challenged faced with the omnichannel experience: pushing mobile browsers to purchases. According to the article, they are finding that consumers spend time browsing on their mobile device, but not making a purchase. The company is trying to find ways to encourage browsing on mobile, but somehow providing a seamless experience when they move to their desktop or tablet, presumably at the point where they have more time to sit down to make that purchase. Similarly, they are looking for ways to easily encourage those browsers on mobile to turn into buyers from the mobile experience.


While omnichannel experiences aren’t new, there are still stumbling blocks and challenges for companies. However, starting small, testing along the way, and gathering feedback from customers will help make the process as smooth as possible.