To Amazon or Not to Amazon?

John Berry

Senior Developer

How to Compete in Ecommerce with the Giants

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to find something on Amazon, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. I’d be sitting on the beach - my very own beach that is. Because I would be that rich.  

Ecommerce giants like Amazon are the go-to sources for online shopping. No matter what you need, they’ve got it. Or at least some variation of it. Even brick-and-mortar stores have told me to look on Amazon for the products they should be carrying.

Physical stores are carrying less stock these days because ecommerce is typically more convenient and more affordable. Heck, I welcome the opportunity to buy the same product online for a similar price without having to deal with getting in my car, driving in traffic and waiting in line. I don’t even have to put pants on. Perfect.

While ecommerce sites like Amazon are ideal for consumers, they definitely make it harder for small businesses. How in the world are you supposed to compete with the big guys when they have it all: lots of users, an endless supply of funds, brand loyalty and the edge in the SERPs?

Ecommerce will always have its challenges, and there will always be someone bigger than you. But despite this competition, there are ways to secure a successful spot for your small business. Let’s take a look at how you can compete in ecommerce and make the most of your returns.

Differentiate Your Brand

Brand differentiation is key. Not only do you have the big giants to compete with but also the other smaller businesses that are facing the same challenges as you. You need to find a way to stand apart from both types of competition. Think of the aspects that make your business unique. Do you have lower pricing? A one-of-a-kind product? Add-on services like home delivery? Personalized service?

No matter how minute it may seem, dig deep and find the things that truly separate your brand from the pack. There has to be something, otherwise you wouldn’t have made it this far. People have to like you somewhat.

Now is also a good time to refine some of your policies to better serve your customers. Do you hear free returns or a loyalty program calling your name?

Make Friends with Other Small Businesses

It is okay to join forces with other small businesses to protect yourself from the bigger brands. Choose businesses that aren’t direct competitors of yours and complement your business in some way. For example, if you own a printing store, you can join forces with local businesses in the area while offering them discounts on printed marketing materials. These partnerships strengthen your business and help generate sales. They can also widen your customer base and make your business more appealing to work with.

Focus on Your Local Customers

One thing that big ecommerce giants have a hard time replicating is that small, localized feel. If you want to grow and prosper in a particular area, make this part of your overall branding strategy. You will strengthen the bond between you and your local audience, and you can establish new partnerships with other businesses in the area, expanding your reach.

There are a number of ways to connect with local customers. Launching an open house is a great way to get foot traffic through the door. You’ll be amazed at how many people will come out for some free food, drinks or entertainment. You can also pair up with local businesses or colleges and host an event, or consider attending a referral meetup or small business workshop to gain a new audience.

Put Personal Service First

As much as people love to save money, they aren’t willing to sacrifice good customer service to save a few bucks. In fact, many people agree that they would rather pay a few extra dollars and be ensured of a good experience.

As a smaller business, this is something that is very much within your control. You can take charge of the customer experience and provide each buyer with personalized, one-on-one attention. Further strengthen your relationships by using marketing automation software that allows you to track users and deliver targeted messages. This is a great way to get people to return to you when they need something rather than an ecommerce giant.

Continue with Strong Marketing

People need to be reminded that your business is there. Don’t let sites like Amazon make you feel small. Many people aren’t particular about where they shop as long as they’re getting the product they want, at the price they want and from a company they can trust. If you can convey this message, you’re just as likely to make that sale as the next company.

Amazon, for instance, recently raised their free shipping minimum to $49. Since I’ve been a customer, they’ve done this several times. The minimum started at $25, then $35 and now $49. I’m not too happy about this because I don’t care to spend $49 on every purchase I make, but I also don’t want to pay for shipping.

By effectively marketing your small business, you remind people like me that you are there. When things like the recent price increase for free shipping on Amazon takes place, I won’t hesitate to check out other sellers. Utilize inbound marketing strategies to keep your brand front and center.

Final Thoughts

If there is one thing you take away from this post, it’s this: Don’t let the big ecommerce companies scare you out of competing. You may not have the resources they do, but this does not mean that you are any less capable. Remember what differentiates you and play to these strengths. You just never know when bigger brands may be thinking, “Now what did this company do to get all these online sales?”

About the Author: John Berry

John is a former financial professional turned software developer. He has a passion and talent for creating innovative, beautiful software solutions. John is always striving to learn new software technologies and remain on the edge of industry solutions for his clients. He prides himself on being a team player who does whatever it takes to get the job done. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, the beach, and playing on the floor with his daughter.

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