Online retail giant Amazon.com had a record-breaking 2017, spurred on by both new initiatives and long-standing practices that have been effective in targeting consumer interests. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods slashed prices on groceries to the delight of health conscious customers everywhere. The company tapped into increasing interest in voice recognition technology by rolling out Amazon Echo devices, which became a top seller during the holiday season. And, Amazon Prime membership rates reached new levels this past year, revealing how much shoppers value quick and cheap online shipping options.
In the face of Amazon’s tremendous growth, it’s easy for retailers to despair. However, while it’s true that Amazon has advantages over other merchants -and especially e-commerce merchants- it also has its drawbacks. Here are several ways you can maintain a competitive edge over Amazon:
Emphasize the In-Store Experience
If you have a brick and mortar location, you’ve got something that Amazon doesn’t: the ability to cultivate a unique and captivating in-store experience. Shopping in-store just can’t be replicated, and no matter how digital our world becomes, people will still yearn for a physical experience that will invigorate their senses.
To make your business stand out, consider how you can enhance your storefront. From customer service techniques to store layout and imagery, there are so many ways that you can appeal to shoppers’ desire for a positive and stimulating outing.
One of Amazon’s selling points is its quick order process. Customers can create accounts and store card info on file, and they can click through to checkout in a matter of seconds. Once they’ve placed their order, they can depend upon the quickest shipping times.
Although it’s not realistic to build an order fulfillment model exactly like that of a company with tremendous resources, you can still make changes on a smaller scale to meet consumer preferences. If you’re an e-commerce merchant, the best thing to do is ideally provide inexpensive and/or quick shipping options, because this can make all the difference in the completion of the sale. However, this isn’t always feasible, so another option is to offer in-store pickup for online orders, since this will still save the customer money and time.
Besides for introducing new shipping options, you can also speed up the online order process itself by implementing account registration to store customer profiles and card info, so that checkout is a breeze (but keep in mind that if you’re storing card data, you need a secure solution that will protect data from hacking).
If you’re a brick and mortar shop, you can enhance convenience by making your store easy to navigate; prioritizing customer service; and having a fast and positive checkout experience. To help with this, you may want to look into the latest POS systems or payment terminals that accept a variety of payment methods and are easy for the customer to use.
Tell Your Story
Position yourself as an expert in your industry. Unlike Amazon, your business’ smaller size and narrower focus can more effectively relay a feeling of trust and expertise to the public. Showcase your one-of-a-kind brand identity and use different marketing channels to instill confidence in customers, so that they will become loyal to your brand. Brand loyalty can tip the scales in your favor, even if your prices are higher than Amazon or if you don’t have cheap shipping.
Offer Incentives or Products that Can’t be Found Elsewhere
To discourage your clientele from buying on Amazon or other such competitors, be sure to provide special incentives or products just for your customers. For example, implement a loyalty program so that customers can earn points or rewards with every purchase. Or, consider a subscription service that features hand-picked product bundles, which shoppers will love for the personal touch and element of surprise.
In your process to develop a competitive edge over Amazon, remember to emphasize your business’ inherent strengths. Rather than emulating everything that Amazon does, focus on everything that Amazon doesn’t do. Your business has its own special value, so share this with the world.