By: Catherine Perry
Find out how finding your niche, providing outstanding customer services and developing a compelling marketing program can set your online business apart from your competition including Amazon!
If you are an online business owner or are considering becoming one, you’re probably thinking about all the situations you may face. In trying to think of how you can be successful, you may be wondering if you will need to compete with Amazon. If so, you are probably thinking, “How you will I do that???”.
You’ve heard of Amazon, right? Duh. Everyone knows that Amazon is the “king” of the big-box online stores. If you’re a small online business owner you may be concerned about Amazon as a competitor. You may be thinking that you need to compete with Amazon and you may be feeling a little uneasy about that prospect. After all, they are huge. They offer discounted products and shipping. You may not be able to do that as a small online retailer.
In this article we are going to talk about three aspects of your business that can set you apart so that you don’t have to worry about competing with Amazon. These make you unique and special to the customer and in that way they become repeat customers. If you have 1) a unique niche market for a specific customer, 2) an exceptional customer experience, and 3) a compelling inbound marketing program, then you can differentiate your business and eliminate competition with Amazon.
How do you create these? Read on to see how you can have an online business that does well without having to worry about Amazon!
1. Create a Unique Niche Market for a Specific Customer
One of the weaknesses of Amazon is that it is so big. It attempts to sell everything to everyone.They can’t be good at everything. Searching through an endless number of products to find what your looking for can be very overwhelming for an online shopper. Most people turn to the internet to find a specific product or products they need at that time. They do not want to search page after page trying to find just the right product. They want an easy and user-friendly experience. This is where your online business can do better—by creating a niche market for a specific customer. How you accomplish this is by narrowing your products for a defined target market. Spend time thinking about what makes you unique. Some possibilities are catering to a specific market segment or selling one-of-a-kind products.
For example, if you are an online retailer that sells baby clothes you could narrow the focus a bit. Maybe you could specialize in baby clothes that are made with organic, environmentally friendly materials. Or, maybe you specialize in baby clothes that are handmade or made in the USA. You can see how we are narrowing the product so that it suits a specific market. That’s what you want to do with your business. We aren’t saying that you should have an extremely small inventory to choose from, just that you need to have a specific focus that sets you apart and makes you the expert in that particular product for that market.
Amazon excels at having lots and lots of products, focusing on price, and being fast at delivering. But, if you accentuate your uniqueness to customers, you will make your business relevant.
In their blog “Five Step Guide to Competing with Amazon,” the analytics, marketing and testing expert Kissmetrics points out that “it is extremely important to narrow your ecommerce niche and dominate it.”
2. Provide Exceptional Customer Experience
The “customer experience” includes the way the website looks, the ease at which a customer can maneuver and find products, and the check-out process. All of these are basics but make a big impression with the customer. When done well, you will have customers who rave about your website, who will come back again and again, as well as, also tell others about their awesome shopping experience.
As you look at the Amazon website you see that they have a very basic non-descript look that isn’t very interesting. The website is visually developed to create the online shopping experience to a very simple form. It is a search engine to find products.
You have the opportunity to make the look of your website appealing to your target market. Provide a place where window shopping and browsing is encouraged by the look and feel of your site. Create a nice shopping experience for your market where they can easily see the products and be engaged in the process of buying. You will also want to ensure your website is 100% responsive, which means an online shopper can browse your store whether they are using their PC, tablet or smartphone.
Kabbage.com’s blog “How Do You Compete with Amazon?” states the importance of the visual aspect of your website. “Images that jump off the page, descriptions that resonate for readers, and navigation that’s intuitive and fun can all make the online shopping experience pleasurable.”
It goes without saying that the check-out process should be easy and clean, as well as, calculating shipping costs. As a small business, you may not be able to offer free shipping to your customers but maybe you can offer to bear the cost of returns. Offering something is better than offering nothing. Your customers will like that you are thinking of them and their wallets, and this goes a long way in creating a positive user experience.
And, lastly, provide exceptional customer service! You are in a position to give personal attention in customer service. Make sure that phone calls are either answered quickly without long waits or that messages are returned quickly. These things are missing in today’s online shopping world. You can set yourself apart in a big way here.
3. Develop a Compelling Inbound Marketing Program
When we talk about inbound marketing, we are including several things:
Newsletters and emails
Content Marketing is about having great content on your landing pages. It is the low-cost way to get traffic. Your content can be in several forms—a blog, videos, infographics, guides–but it is ultimately about educating the customer. You differentiate yourself through your content marketing. Amazon doesn’t update a blog or provide educational videos for products; Amazon is focused on efficiency. This is why your content marketing is a great way for you to compete online. Content marketing is all about educating your customers about a product or a topic related to your products. It is also about bringing an emotion and feeling to their overall shopping experience, which is a great way to outshine the boring big-box competitors!
In the blog “How to Compete Online Against Amazon”, Sweettoothrewards.com states,“While all content marketing can be effective (as long as it is of high quality) videos deserve a spot on their own. Videos are a great way to showcase products in a way that is interactive and informative. Big players like Amazon are not going to create educational/product videos for all their products. There is an entire subset of shoppers who are focused on educating themselves and making the right purchase. This is how you can compete against Amazon.”
Newsletters and emails are a great way to stay in front of your customers. You want to be at the top of their minds when they are buying and Amazon doesn’t do this. You can showcase specific products or offers in emails. Newsletters are another great way of educating your customers.
Think about having a subscription service or loyalty program that provides special benefits. These are programs that are working well with both online retailers and brick-and-mortar businesses. It’s another great way to set your online business apart from your competition. Customers are always looking for great companies they can shop with not just once or twice, but for years to come.
Create a consistent social media marketing program to brand your business and stay at the top of the minds of buyers. Social media is the world we live in and you need to be part of it. You can show your uniqueness easily in the Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest arenas. Amazon is not doing this. You can differentiate by having a presence on social media and being consistent. Social media is a fantastic platform to reach your customers on a different level, treat it like your “store greeter”. Your posts should be “light and friendly”, you should never try to oversell here. Enjoy an overall conversation with your customers, this will build trust in your brand.
In summary, we hope we have shown you how you can be different and excel. By creating a unique niche market for a specific customer, by providing an exceptional customer experience, and by developing a compelling inbound marketing program you can differentiate your online business from the others including Amazon!