How Can a Small E-Commerce Business Compete with Amazon?

Brand loyalty is one of the most difficult things to earn in the e-commerce industry, and it’s even more difficult when a company as powerful as Amazon can dictate the terms under which the industry operates. Amazon’s control over the e-commerce industry is so tight that the company generates more business than its 14 biggest competitors combined. 

What’s more, Amazon has built a significant moat around its business by cultivating a completely brand-agnostic shopping experience. Amazon’s platform for sellers actively encourages overseas merchants to obtain trademarks for unpronounceable brand names that don’t really exist. It’s hard for customers to feel any loyalty toward a brand name consisting of randomly generated letters – and it doesn’t matter, because those brands frequently disappear without notice anyway.

If you have a small e-commerce business and want to compete with Amazon, you need to do exactly what the e-commerce giant doesn’t want you to do – you need to build a strong brand and cultivate a sense of loyalty among your customers. You need to give people a reason to buy from you instead of taking the easy way and going for Amazon’s one-click checkout and free Prime shipping. 

If you think it’s impossible to go toe to toe with the world’s biggest e-commerce brand, you’re wrong. Here’s how your small business can compete with Amazon.

Sell Something that Isn’t Available on Amazon

The easiest way to compete with Amazon is to remove them from the picture entirely, and the way to do that is by selling something that isn’t available there. For example, you could forge a relationship with the best vape distributor and start selling vaping products online. Although many prohibited products on Amazon aren’t allowed for very good reasons, there are several product categories that Amazon won’t touch even though they’re completely legal. If you sell something that isn’t available on Amazon, people will be forced to come to you if they want to buy that product. 

Sell on Amazon – but Give People a Reason to Buy Direct

If you sell a product that Amazon does allow, one easy way to compete is by selling on Amazon but not thinking of it as your primary sales channel. Instead of focusing your efforts on becoming a successful Amazon seller, you can think of Amazon almost like an avenue for paid marketing. When you advertise on Google, you’re paying for web traffic. What you pay for that traffic is essentially the cost to acquire a new customer. It can be the same way on Amazon if you use the Amazon marketplace to introduce your company to shoppers but give them a reason to buy directly from you in the future. 

For example, when you pack your product and send it to Amazon for fulfillment, you can include a note encouraging customers to visit your website when they want to buy again. You can call attention to the fact that your products are cheaper on your website – after all, you aren’t giving a portion of the profits to Amazon – and you might even consider adding a coupon code as well.

Offer a Better Customer Experience than Amazon

The shopping experience on Amazon is usually pretty good, but it can be downright dismal in the event of a problem. It doesn’t matter whether you contact Amazon by phone, email or chat – you’ll never get in touch with anyone who has the power to resolve a complex issue, and you’ll never get further than an offshore call center. 

One of the reasons why some people sometimes choose to avoid Amazon – especially when making important purchases – is because they’d rather buy from a company that they can actually reach if there’s a problem. On your website, you should go to great lengths to let customers know that they can reach an actual human being who works for your company if they have a problem. Provide multiple avenues for customers to communicate with you – a phone number and an email address at minimum. Let people know that you value their business and that you’ll respond to all communication promptly.

Offer a Better Order Fulfillment Experience than Amazon

Order fulfillment is another area where Amazon isn’t always the greatest. In Amazon’s warehouses and in the company’s local delivery network, workers are tracked according to their productivity and are held to performance metrics that are often difficult to attain. The result is that orders are sometimes packed haphazardly and dropped at the ends of driveways. 

When Amazon’s order fulfillment system works, it’s great for customers. If you’re a frequent Amazon customer, though, you’ve almost certainly received products in less than ideal condition. You’ve received boxes that weren’t treated properly during shipping, and you’ve probably also received damaged goods because fragile items and heavy items were packed and shipped together. If you pack your orders properly and use a reliable shipping partner, your customers will notice – and it’ll give them a reason to come back.

Make Your Shopping Experience as Fast and Easy as Possible

The last way for your small business to compete with Amazon is by optimizing your website’s shopping experience as much as possible. One of the reasons why Amazon is so successful is because buying from them is easy. The website is lightning fast, and thanks to the one-click checkout process, people can jump on Amazon, search for a product and buy it in mere seconds. Prime members don’t even have to worry about shipping costs – the price they see is the price they pay.

If you want to compete with Amazon, it is absolutely imperative that you make shopping on your website as easy as it can possibly be. Do whatever is necessary to make your website smooth and fast on all devices. Make the checkout process fast and easy. Most importantly, you should see if you can find a way to ship orders for free – perhaps by building the shipping costs into your prices. Anything that alleviates friction during the checkout process will encourage people to buy from your site instead of using Amazon.