Competing against Amazon: the SMB Checklist

It’s plain to see why Amazon is leading the e-commerce race. Their excellent user-experience, varied product assortment and innovative means of drawing in smaller, more diverse businesses through FBA has allowed them to target people of all backgrounds, interests and shopping behaviors.

Amazon is accountable for over 37% of the USA's annual retail e-commerce and has over 2 million sellers.

This makes things difficult for traditional small and medium-sized businesses operating outside of the Amazon marketplace.
Smaller businesses are finding it tricky to stand out and charge competitive prices. However, the impersonal nature of shopping on Amazon has allowed SMBs to have a competitive edge in many other areas of business.
Thanks to advances in digital technology, accelerated by huge corporations like Amazon, it’s left customers wanting more! With an increase in customer expectations, people are searching for shopping experiences with a special touch that Amazon is simply too large to provide.
This blog post will demonstrate prime examples of when SMBs overtook Amazon in providing customers with better user experience.

1. Find your niche

To create trust, it’s important you prove that you know your stuff. The easiest way to do this as an SMB is to find your niche and focus on what you are good at. If you do something you believe in and feel passionate about, your energy and efforts will pay off and customers will feel inspired.
Focusing on too many products with limited resources and knowledge makes everything more unmanageable and distorts your vision.

"A jack of all trades is a master of none."

Think about the best kind of restaurants — they are always the ones with limited choice on the menu since it’s impossible to produce good-quality without specialization.
Specialize and you will be able to deliver — take too much on and you will most likely hinder productivity and lose against your competition.
With specialization, you can easily create a unique brand personality and win on content marketing by delivering personalized messages which resonate with your target audience.

Source: Bombas — the performance sock specialist

Although Amazon’s momentous success is mainly down to its huge product assortment — even they started off specializing in only books, taking the strategic decision to expand to other products in 2000.
Even though Amazon has the money to make a large product assortment work effectively, customers are still not 100% satisfied. Users are becoming easily frustrated and impatient by having to trawl through so many products and it’s simply leaving them confused as to which product to buy.

Thanks to excellent user-experience, Amazon scored a 13% conversion rate when getting users to the checkout in 2019.

2. Care about the needs of your users

Source: Uncommon Goods

Caring about what your users want can be difficult without personally speaking to them. However, artificial intelligence can do this for you.

AI gets to know your users in numerous ways and can identify patterns in consumer data and behavior which makes it more effective than a human could ever be.

  • Subconsciously: AI can reach conclusions by simply tracking your users' clicks and analysis of data sets.
  • Consciously: Integrating Guided Selling solutions such as Product Guides and Gift Finders into your online shop allow your customers to directly interact on your website. Customers are asked a few questions and their answers are analyzed through AI so that they can be intelligently led to their most ideal product.

With the data collected from customers, you can track and optimize the success of your recommendation behavior through an analytics tool. Measurable trackers also help you to observe your customers' shopping habits, purchase history and wish-lists. This allows you to provide more personalized and targeted recommendations in the future.
Most analytics tools will give a comprised visitor overview, entailing: user ID, user journey, geographical location, clicks and duration spent on your site. Such valuable kind of data helps a business to gain better insight into what their customers want and gives them the know-how to target them better through numerous kinds of recommendations.

Source: excentos analytics - data based on one day period

3. Provide a top-quality customer service

Source: Hipmunk

Rising expectations mean customers want immediate interaction. There is no time to lose when thousands of competitors are out there ready to pounce on your customers.
With conversational agents and chatbots, you can provide your customers with a 24/7 customer service meaning they are never left waiting with unanswered questions.
Chatbots are made up of natural language processing and machine learning and can also help businesses to improve their interaction with customers by recommending products and providing them with advice.

4. Detailed Product Information

Source: Bombas

Since Amazon is made up of millions of sellers, there is naturally no continuity in how transparent and detailed product listings are.
Without detailed product information, users can easily make uninformed purchases which they will want to return. Product descriptions should be informative, providing the necessary specifics as well as the value proposition.

Customers want to know how your product is going to enrich their lives, rather than the technical details behind the making of it. The more benefits you provide the customer with, the more they are likely to fantasize about having your product in their hand and add it to their shopping cart.

Source: Method Body

Naturally, products of technical complexity. e.g. a TV, require more specific details such as measurements but always keep in mind that everything on your website should look as appealing as possible, since it is one of your biggest marketing tools.
Being open with your customers about exact product details will foster long-term customer loyalty and reduce your return rates meaning one up for you over Amazon!

5. Invest in good product presentation

Source: Woodsman Beard Company

Images are everything, especially as the world of consumerism becomes more superficial. The more visualization a customer has, the better and the more likely they are to purchase.
Your online shop should tell your brand's story. Within seconds of a user entering your shop, they should immediately have a feel for what your company is trying to do.
Product videos make a story easier to tell and are enticing for users which can assist them in making informed buying decisions.

Source: Woodsman Beard Company

6. Provide personalized recommendations

Source: The Perfume Shop

Let’s be honest, we would all love to have a full-time personal shopper who would advise us and pick out the products best suited to our needs and desires.
But how can you replicate or compete with the service provided in traditional brick and mortar stores?
With Guided Selling solutions such as Product Guides and Gift Finders, you certainly can!
Guided Selling solutions talk the customer through the online shopping experience, making it more personalized. They give users more control to dictate what they want and don't want in a product, just like they would in-store. What they like and don't like, what are their interests, personality traits, favorite colors etc.

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