According to recent data Amazon accounts for more than half of the growth in ecommerce sales in the US. This means that despite increased investment from traditional retailers and the increasing percentage of retail sales that now happen online, Amazon is still pulling ahead. How can you compete?
The thing to remember about Amazon is that they are no longer just an eCommerce retailer. They are a diversified technology and logistics powerhouse with a growing global footprint. The number of online retailers using Amazon for fulfillment grew by more than 100% last year and Marketplace sales are a significant addition to their bottom line. Their Amazon Prime program changed expectations for eCommerce shoppers but it is so much more than just free shipping for product orders, it is an entertainment portal. They launched the growth of eBooks with their Kindle just like Apple led the growth of MP3's with the iPod and iTunes. And lets' not even mention all the cloud infrastructure they provide. Or the new Echo....
Taken in that context, it is easy to see that the Amazon story has gone way beyond retail. Most retailers are not going to develop whole new categories of products and dominate categories. There is still lots of room for small and midsize independent retailers to compete with eCommerce and not get Amazond.
- Leverage your brick and mortar: Make sure your eCommerce site is integrated with your POS or accounting system so that shoppers can see where the products they want are in stock. Allow pick up in store. Allow returns in store. There is a reason that many companies that started online are opening brick & mortar locations. The street is where the majority of sales still take place. Customers like to touch and feel and get it NOW!
- Don't compete on price: Amazon does programmatic pricing and will always beat your price.
- Tell a unique story: Understand your brand and why people buy from you and use social media to help amplify that story.
- Sell a unique product: Create a house brand that people can't get on Amazon. Or let your customers customize their product like our customer NameBubbles. (118K variants of one product. Plus personalized text. Seriously)
- Use the Amazon Marketplace: Yes. You heard me. The majority of online shopping starts at Amazon. It is used for comparison shopping and reviews. We work with several brand owners who sell more through Amazon than they do on their own web sites. They set their prices and maintain full retail pricing so there is no price advantage, but customers just love shopping at Amazon. The advantage is that if you ship your product, you have the opportunity to create a direct relationship with your customer and bring them back to one of your direct channels.
- Spread the word: Amazon has the advantage of being the 800 lb gorilla and has the largest mindshare. You don't. You might also have noticed last time you Google searched a product that chances are good there was an Amazon ad for that product. You need to run smart PPC campaigns to get visibility. Build your email list and keep your brand, story, and products in front of your audience.
- Go Global: If sales in your local market have flattened, look beyond your traditional markets with a multi-currency or multi-lingual site. It's a big world out there.