The Frictionless Experience: The podcast where we slay friction one episode at a time   Listen to the podcast

Cracks Emerging in Amazon's Digital Customer Experience

Amazon has undoubtedly revolutionized how we shop and experience eCommerce, especially since everyone and their grandmother started transacting more online.

However, cracks in the once seamless façade of Amazon's digital experience have started to emerge as it struggles to maintain a genuinely frictionless customer experience.

My Personal "Amazonian" Shopping Experience.

I'm about the most conspicuous consumer you'll ever find and buy tons of stuff online, everything from household essentials to more specialized products for my motorcycles. Most of what I bought over the last few years was from Amazon.


Because of their relentless pursuit of taking friction out of buying online. It used to be that price and convenience were what drove customer loyalty. And then Amazon did an unbelievable job of creating a frictionless digital experience.

An Amazon experience is:

  • Fast and reliable with a site that's available 24/7/365.
  • Seamless and takes just a few clicks to transact because the site remembers my preferences, payment details, and past purchases, so repeat purchases are easy.
  • Convenient with same-day delivery and an app that allows shopping from anywhere, anytime.

I'm a motorcycle guy and admittedly own a dozen or so bikes. I used to shop exclusively at specialty vendors before switching to Amazon for oil, brake fluids, brake pads, and more. All of these are relatively easy to buy from anywhere, but Amazon was so darn frictionless.


Recently though, rather than buying on Amazon or even being the first site I checked, I would go to motorcycle-specific websites. I've found that Amazon is not delivering as reliably as it used to and not always getting my order right, which is a pain in the @$$ to return.

Unconsciously I found myself going back to the market, looking at Amazon's competitors who had essentially lost this game years ago, and now they're getting my business again.

5 Ways Amazon's Digital Experience Has Changed.

Since then, I've done more research trying to understand my changing consumer behavior and came across surprising articles about the chink in the armor of Amazon's retail business, such as:

Why is this happening?

1. Inflation-thinned wallets.

We're in a retail slump. For retailers and eCommerce sites, sales and profits have been mixed against a challenging economic backdrop. Interest rates are high, and consumer discretionary dollars are low.

How will this impact Amazon Prime Day? And how will it affect the holiday shopping season?

2. Out-of-Stock Products.

One of Amazon's key selling points has been its unparalleled product selection. Still, the sheer number of options and inconsistent product descriptions, reviews, and in-stock inventory can make the shopping experience confusing and time-consuming. Frequent out-of-stock items and low-quality products damage consumer trust and add friction to the purchasing process, leading to a rise in abandonment, returns, and dissatisfied shoppers.

3. Delivery Challenges.

Amazon's promise of fast and reliable delivery has been a key to its’ success. However, maintaining consistency in delivery times has become increasingly challenging, especially with supply chain challenges and labor shortages. Customers relying on Amazon for time-sensitive purchases or paying extra for an Amazon Prime membership are often disappointed. The inability to meet delivery expectations adds significant friction to the shopping experience.

4. Complex Returns Process.

While it had been easy to make returns with Amazon, they’ve since eliminated some options that now make it less convenient and requires repacking items, making it even more difficult and time-consuming. Customers may encounter friction initiating returns, navigating through changing policies, and dealing with seller communication. This is especially true when the package gets lost and never shows up, something that’s happened multiple times recently to a colleague. Repackaging and returning an item can be a hassle and costly. What's more, Amazon is starting to charge fees if you choose certain methods of return.

5. Customer Support Challenges.

As Amazon has grown, its customer support infrastructure has struggled to keep pace with increasing inquiries and issues. Many customers have reported difficulty reaching a human representative, with long wait times and frustrating automated responses. The lack of personalized and efficient support further hinders the frictionless experience that Amazon once provided.

A Huge Opportunity to Capitalize on These Changes.

There may be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for you to capitalize on these changes in the broader retail environment and how Amazon is addressing its business.

For many retailers, Amazon is both a competitor and a platform (Amazon Marketplace) they sell on to expand their reach. It may be time to consider how you want to leverage this relationship and answer questions like:

  • Do you want to create product exclusives on or off the platform to encourage shoppers to go to Amazon and engage with your brand?
  • How do you navigate on-platform versus off-platform?

Here are my thoughts:

  • Offer exclusive products off the Amazon platform and find ways to let shoppers on the platform know it's there, and vice versa.
  • Consider doing special returns for those who bought something off the platform but wish to exchange it on the platform.

These strategies may encourage people when looking for something like I did when I needed brake pads—instead of going to Amazon, going to a specialty website that nails the customer experience.

3 Recommendations to Provide a Superior Experience on Your Website.

While Amazon continues to be a dominant force in the eCommerce industry, the erosion of its once-frictionless digital experience creates an opening for other retailers to reclaim market share.

1. Focus on the areas that are unique to your business.

You are not a unique business because you compete with or sell on the Amazon platform. You're a unique, successful business that has built trust and loyalty over time with your customers. Amazon has just found a different way to connect with them.

2. Your expertise is a competitive advantage.

You have more industry and product knowledge than Amazon will ever have. And your expertise is reflected in your product recommendations, informative articles and blog posts, community, and online customer support to get questions answered immediately, and value-added services available on your site that Amazon doesn't have.

3. Connect site performance to conversions.

Amazon became Amazon because of its focus on customer experience and business outcomes. You can do the same to improve the digital experience by leveraging the wealth of data collected on your site. Site and user friction must be examined through a business's lens. Stop looking at red lights (technical alerts) and start looking at business opportunities.


During the holiday rush, every shopper matters

Holiday Preparedness Ebook

Optimize the customer journey before the eCommerce event of the year.