It’s hard to stand out in an increasingly monopolized market, but with these tools, you can still succeed…
Amazon is an e-commerce giant. The company has become so much a part of our everyday lives, that it’s the first place many shoppers think to go to when they need to order something online, quickly. Amazon has a monopoly over many segments of the online retail market, and it can be daunting for retailers to feel like they are up against such a huge rival.
So how do you compete against Goliath?
Well, you don’t.
If you try to compete with Amazon, you will lose
Amazon has a long history of crushing the competition. They’re so powerful they’ve lured shoppers away from brick-and-mortar stores, and household names like eBay and Walmart have had to step up their game to stay in the running.
So as a smaller e-commerce business, what should you do?
The first thing you need is the right outlook of your own company. Don’t try and be the next Amazon, because you won’t be. Put that dream to bed. Instead, your goal should be to exist peacefully alongside them. With the right tools and knowledge, small- and medium-sized retailers can be very successful on their own terms.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the key strategies to take if you want to thrive in a market where Amazon is King.
Choose a niche
Picture a mechanic - let's call him Jim.
Jim needs to buy specific tools for his trade, and he wants to shop online. Where does he go to buy them?
If you think Amazon is his first choice, you’d be wrong.
Jim goes to a smaller retailer that specializes in the types of tools he needs to do his job. Why? Because this retailer knows their products really well. The people that set up the store were once trade workers themselves, so they care about their products and they’re committed to quality. They are, in one word, experts.
Amazon, on the other hand, are not experts in most of the things they sell. They are not specialists in anything, either. They sell everything, but that doesn’t mean everything they sell is good.
Jim, like many knowledgeable shoppers who want a guarantee of quality, knows it’s best to shop with retailers who understand his unique needs.
Don't cater to every person. Cater to people with specific needs, like Jim. Instead of offering a range of product types, focus instead on building a reputation for a specific product offering. There are two ways to achieve this: be the first business to fill a gap in the market, or be the best in your niche. Ideally, be both.
Build relationships with your customers
By virtue of being a large corporation, Amazon cannot escape the corporate “front” that they present to customers. This makes it difficult for them to cultivate relationships with shoppers.
Customers know Amazon cares about their time - that’s why their user experience model operate around convenience - but they also realize Amazon doesn’t care about them as people. They don’t need to, it’s not part of their success story.
But the fact that Amazon shoppers don’t feel special, or looked after in a way that is personal, is something that small and medium online retailers can capitalize on. This is where you can shine.
So, how do you do this?
The best way to make your customers feel special is to cater to them as individuals. Luckily, advancements in technology and AI have led to many e-commerce solutions that help you deliver an ultra-personalized experience for your customers.
Your site should contain offers, messages and visuals that are unique to each shopper. And in order to do this, you need to know your customers. Use data to understand who your customers are and what they want, then cater to them. And if you’ve picked a solid niche, you’ll understand your customer’s needs on a more personal level than Amazon can ever accomplish.
While personalization uses technology to achieve a unique shopping experience, there's another method to engage customers in a way that Amazon can't match:
Transform your customer service
As a huge company, Amazon can't offer the same level of customer service that you can. This is because it is far easier for a smaller company to offer customers the personal care they enjoy than it is for a giant corporation like Amazon, whose resources, though abundant, are spread more thinly.
Great customer service will help you stand out. The benefits are clear: a Harvard study found that shoppers will spend 140% more with a company when they've had good past experiences with them.
In fact, customer service can be seen as an investment, and not a mere cost, with ROIs that can be measured.
If customer service isn't on your agenda already, then it absolutely should be.
Budget some of your resources towards actually talking to your customers. Answer their questions, have a conversation, let them know you value them, and most importantly, solve their problems. And do so as promptly as possible.
For the best service, offer help on multiple platforms. Live chat, search, and social media are a good place to start.
If you focus on building relationships and giving each customer personal care and attention, your customers will love you for it. In fact, 68% of customers who leave a company, do so because they thought the company didn't care about them, and 47% of customers switch companies after a single instance of poor customer service.
Be the type of company they stick with, instead.
Build trust with your customers
Trust in Amazon is mixed. While they are known for their incredible customer service and prompt, reliable delivery, their site is famously saturated with fake reviews, poor quality and counterfeit products- leaving it to the brands to fight fake products themselves.
