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“How to Compete with Amazon Over the Holidays”

You’ve likely read the headlines; you have probably felt the impact, too. Digital retailers across the web struggle to stay alive as Amazon continues to absorb increasing swaths of the eCommerce environment. As it stands, the retail behemoth controls 49 percent of the U.S. eCommerce market share.

In addition to Amazon’s unbridled dominance, consumers continue to sing the organization’s gospel, lauding its speed, convenience, near rock-bottom pricing and seemingly infinite product selection.

As an online merchant, you likely perceive Amazon in one of a few ways:

However, no matter how you feel about Amazon, it is a force that you must contend with in some capacity. In 2017, Amazon’s revenue exceeded $177 billion, a steep increase from the previous year’s $136 billion net profit. So with Amazon extending its tentacles into the brick-and-mortar realm via Whole Foods, Amazon Go and its various pop-ups, the monolithic retailer is only poised to grow further.

Outside of its market and financial supremacy, Amazon even controls consumer searches – 49 percent of product searches begin on Amazon.

amazon searches graphic

The bottom line is that Amazon is crushing the eCommerce game – arguably, oppressively so. However, while it may feel like it at times, Amazon is not exceeding by all measures.

When searching for how to compete with Amazon, there are areas online merchants can do better than the behemoth. It is their job to identify and leverage them, thereby fortifying their stores and doubling down to provide consumers with value in ways that Amazon cannot.

If your store is looking for ways to woo consumers from Amazon’s platform to your digital marketplace to increase holiday sales, take note of these powerful strategies.

Here is how small to mid-size (SMBs) companies can compete with Amazon this holiday season.

Tout Trustworthy Product Reviews

Because of how quickly Amazon has grown its third-party seller program –which reached over one million new sellers this year alone – the company has been struggling to ensure the authenticity of its products and merchandise reviews.

For instance, the creator of the Forearm Forklift nearly had his business crippled by Amazon counterfeiters. As a result, Amazon itself was forced to file a high-profile lawsuit on behalf of the creator. This example of thievery is far from an isolated incident on Amazon’s marketplace.

smiling man holding 5 star review card

When speaking to fake product reviews, the issue has become so pervasive that outlets from The Washington Post to NPR and beyond have been reporting on bogus critiques. Naturally, consumers have become wary about merchandise and review the legitimacy on Amazon’s platform, especially since many have encountered both kinds of phonies.

However, the reason this sort of problem persists is due to Amazon’s size. This is where smaller retailers have a tremendous leg up on the eCommerce giant.

Because eCommerce merchants have more control over the quality and authenticity of merchandise and reviews than Amazon does, it is essential for brands to emphasize their reliability in such departments.

To sway consumers into purchasing from your brand, it is wise to require email confirmation for all posted reviews. Merchants can take things a step further and ensure that those who are reviewing a product have indeed purchased it in the past (which can be verified via shipping address records).

Moreover, merchants might want to highlight their commitment to providing genuine products and user reviews by prominently placing a short mission statement that reflects their brand values regarding authenticity.

During the holidays, it is also a good idea to send consumers an email reminding them of your store’s promise to safeguard against forgeries of any kind.

Optimize Mobile Experiences

woman using mobile device in cafe

Merchants trying to figure out how to compete with Amazon should be keenly aware of mobile’s importance in the combat for consumers.

A 2017 report from GlobalWebIndex examining some of the latest trends in eCommerce found that mobile devices are a dominant component in the consumer shopping journey. Regarding holiday shopping, 2017 made this point abundantly clear. Thanksgiving day sales exceeded $1.5 billion, with 46 percent of eCommerce traffic coming from smartphone devices. This is a hike of 17 percent from the previous year. Going into the 2018 holiday season, eMarketer predicts that mobile sales will see a stunning 33 percent uptick.

The upsurge in mobile shopping is largely attributable to increased usage in payment options such as PayPal, Android Pay and similar mobile methods, as well as the proliferation of social media as a shopping channel for consumers.

