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Should you try to compete with Amazon? Your eCommerce strategy guide

Monday, August 6, 2018
amazon and offline shopping

This is a guest post from Mert Gençler, Inbound Marketing Manager at Prisync, a price tracking software.

Amazon are huge. There’s no doubt about it. You might already be selling your products on Amazon and therefore have a piece of the pie.

But what about if you don’t?

You’ve seen how cheap products are on Amazon, you may have bought things from there yourself. However, can you really afford to match their prices and still run a profitable business? Probably not.

So what does this mean for smaller eCommerce owners who still want to sell their products online but don’t know how to compete with the likes of Amazon? Should they stop trying to sell their products online, or at all?

A quick Google search will show you countless small businesses who now cease to exist because they couldn’t afford to keep up with the prices offered by large marketplaces, like Amazon.

In this post, we’re going to find that out. By the end of this blog, you’ll have a clear understanding of some strategies you can start implementing today to help put your eCommerce store on the map, without lowering your prices to next-to-nothing.

Are you ready?

Focus on reviews

Now you may be wondering how focussing on reviews will help you beat the likes of Amazon when they have hundreds of not thousands reviews on some of their products.

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Reviews on Amazon

The difference is, in large when someone reads a review of a product on Amazon, they’re mainly looking for information regarding whether or not the product did what it said it would.

This is because, as a consumer, you know often you’ll get a product that looks nothing like it does on the photo or doesn’t work as promised.

Compare this to when people leave in depth reviews on independent ecommerce sites.

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Do you see how much detail the reviewer goes into on the BOSE website? Compare this to the Amazon headphone review above.

Bose also has different ranking criteria so that those who don’t want to read the reviews can get a quick snapshot view of how effective the headphones are beyond a “good” or “bad” score.

On smaller eCommerce sites, where the business has built a brand around their product, people are looking to at the reviews to see how people feel as a result of owning or using the product.

You also have the advantage of putting your reviews anywhere on your site.

Amazon reviews are only visible if you go to the product page, but you have freedom in where you place these reviews.

You could put them on the homepage to immediately show potential customers how their lives will be different when they own your product.

What’s more, when a product on Amazon has 1000 1 star reviews, and an overall score of 2 stars, most people won’t give it the time of day, so people never get as far as even clicking on the product page.

Whereas because you’re dedicating your entire site to your specific products, you have the opportunity to tell your story and get people to buy into the brand before they’ve even considered the reviews.

Showcasing your reviews in an easy-to-find place will be great for customer acquisition and help you compete against the bigger online marketplaces in the world.

Find what makes you different

When you think of Amazon, what’s the first product you think about? Likely, the answer you gave is different to the answer I gave and different again from the answer your friend would give.

It’s no lie that Amazon sells a wide range of products.

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There are 24 parent categories on Amazon and within that, as you can see from the photo above, numerous subcategories.

Because of this, there’s no niche element to Amazon. No-one thinks “Amazon - home of the Sports and Outdoors” category.

So if you want to compete with Amazon and win, find what makes your eCommerce store different. When you find your differentiating factor, double down on that.

No one goes to Amazon for inspiration. If you’re looking for a new cushion cover for your house, Amazon isn’t the first place you think of because there’s just so much there. You don’t know whether they have curated the best of the bunch, but you do know there’s lots to look through.

Instead, if you’re looking for inspiration, you’ll seek out niche sites that specialise and have a focus in what you sell.

So for example, if you were looking for specific ornaments for your house, would you go to Amazon or would you try a niche site like Made.com where they have an entire section of their website dedicated to inspiration.

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Likewise, if you’re selling a complex product, or need to process complex orders such as “X,Y,Z” with a modified Z” this is really difficult to do.

If we look at this product on Amazon you have to pick from a range of choices.

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You can only choose from a range of set sizes and a range of set colours. But what if you wanted the arms just that little bit longer? It’s just not possible on Amazon and so if you’re selling complex or custom products you already have an advantage over the retail marketplace, as they’re limited by the levels of customisation they can offer.

At Tailorstore, you can create your shirt exactly how you want it, in terms of style, size and colour.

When you find what makes you different, you need to also find a way to scream and shout about it. Doing so will put you leagues ahead from Amazon as you begin to specialise within your industry and become the de facto name that comes to people’s minds.

Personalise everything

For a second I want you to think about the process that happens when you buy something from Amazon.

You find your chosen product, read the reviews, hit order and then wait for the product to be delivered.

When the product arrives, it’s usually in a brown cardboard box and perhaps has a flyer in from the seller.

That’s it.

Now think about the times you’ve bought something from Amazon and struggled to use it in the right way. You then have to go onto Google and find resources that help you solve the problem.

After the sale, the only conversation you have is Amazon asking you to review the product.

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Compare this to when you buy something from an independent store.

Often after the purchase you’ll get a series of follow up emails that help you make best use of the product.

Or they’ll have a live chat feature where you can get in touch with their customer support - people who truly understand the product.

You can’t contact Amazon’s customer support if you’re not sure how to use the fan heater you just bought.

The difference? The level of personalisation an independent eCommerce store can offer. You have complete freedom when it comes to how personalised you create the experience for your customers.

Because you have data on your customers and know which items they’ve bought you can create tailored experiences for each person to suit their individual needs.

Adding this level of personalisation to your store will make your customers feel unique. They will feel as though their purchase is appreciated and you are here moving forwards to help them make best use of the product you’ve just bought.

Tell a story

Some business sell products and some businesses sell stories. Amazon only offer the former giving you an opportunity to dominate on the latter.

What we mean by stories is how far does your business go beyond your products? Do you have effective branding? Is your branding inline with your business’ story?

The way you tell your story, how you came to be and why you decided to launch your product in the industry you launched it in will have a positive effect on the number of sales.

We’ve already mentioned that Amazon don’t have a cohesive brand. There’s no single product that comes to mind when you think about Amazon.

But where you can dominate is to have a reason for existing. People buy into stories and when they buy into your story, they’ll be more than happy to. It into your product.

Hiut Denim tells a great story of how they used their business to bring manufacturing back home to support the 400 people who lost jobs in their town.

They didn’t want the great skills of their community to go to waste, so rather than keep costs low and send the work abroad, they decided to breathe new life into their town by hiring locally.

Takeaways

Don’t feel pressured to compete with Amazon on price. The likelihood is you won’t be able to do it. They’re able to charge significantly lower than you ever could and still make a profit.

Instead use the techniques listed above to find what makes you different, personalise the experiences for all your customers and tell a really good story.

When you do that, you won’t even have to think about competing with Amazon, for there won’t be a competition in the first place.

This is a guest post from Mert Gençler, Inbound Marketing Manager at Prisync, a price tracking software.

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