The way we shop is constantly evolving.
And, as it happens, Amazon is the original influencer.
When it comes to commerce, no company has had quite the seismic impact as the Bezos-owned behemoth.
For shoppers and retailers alike, it can sometimes feel like it’s Amazon’s world and we’re just living in it especially when it accounts for 43% of all US online retail sales.
Amazon has impacted our shopping habits at seemingly every turn. Here’s why… and, more importantly, this is how you can join them instead of failing miserably at trying to beat them.
1. Step up your logistics game
Obviously, the bigger Amazon gets, the more they can capitalise on economies of scale.
This means making excellent profit margins on every item you sell isn’t such a big deal when you’re selling a bucket load of stuff at the speed Amazon does.
It’s driven by a phenomenally efficient operations and logistics process that other businesses have struggled to keep up with, although Ocado is an exception to the rule.
Ocado is one company managing to go toe-to-toe with Amazon where logistics are concerned. According to Peel Hunt analysts, Ocado’s warehouse robots perform far more efficiently than those at Amazon.
So how long before Amazon tries to buy Ocado?
2. Follow Amazon’s shipping time lead
In the face of Amazon’s impressive market dominance and scale of infrastructure, any and all efforts to compete can quickly seem futile. No one can match their sheer size and scale.
And yet, competing, at least on some level, is necessary.
Look at the arrival of Aldi on British high streets. It was their unassuming and limited range of products sparked a slow-burn doom for profit margins at Tesco and Sainsburys in the early-aughts.
The easiest place to start is on shipping. Thanks to the Amazon influence, customers want faster shipping. And by faster shipping, 96% reportedly means ‘same day delivery’.
So, if you’re still offering 3-5 day shipping for £4.99, customers probably won’t be flocking to your online store.
In short, follow Amazon’s lead and speed up your shipping.
3. Offer an experience
This may well be one of the key advantages of operating as a bricks-and-mortar, independent retailer in an Amazon world. Shopping isn’t just about the price anymore, it’s about the experience (especially if Millennials are your target market).
Why? Because Amazon’s abundance of online products has made some shoppers more discerning. When we can buy practically anything we want online, at the swipe of a thumb or click of a mouse, the experience of shopping in-store becomes something of a luxury.
But what about online retailers? Do they stand a cat’s chance in hell of competing against Amazon?
Long story short: yes.
Amazon’s infrastructure may be impressive, and its ease of use is undeniable, but it remains a faceless, corporate entity. If you want to beat Amazon at its own game in the online-only sphere, you have to go above and beyond when it comes to service. Give consumers that experiential vibe they crave from bricks-and-mortar stores.
Simple things like personalised (but not pushy) emails, handwritten notes sent along with orders, speedy customer service, and a willingness to own up to and correct mistakes will go a long way.
And, I cannot stress this enough, make sure your website is as seamless and slick as possible. Invest in excellent copywriters to jazz up your product descriptions (an Amazon weak point) and link between products pages and informative blog posts.
Basically, make sure the buyer has everything they need at their fingertips.
(Related: See what exciting eCommerce, Digital, Marketing & Sales opportunities we have at Vertical Advantage now)
4. Build an actually useful brand
As Instagram influencers can attest to, brand is everything. And brands-as-a-culture is also a major trend for 2019.
So, while Amazon’s brand is, uh… everything, make your brand ‘one thing’. In short, do one thing well–while offering high quality and a cohesive brand strategy–instead of many things poorly.
Take a look at Baudoin and Lange. This niche loafer company has successfully tapped into the premium side of the market and they’ve done so without the tangible presence of a bricks-and-mortar retail space.
Follow in the footsteps (ha!) of Baudoin and Lange, then.
Invest in clever advertising and marketing, you can build your brand authentically, and watch your business flourish.
And remember: you’re a business, not an everything bagel.
5. Tap into Big (and Small) Data
Amazon is all about that Big Data. And you can be too.
As Jeremy Goldman at Inc. writes, “at this point, all brands need a strong data strategy.”
But tapping into data and making it work for your business doesn’t mean you need to invest in costly AI software. Even something as commonplace as Google Analytics can be of use.
Once you’ve decided what kind of data will be of most use to your business, you should start setting Google Analytics goals.
For example, do you want to know about newsletter signups or are you more interested in seeing who’s visiting what page and for how long?
The information generated by doing so can then inform your long-term decisions. What did you find out about the people signing up for your newsletters? Tailor your copy to them or diversify and personalise your newsletter delivery system based on which page they signed up from. The options are limitless.
Tap into social media too with software like Twilert which helps track mentions of your brand or search terms related to your business. From there, you can boost engagement, nip any emerging problems in the bud, and use the comments you’re generating to inform further business decisions.
Just remember that the data game can be heavily dependent on trial and error though, especially for smaller businesses with limited resources.
While making a data generation and utilisation strategy can be incredibly useful to begin with, be prepared to deviate from the plan if things aren’t working out.
That’s what mega-brand Nike decided to do, despite initially thinking Amazon would devalue their carefully crafted brand. However, they quickly realised they were missing out on massive sales, and, in the process, being undercut by not-so-reputable third-party sellers.
Besides, Amazon is currently pushing for vendors to sign up with Brand Registry. As Digiday reports, this is “a program that lets brand owners and licensees submit proof that they are authorized sellers of a brand’s products”. So, it seems the time is ripe to take control over your company’s Amazon presence.
In reality, beating Amazon would be a long and impressive journey. If you’re there already don’t need to worry about this blog! (And cheers to you!)
But if you’re not quite there yet, my advice is to learn from Amazon’s journey and use their powerful reach to your advantage. After all, if it’s good enough for Nike, then why shouldn’t it be good enough for you?
And remember, I’m always keen to talk to people about this stuff, especially as a lot of you know far more than I do! So, give me a shout on LinkedIn or on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat.