Yes, Amazon, Walmart, and other large retailers do have competitive advantages over small brick-and-click businesses, but it doesn’t mean that small businesses can’t be successful.
The truth is, most small retail businesses—online or off—don’t really need to compete with Amazon or Walmart. Here’s why:
“Your small business’s indie cred has market cache,” says Entrepreneur. “It makes you personable, unique and accessible. It makes you desirable.”
Kissmetrics offers four ways you can be profitable without the threat of Amazon breathing down your back:
1. Sell Different Products Than Those Sold on Amazon
“Amazon’s weakness is in its greatness,” says Kissmetrics. “It has everything for sale. Amazon can’t be good at everything.”
Small-and-mid-sized retailers should consider narrowing their niche of products—ones not typically found on Amazon—or sell products that are protected with manufacturer approved pricing (MAP) suggests Practical Ecommerce.
Kissmetrics reiterates this by saying, “It’s extremely important to narrow your ecommerce niche and dominate it.”
Offering products that are MAP or unique to your brand means you won’t be directly competing against Amazon or Walmart. Additionally, you won’t be competing to rank well for a variety of keywords that Amazon already dominates.
According to Kissmetrics, Amazon doesn’t place a lot of emphasis on content marketing. Instead, they buy PPC, do conversion optimization, focus on SEO, release products, etc. This provides you with a huge opportunity to dominate your niche, content market the heck out of it, and rank well for a narrower—but no less awesome—selection of keywords.
2. Create Your Own Awesome Shipping Service
As you may know, Amazon completely dominates the shipping arena—it’s one of the behemoth’s greatest successes. From Prime’s free, two-day shipping to free shipping on a certain dollar amount spent, they seem to be unbeatable.
But can you compete with that? Kissmetrics thinks so, “A company doesn’t win merely by offering something. They win by giving it without being asked.” Zappos is a great example of this. By delivering customer packages before they anticipated them, customers were surprised, thrilled, and monumentally hooked.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to offer free shipping or same-day service, but you can offer a shipping service that exceeds customer expectations and satisfaction.
3. Offer Your Own Subscription Service
In addition to narrowing your niche of products, you could offer your own subscription service.
“The subscription service is one of the smartest ways to sell a product,” says Kissmetrics. “You don’t just get a one-and-done transactional experience with your customer. Instead, you get a relationship, and revenue every month or year.”
Additionally, with a subscription service, you could offer a popular item commonly found on Amazon in a package with other related products unique to your brand. This way, your subscribers are getting the item they need from Amazon, along with the products they love from your brand. So you’re not directly competing with Amazon, plus you’re also providing a shopping experience.
You needn’t be a software provider to make the subscription service work. Any form of recurring deliverable goods can yield recurring payments.
4. Provide the Planet’s Best Customer Experience
For all their competitive advantages, Amazon can’t do customer service the way you can. They’re just too big.
According to Kissmetrics, “One of the best ways to compete with Amazon is to provide something that they can’t. They can’t provide personalized, one-on-one service to human beings like you can.”
Customer service doesn’t have to be complicated “All you need to do is provide personal care, and be nice about it, “says Kissmetrics. In fact, If your customer knows you care, then you can hang on to 68% of your customers.
“Overdelivering to your customer can powerfully reshape your identity as a brand, and compel your customers to stay with you, rather than go to the Amazon dark side.”
The “warm-hug experience” of exceptional customer service will help you build a fanatical fan base. “The strategy is to stay small, at least as it pertains to customer interaction,” states Kissmetrics. “Everything you do as a brand — from social media outreach to content marketing efforts — must have this personal and close-connected feel to it. It’s about cohesion, connection, and knock-out service.”
Just as companies such as Amazon and Walmart play to their strengths, small retailers can use their own strengths to their advantage, suggests Practical Ecommerce: “They can find success and profit without trying to outsell a larger, better-equipped competitor.”
Use the four tips above to help your retail store achieve success and profitability in a competitive environment dominated by behemoths like Amazon and Walmart. As Kissmetrics points out, you may not topple the ecommerce giants from their thrones, but you can certainly sell awesome stuff and dominate your niche with “kickass service.”