Is Amazon Past Its Prime?

While it’s not breaking news that mega retailer, Amazon, has shifted emphasis to selling essential goods, what you may not know is Channel Signal’s review volume data now shows Amazon being eclipsed by other online retailers in certain sectors. 

Consumers report through reviews that Amazon’s delivery times are longer, many non-essential goods are no longer eligible for Prime’s free shipping benefit and inventory of consumer discretionary products are drastically lower. The result? Shoppers reading these reviews are turning elsewhere.

A good example of this was found in a review written by a woman purchasing a new pair of sneakers recently. She branched out and tried a new model, but the shoes ran small. Disappointed because she has a condition, which makes tight shoes a complete no-go, she had to return them. She wanted to try another size, but Amazon was out of inventory and to add insult to injury, the seller she purchased through charged for shipping to return the shoes. “I will make sure I won’t do business with them again. Probably will go back to Zappos,” she wrote.

“To add insult to injury, this company charges shipping on returns. I will make sure I don’t do business with them again. Probably will go back to Zappos.” – Janice, Amazon Review

During the third week of March our e-commerce volume comparison shows that for the first time, another online shopping source, DSW, outpaced Amazon in reviews for women’s and men’s sneakers and sandals – historically both strong spring performers in retail. Last year and the year before, between February and April this was not the case – Amazon led the overall upward trend. This data also proves there is still soft but growing demand for non-essentials,  but consumers are looking for those goods elsewhere. 

Recent NPD research reports US sales of leisure footwear were down 15 percent in the first quarter of 2020 and it showed fashion footwear fell 24 percent. Comfort slippers marked the only fashion footwear growth as people settle into life at home. A glimmer of hope started to shine as March ended and categories of shoes related to life at home (sport slides,mules, clogs, flip flops) showed slight growth over the week prior. 

More broadly, what Channel Signal is seeing is that the volume of reviews collected from Amazon continues to slide, and a few retailers, like DSW and Famous Footwear are picking up the pace. Meanwhile, the majority of other retailers like Walmart and Zappos are holding steady with their online review volume. This paints a clearer picture of where the losses in this sector really are.  

Our volume review comparison shows online shoe retailer, DSW, outpacing Amazon in late March in reviews for women’s and men’s sneakers and sandals.

Our review data also gives insight to sentiment. In the first quarter, Amazon reviews for women’s and men’s sandals and sneakers averaged 4.37 stars, while reviews from DSW, averaged 4.63 stars. Amazon posted 17.2 percent non-positive reviews, while DSW showed just nine percent non-positive. In March alone, those numbers became more drastic, with Amazon increasing to 18.2 percent in non-positive reviews and DSW improved to 7.7 percent non-positive. The star average for Amazon in March fell to 4.33 stars, while DSW strengthened to 4.63 stars. 

“I can’t properly judge this shoe – I only received one….it’s a little hard to leave a good review when you only get one shoe.” – Marcia, Amazon Review

Taking a look inside what people are talking about in Amazon’s March reviews we see a mix of the usual issues in negative reviews related to quality and fit, but we are also seeing many reviews that mention more unusual issues. One shopper, for example, received only one shoe in her order. The disappointed shopper wrote: “I can’t properly judge this shoe – I only received one….it’s a little hard to leave a good review when you only get one shoe.”

Another consumer didn’t receive the same product she ordered and yet another woman placed an order for shoes for her niece as a birthday gift. When the shoes arrived, they weren’t in the original box. “They came in an Amazon brown box. It made it look cheap!” she wrote. 

Other dissatisfied customers are talking about issues with returns and Amazon customer service. A woman ordered sandals and after wearing them three times, one of the straps broke. 

“So upset because I loved this shoe. I returned this sandal to Amazon. They picked it up a week ago and still no credit on our account….some customer service. This is not a cheap shoe so I expected a lot more….still waiting for my credit. I was intending on buying this shoe again to give it another try that is how comfortable it was…Can’t call Amazon customer service NO ANSWER!” 

“So upset because I loved this shoe. I returned this sandal to Amazon. They picked it up a week ago and still no credit on our account…some customer service. This is not a cheap shoe so I expected a lot more. Still waiting for my credit. I was intending on buying this shoe again to give it another try that’s how comfortable it was. Can’t call Amazon customer service NO ANSWER!” – Bernie O, Amazon Review

These frustrations harken back to our blog post “To Buy Or Not Buy: Eliminating Uncertainty” which discussed how brands should seek to remove irritants and other consumer stresses that might turn off already anxious customers. Channel Signal product reviews and data continue to back this up. 

Stay tuned to the Channel Signal Blog as we keep a pulse on these emerging trends. 

 

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