If you deliver on your promises, you’ll already be one step ahead. If you’re selling high-end goods, make sure that’s what the customer gets. If you sell lower quality products, focus on discounts, and don’t try and market them based on their quality.
No matter what you sell, if customers always know exactly what they’re buying, they will thank you for it.
Reviews will help to build trust, too. 92% of customers read online reviews, so there’s no excuse not to include them on your site. Make sure you choose a reliable application to integrate, and only allow reviews from paying customers. Consider using Yotpo, which displays your store’s reviews and user-generated photos.
Deliver an excellent user experience (UX)
Amazon’s UX is excellent. Shoppers can take their time to browse products at leisure, or they can quickly buy an item with a single click. However, their UX is solely focused on convenience to the customer, which means there are elements that online retailers can deliver that Amazon doesn’t.
Just as retailers can offer a level of relational closeness that Amazon can’t, retailers can also offer a different kind of UX that stands out on its own merits.
So, what can you focus on?
Better search for an enhanced UX
The thing that makes Amazon great is also a drawback: the sheer number of products on offer. With too many businesses selling too many things, the site appears cluttered, and Amazon relies on a small number of recommendations and best sellers to position products to customers. Shoppers that want to dig deeper into the search are faced with seemingly endless scrolling, even when they narrow down their search with filters.
With the right search technology, you can give shoppers a far more user-friendly search experience. And luckily, it already exists.
At Klevu we have expanded the capabilities of the search bar, giving it more power to lead customers where they want to go. Using a combination of AI and machine learning, our predictive search will help ecommerce brands to compete with Amazon.
Instead of the old-fashioned autocomplete, Klevu’s search bar displays predictions visually as a grid of products while the user is typing. Their dynamic filters adapt and improve over time, too, as the AI learns what customers want.
And, rather than a drop-down menu or a set of boxes, these filters appear as categories that guide shoppers forward, so customers can navigate from the search box to their ideal product seamlessly.
Search like this gives users a level of control and direction that Amazon can only dream of.
Schedule a live demo today and find out more about Klevu here.
Don’t neglect shipping
You won’t beat Amazon’s shipping and delivery, but you shouldn’t give up on it, either. While the overall goal is to shine where Amazon cannot - a solid niche, excellent UX, and customer trust - you should still try and close the gap between Amazon and your store when it comes to shipping. After all, you don’t want to put customers off at the checkout when they realize there’s no next day delivery.
If you’re able to do so, always offer next-day options, and be competitive with your pricing. Choose shipping carriers with a reliable track record, and build a good relationship with them so you can easily resolve any problems.
One further thing you can do is to incentivize further purchases. 48% of shoppers will add more to their cart to meet free shipping, so adding a minimum spend for the offer will boost your sales figures, too.
Watch out for sharks
Once you’ve forged a space for yourself in the market, you need to make sure you stay there. You might have set yourself apart from the big players, but are smaller competitors encroaching on your space? In shark-infested waters, you must look around if you don’t want to be eaten.
Use metrics such as click-through-rates and missed sales to measure conversions. The idea is to test that the decisions you’ve made are giving you the competitive edge you strive for. You may think your UX is the best out there, but does the data reflect that?
Monitor your growth continuously. Companies that use data to inform decisions come out on top, so choose software and systems that have excellent analytical capabilities for best results.
Stay up-to-date with Amazon’s plans for the future
Know your enemy: the old adage is especially relevant in the cutthroat world of ecommerce. In order to coexist with Amazon, you need to know what they are up to and avoid stepping on their toes. They’re too big to provoke.
Tech news sites like TechCrunch are great for staying up to date with Amazon’s plans. But because they’re a news site, they only report leaks are what Amazon is willing to share with the public. If you really want to stay one step ahead, follow ecommerce commentators who have a reputation for making accurate market predictions in the past. They’ll have a better idea of what Amazon might up to behind the scenes, so you can plan accordingly.
It can be hard to stand out in an increasingly monopolized market. But with the strategies discussed in this article, you can give yourself a solid foundation for growth, and the best chance of achieving it.
All of these steps aren't just advice for competing with Amazon, either. They're advice for competing, period. You can apply the same strategies whether your competition is a multi-national conglomerate or the shop around the corner.
Yes, the pressure may be high. But if you focus on growing your own company in your own niche, then you needn't feel like the Giant is hovering over you. Stay aware of what your competition is up to, including Amazon. But never lose sight of your own goals for growth.