Think you can’t compete with Amazon?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you can topple the e-commerce giant from their throne, but you can certainly still make a buck or two. If you know how to play it right.
I want to tell you how to do that in five kinda-sorta-easy steps.
First, let’s talk about what you can’t do. Admitting your shortcomings is the first step to maximizing your strengths.
- You can’t compete with Amazon on price. Don’t even try. They can buy much bigger order quantities than you can. They already own the warehouse and the staff, so they can store and pack it cheaper than you can. Amazon don’t need to make money off any one product, they could undercut you for ever, and it wouldn’t make even the smallest of dents in their annual profit margins.
- You can’t ship quicker than they can. They have warehouses everywhere and an extremely efficient logistics system.
So how can you complete? Let me explain….
1. You can advertise better than they can.
Have you ever seen Amazon make a product video and promote that video on Facebook?
I thought so…
But we all know that is an extremely effective method of marketing.
Have you ever seen Amazon build a Facebook fan page for a particular product?
I thought as much….
Have you ever seen a Snapchat from Amazon, or received a follow request on Instagram from Amazon?
Okay, you get my point…
One of amazons biggest weaknesses is their size, their marketing game is weak, they rely mostly on people 1. Already knowing which product they want
2. Visiting the site of their own free will.
If you teach yourself Facebook or Instagram marketing, you already have a HUGE advantage.
2. Do something radical with shipping.
One area that Amazon has completely dominated in, is the area of shipping. It is, in fact, one of the company’s greatest successes.
Members of Amazon’s Prime service can get two-day shipping for free, and next-day shipping for just a few dollars on each order. And same-day shipping? Yep, they offer that, too.
Can you compete with that? Maybe… No, I’m not drunk… hear me out here.
Okay, so you can’t compete with Amazon purely from delivery times alone, but you can compete with Amazon in terms of customer satisfaction, which let’s face it… that’s the important factor here. A company doesn’t win merely by offering something. They win by giving it without being asked.
Take Zappos, for instance. They didn’t make a big deal about their killer shipping policy, but when it happened, customers were floored. And hooked. Zappos scored by delivering the customer’s packages before they anticipated them, successfully delivering, well, happiness, as CEO Tony Hsieh explained in his book.
You don’t have to offer free shipping or some other extraordinary same-day service, but you can create a shipping service that exceeds expectations and provides satisfaction. Here are some ideas:
1. Don’t boast about free shipping on every page of your site, instead just give it them at the checkout. Nice supprise.
2. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, under-estimate delivery times. Instead, it is better to over-estimate, to ensure the package arrives sooner than expected.
When the customer receives postage that is 1. FREE and 2. Arrives sooner than expected, they are likely to forget all about amazons 2 days shipping (that is only available to Prime members and only on some products), and BOOM! You just competed with Amazon’s shipping.
3. Be creative, build a brand.
It easy to take a generic product, give it a fancy website, some sharp looking Instagram photo’s and double the price. That’s how most brands are build nowadays. What is a brand anyway? It’s all about creative pervied value.
Last year I built www.theboltlighter.com
It sells lighters, that are already selling on Amazon for £10.99, a fancy web page, and now they sell for £19.99 all day long.
Amazon doesn’t have a video of this product or a separate Instagram following. The description is wordy, boring and unattractive.
Amazon sellers cannot optimize the product page in the same way that Website owners can. Just by making the product page more interesting I outsold Amazon all day long.
4. Offer Amazing Customer Service.
I mean no disrespect to Amazon, but they can’t do customer service the way you can. They’re too big.
This is a sandbox that Amazon can’t play in. But you can.
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. In my own company, I refuse to give any of my customer service staff a response “template”, I simply teach them what is good customer service and let them respond naturally, human-to-human. My staff are also experts in the products we are selling
However, this requires a lot of 1 to 1 mentoring and monitoring, can you imagine Amazon did this for its hundreds of thousands of employees and for its millions of products? Impossible.
Your brand can achieve viral spreadability through passionate brand evangelists. Amazon doesn’t have that capability. You’ll never overhear this conversion:
“Hey, I found this great site to buy stuff.”
“Yeah? What’s it called?”
“It’s called Amazon.com.”
“Awesome. I’ll check it out. Were they nice?”
“Well it’s not really a business, more of a platform for buying stuff from other businesses.”
But what about your business.
“Hey, I found this great site to buy clothes.”
“Seriously? What’s the name of it?”
“linderapparel.com. It’s awesome. I messaged them on Facebook — no delay. They answered all my questions, and reconmenned some awesome items!”
“No delay, huh?”
“Yeah. They rock.”
Customer service is the idea that you have personal interaction with and relationships with your customers.
Don’t complicate customer service. All you need to do is provide personal care, and be nice about it.
You can solve their problems, as in this diagram from rdioutsourcing.com.
There is consensus around the fact that customer retention via customer service and relationships has a better ROI and cost-effectiveness than other methods of marketing. Check out the first bar in this survey graph from eConsultancy.
Superoffice.com dug into the reasons that customers leave a company, and settled on these reasons. If your customer knows you care, then you can hang on to 68% of your customers.
This is the single most important step in the entire process. 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.
5. Build a following.
My final point is linked to the point above.
The warm-hug experience of great customer service leads to building a fanatical fan base.
Building a jumping, screaming, raving, fanatical fan base is not easy, but it ispossible. The strategy is to stay small, at least as it pertains to customer interaction. 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.
Let me give you an example. You can buy a GoPro camera from Amazon, no problem.
But can you connect with GoPro as a brand? Do you have the same sense, feel, connectedness and emotion? Absolutely not.
That’s why true GoPro fans are going to stick to the GoPro site to buy their GoPro swag. They love this brand.
GoPro has defined their niche (that’s step one), and refined their customer service. Now, they have a peerless fan base. Why is it that GoPro has 3.5 million followers on Instagram, and Amazon.com has only 95,000?
Competing with Amazon is something that most ecommerce retailers joke about. “Compete with Amazon? Yeah, hahaha!”
I think it’s funny, too, but for different reasons. I think it’s funny because you can stick it to Amazon by outdoing them at their own game. You can succeed, not just based on your product, but on the way you market that product.
A lot of that is plain kickass service.