How To Differentiate Your Store In The Age Of Amazon
Every ecommerce store owner is aware of the long and daunting shadow that Amazon casts.
After its foundation in 1994 as an online bookstore, this company grew to become the icon of ecommerce as we know it today. From its earliest days, it grew rapidly. By the end of 1996 it already had 180,000 active customer accounts and by 1997, it hit 1,000,000.
This massive growth even resulted in founder, Jeff Bezos, to be chosen as Time Magazine’s 1999 Person of the Year. By that time, the new ecommerce giant had already branched out to sell electronic products, toys, home improvement items, and much more.
As we know, the rest is history.
The Issues For Ecommerce Store Owners
Amazon welcomes an eye-popping 206 million visitors to its site every month, and it is well known that most customers will go there first when looking for a product, and to compare prices.
What does all this mean for small and medium-sized businesses? Is it even possible to compete in a world where one shopping website is so dominant?
Here is a comparison of the two options:
|Using FBA||Selling Through Your Own Store|
|Shipping And Delivery||Fulfilled by Amazon||Fulfilled by Merchant|
|Building A Community||No||Yes|
|Customer Service||Provided by Amazon||Provided by Merchant|
Here are the most common concerns merchants encounter when trying to decide:
- Delivery Times - Shipping is expensive and is never fast enough for the demanding customers of today. Within the US, Amazon ships within 1-2 days, and worldwide within a week. This is thanks to their vast network of warehouses worldwide and a well-oiled delivery system.
- Free Shipping - Based on its enormous volumes of international shipments, Amazon offers free shipping in many cases. A small business owner would not be able to financially withstand making these offers.
- Trust And Reputation - Customers trust Amazon. Due to its customer-centric attitude and its vetting of products, customers know that there is a baseline of quality.
- Variety Of Products - There are 3 billion products sold on Amazon across 11 marketplaces worldwide. It would be hard to not find what you are looking for.
What You Can Do About it
After outlining these facts, it may be challenging to envision how you can compete. However, there is always a flipside.
Giving Great Service
This leading marketplace gives fantastic service, but it is not personalized. Traditionally, smaller businesses can give warmer customer service - and the example of ecommerce is no exception. As a small business owner you will be able to get to know your customers and give them a tailored experience.
For example, when using the FBA option, they take care of the customer service. In essence, they are not your customers, they are Amazon’s. There is limited communication between you and your online buyers, and you will not be able to leverage the customer service experience in order to make a connection.
Building A Community
This ecommerce giant offers no sense of community. It may be the best place to buy generic items, but it is not the best place to find a sense of meaning and build a community.
For example, if you are running an ecommerce store that revolves around the niche of feminism (for example, feminist T-shirts), you will be able to build a community, as this is a topic people feel strongly about. Typically this type of store will be accompanied by a blog, which is not possible when using FBA.
Uniqueness All The Way
When you supply a unique product or service, it stands out. This means that all the disadvantages associated with shipping costs and longer delivery times could be cancelled out and customers will happily pay more and wait for unique products. It is best to search for unique products so as to find a niche.
For example, if you make your own unique jewelry, this gives you an edge and would cancel out many of your disadvantages associated with shipping times and costs.
This is Amazon’s mission statement:
“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
They certainly meet the standards they set for themselves, and their success is unquestionable.
However, there is a lot of untapped sales potential for small stores in the ecommerce world.
This is especially true when more and more customers are seeking to support small businesses and are increasingly seeking a sense of community and meaning in every purchase.