How can bol.com survive the Amazon threat?

This article is based on research conducted by Studio ST&T. A full version can be purchased here.  

bol.com

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bol.com is the oldest online store in the Netherlands. Their 2017 revenues are estimated at 950 million euros, establishing them further as the leading online retailer in the Netherlands. Despite of their success these last few years, it is uncertain if they’ll keep their leading position. First of all, they have been facing competition from online retailer Coolblue that is loved by consumers for their excellent services.  

Amazon

But this is certainly not the only threat the company is facing: e-commerce giant Amazon that has not shown any interest in the Netherlands before, started offering their services to Dutch consumers as well. They haven’t had an active market strategy in the Netherlands yet, but recently made a Dutch version of their website, gave Dutch consumers access to their Prime delivery services and added the possibility to pay with Ideal. This alone already made Amazon the number 6 largest webshop in 2017 with revenues worth 250 million euros. 

So far they’ve had a passive market strategy for the Netherlands, but how will consumers react when Amazon will have a full focus on this market? Will consumers simply run to Amazon to buy their products. 

The challenge 

It is clear that they will enter the market soon enough. We wanted to understand what chances bol.com stands: will they loose their consumers to competition or will they be able to keep them due to the brand they have managed to build up? What are their chances from the consumers’ perspective?

We wanted to find this out but realized that simply asking consumers about their brand preferences would be a very inaccurate method as people find it hard to predict their own behavior and preferences.    

Studio ST&T

We therefore teamed up with ST&T Research. ST&T Research is a leading Neuromarketing company in the Netherlands. Instead of asking questions, they look at consumers responses at a much deeper level measuring their brain activity. They use EEG, Biometrics, Eye-tracking and Implicit Association tests as means to advise major customers such as Heineken and Albert Heijn. 

IAT-Method

In order to get us the answers, they conducted a so-called IAT (Implicit Association Test). The test - more or less as a game in which respondents are asked to click ‘left’ or ‘right’ on their computer in a rapid tempo -measures to what extent brands are linked to certain associations in the brains of the people. 

Implicit Preference for shopping 

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Relying ont the experiences they have in running (e-)commerce related IAT's, they selected associations in the following categories: 

  • Prices

  • Choice

  • Convenience

  • Security

  • Positive feelings

and determined to what extent consumer link those associations to the Amazon and Bol.com brands. The research was conducted in April 2018 among a group of 63 consumers: both men and women and consumers with and without experience with the two brands. 

The results

In general, the results are not too bad for bol.com: 

 Amazon and bol.com scores on trustworthiness

Amazon and bol.com scores on trustworthiness

  • bol.com has some strong brand assets compared to Amazon. bol.com is for example seen as more trustworthy and they evoke more positive emotions among consumers.

  • they are seen as trustworthy by consumers from all age groups. Positive emotions are however mainly evoked among men and younger consumers. It is interesting to see that women are more attracted to Amazon.

Advice to bol.com 

bol.com’s position is a comfortable one, but they haven’t ‘won’ the battle for the consumer just yet. 

  • It is important for bol.com to keep cultivating associations like trustworthiness and positive emotions around their brand in their marketing communication as well as their customer services

  • Amazon could grab the lead on associations like customer convenience and assortment

  • bol.com evokes positive emotions among men. Amazon does so among women. An explanation could be that Amazon offers more categories like fashion that are more popular among women than among men. Positive feelings generally predict whether consumers will buy. Bol.com should therefore be aware that women might switch to Amazon easily when they would fully enter the market

Advice to Amazon  

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  • Amazon should be aware of the fact that bol.com is firmly established within the minds of Dutch consumers, especially when it comes to perceived prices, trustworthiness and positive feelings.

  • Chances for Amazon are to position themselves as a company with more customer convenience and a larger assortment.

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