Sometimes mentioning the word Amazon in a room full of small business owners can make them shudder with fear. They are after all an industry giant, with a reputation for plucking the business right from under small business owners. It’s true they have more resources, more money and more clout than the smaller e-commerce businesses on the market. So what can you do as a small business owner? How can separate yourself from Amazon? In today’s blog, we will discuss the solutions you have to help alleviate the situation that the “Amazon Effect”.
How does Amazon work and why are they so successful?
Amazon delivers everything a customer could desire, without the need to leave the comfort of their living room. Their products range from clothes to electronics to decor for the home. Now, with Amazon Prime, next day delivery becomes easier than ever to achieve and many people do not feel the need to leave their homes for crowded malls anymore. They are paying for lower prices and convenience.
What do you have that they don’t?
Believe it or not, you as a small business do have some significant advantages over Amazon. You have the ability to hyper-target your audience, build credibility in your specific industry and bring high quality due to lower demand. Hyper-targeting your audience is much easier for you because you have a specific group of people to cater to with your products or services. Amazon has the task of managing thousands of businesses at once, and can only use automated targeting based on your previous search history. This type of targeting is effective and helpful but lacks a personal touch.
You have the ability to build credibility with your customers because you can personalize their customer journey. You can cultivate one on one relationships with customers in person if you have a physical location. If you are online you can send customers follow-up emails and thank you’s for supporting your business. These small gestures go a long way with customers and make you more memorable.
Build a loyal audience
A smaller customer base means that you have the ability to develop relationships with customers. The more you focus on customer retention, the more likely your business will flourish.
Find and embrace your niche
When you discover your niche, you can easily tailor a shopping experience for these customers. You can make them feel special and cater to their needs on a personal basis. Your niche will be one of your greatest strengths and Amazon’s greatest weakness. As a large business, Amazon does not have anything unique going for their business. They are there to sell the products that come through the pipeline. You are looking to sell something unique to a customer that you find unique.
Tell your business story
Amazon has endless amounts of inventory. They can not provide a unique business story for every product available on their site. This is one space where you can show that your business has a unique edge. Create a connection with potential customers by sharing a piece of your business story featured on your website. Give readers an insight into your beginnings to a thriving SMB. If you have something unique to share about your inspiration for the business or the motivation, share it. Customers today value transparency. If you have a cause you are helping to fight with a percentage of your sale, even better. As today’s consumerism grows, customers are increasingly loyal to making purchases with a purpose.
Provide 24-hour customer service
As an e-commerce business, you can make yourself appear available all day and all night with a chat customer service representative. Fast response time is imperative for keeping your customers engaged on your site. In this arena, Amazon has the advantage of thousands of employees and a customer service center that can address problems quickly. However, that does not mean they can provide better customer service than you. With that being said, make it a priority to work on how to handle difficult customer issues that may arise. Train your team members on company policies, communication with customers and how to alleviate customer complaints.
Be more than just a business and deliver a feeling to customers. Give customers a reason to come back, using coupons, promotions, and creative emails with fun visuals. You can offer incentives that Amazon can not, due to your size. You can try a customer loyalty program or give incentives for online reviews. Amazon does not have these kinds of offerings. Make sure that you embrace the online world too! Connect with your customers via social media, using platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to show off your business. Use these platforms to get the word out about your business and respond to comments as well as reviews.
Make your website user-friendly
Amazon’s website is incredibly user-friendly and that is why it can be so easy for customers to get sucked into making purchase after purchase. Amazon allows you to keep your browsing history, categorize products and sort them by pricing categories. So, why not look to Amazon for inspiration for improving your website experience. The simplicity or difficulty of shopping and making a purchase through your website can make or break your business. Going further, ensure that you have credible methods for customer payments as this will enhance the customer experience. If shoppers feel they can not trust the payment method hosted on your website, why wouldn’t they go to the reliable and powerful Amazon? If you want to alleviate the worries of your customers, include an FAQ page on your website as a guide for customers to follow and answer their questions quickly. This will provide another convenient method of customer service.
Personalize your customer experience
Show off your “local” authenticity” and give customers a piece of the place they have visited. It is very rare that the items you get on Amazon are not outsourced and made in another country. So while Amazon may have competitive pricing and more inventory, that does not guarantee that the quality of the items will be higher than what you have to offer. According to Forbes, “the eCommerce Foundation found that nearly 90% of consumers do preliminary research online before making a purchase online or in-store.” This gives you a window of opportunity to showcase your unique value to a customer before they go to Amazon. Highlight the craftsmanship of your products. Emphasize the dedication you have to give your customers the best experience and maybe provide a guarantee if it is within your budget. You have the unique advantage of pasting the place where your items are made on your items.
Featured Customer Reviews
Many Amazon purchases will occur based on whether there are a significant amount of positive reviews on the product. These reviews provide first-hand education on the everyday use of a product. So take this into account. Be willing to post customer reviews to your website under each product that you sell. This model, could boost your sales and will offer your website more transparency.
Why do people still enjoy small business?
If you are reading this post and think that Amazon is just too big to compete with, focus on small areas where you challenge them. Do not be discouraged, people still love working with small businesses. The question is why? If Amazon delivers everything you need with a click of a button, what is the point of using anything else? The answer is a connection. People still want to feel a connection with their products, the people who sell them and the place they came from. Through interacting with small businesses, customers have the opportunity to see the product in person and feel it. They can get one on one customer service and may form an emotional attachment to the brand. Perhaps their parents took them to their local toy store as a child and now they want to take their child to that same store. Sure they could get the toy cheaper on Amazon, but that wouldn’t evoke a feeling. This gives the customer an enhanced shopping experience that is not feasible through Amazon.
If you can’t beat em, join em
There is no reason that you have to stay separate from Amazon. You can join them and still maintain your small business authenticity if you do it right. Amazon does have a program that is looking to bolster small businesses. So, if you feel compelled to do so, cash in on their success. See where you can cater to your niche. This program involves a fee of either $0.99 per sale or $39.99 per month. According to USA Today, “Over two-thirds (68%) of small business owners who sell a product online say that Amazon has positively impacted their sales, according to a poll of more than 2,400 business owners conducted by Insureon and online small business directory Manta.”
At the end of the day, Amazon is King, they are not in the business of crushing small business, they are in the business of crushing all competitors. They are not the first big business to threaten small business and certainly will not be the last. There is a reason small business have stuck around for decades though, and it because SMB’s deliver a unique customer experience that can not be replicated shopping online with a giant corporation. The best course of action to take is to highlight the components of your business that stand out against Amazon’s huge business model. Listen to your customers and deliver the experience they want.