For this reason, eCommerce retailers with niche products should turn to social media to engage consumers with branded social content and user-generated content (UGC). The latter is perfect for holiday marketing as it provides consumers with social proof while simultaneously giving a feel for a product “in the wild.”

Once a brand reels a consumer onto its site through UGC posts, retailers can turn a one-time buyer into a loyal customer via a rewards program.

Offer a Rewards Program

Apart from Prime, Amazon doesn’t offer its customers any loyalty program that encourages and rewards their buying frequency or volume. Once again, this is an area where retailers can shine to attract additional sales during the holidays.

loyalty program graphic

By capitalizing on Amazon’s lack of a loyalty program, merchants can strengthen their relationships with consumers through implementing a rewards system that gives VIP shoppers access to exclusive offers, discounts, prizes and bonuses.

When consumers are loyal to a specific brand, they should be rewarded, and building a loyalty program for your eCommerce store is an effective strategy in generating more sales, increasing a customer’s average order value and encouraging repeat visits to a site.

If you doubt the effectiveness of this strategy, consider the fact that 82 percent of shoppers will change retailers to take advantage of such promotions. By implementing a rewards program, digital merchants can boost their holiday revenue in multiple ways – by stealing customers from Amazon, encouraging a more sizable order and potentially getting customers to come back for additional purchases.

Offer Flexible Payment Plans

Let’s be honest: Income is a significant issue for many people right now. Considering that 63 percent of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency, millions of people will be looking to buy holiday gifts from a retailer that can work with their budget.

online payment concept

Stores that offer flexible payment plans can effectively pull customers away from Amazon’s marketplace (which doesn’t give any wiggle room for payments) and offer them an accommodating alternative.

This means that retailers that can offer partial payment plans, split payments and layaways should consider it. Using payment tools like Vend, retailers can provide their customers with all the options mentioned above, significantly increasing their feelings of satisfaction and reducing stress levels during the holiday season.

The more ways customers have to pay, the more likely merchants are to gain a sale.

Commit to a Worthy Cause

Consumers want to support brands that do more than merely seek profits. Shoppers want to patronize brands that have a mission to give back. When figuring out how to compete with Amazon, look for how you can make an impact in your community.

As recently reported by Forbes:

“In a recent Cone Communications survey, 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, and millennials are more likely than other generations to research the issues a company supports and the extent to which the company contributes.”

This behavior is an important thing to consider given that millennials have over $200 billion in spending power. When brands partner with a worthy cause, swaths of potential consumers are far more likely to support their business than just another wealthy corporation.

By assembling marketing campaigns around a giving back initiative, eCommerce retailers can generate tons of new customers and increase order values because consumers feel good that their dollars are going to a noble cause.

Ensure Constant Availability

One of the reasons that retailers find it hard to compete with Amazon is that they don’t have the customer support available to cater to customers around the clock.

Even if merchants have assembled a stellar FAQ section that answers most consumer queries, the holidays always bring a massive influx of contact needs. For this reason, merchants should consider employing automation technology – more specifically, artificial intelligence.

chatbot graphic

By employing chatbot technology, online retailers can compete with Amazon more effectively, leveraging the capacity to service customers at all hours of the day and night. Moreover, chatbots enable merchants to significantly cut down on the number of customer queries received by customer service teams, allowing them to handle more urgent and pressing matters.

eCommerce merchants can employ the tools provided by various chatbot building platforms to help increase their efficiency and sales figures.

The question of how to compete with Amazon is not an impossible one to answer. The retail giant is indeed akin to Goliath. But it’s important to remember that David won the battle.

As a smaller merchant, it is up to you to find and employ methods that Amazon cannot implement because of its size. These strategies should give your business a good foundation for competing with Amazon this holiday season. However, if you feel that you need extra support for your campaigns, you can always reach out to our team of eCommerce marketing experts to give your efforts an extra boost that will ensure your store a profitable sales season.

Meet the Author

Ron Dod CMO and Cofounder

Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.

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