Amazon, Alibaba and Wayfair are among some of the corporate giants in e-commerce. One could say that Amazon, specifically, set the standard for e-commerce with two-day shipping and access to thousands of products.
You might be wondering if you can handle competing with large e-commerce companies like these. But I believe you actually have to aim for that to survive in the current marketplace. E-commerce is a relatively new frontier, but it is competitive and fierce. Many businesses have gained market share in different specialties.
You likely can't compete as a general retailer; let's get that out of the way first. E-commerce giants have greater economies of scale, so they can buy brands and sell the products or services for lower prices than your business can afford.
Amazon also provides an extensive list of products and benefits for those who join Prime membership. Thanks to Amazon, fast shipping is expected from e-commerce businesses. You need to handle that first benefit so that customers won't be impatiently waiting. There are also a few other ways that you can stand out from the crowd:
Highlight your niche products.
Amazon might have access to general products but not necessarily the expertise to handle specialized ones. These can include niches such as beauty products for sensitive skin and tailor-made suits. You simply have to play to your strengths in these areas and show off your unique skill set. The options are endless in what you can provide. Find your niche and prove that you can compete in one particular product category.
You then might ask how to market these products. The first step is knowing your target market thoroughly and what they desire out of a specialty product. If they want high-quality materials and craftsmanship, then you can highlight that.
The second is to use pay-per-click advertising where appropriate. Pay-per-click advertising means that you can find people who want what you can offer, and you only have to pay if they decide to click on the ad in question. You want people who are searching for information.
Third, make sure that your social media campaigns are carefully curated. Not all Facebook or Twitter pages earn the same return on your investment. Have programs tracking your conversions, and see what keywords appeal to users.
Establish loyalty programs, and offer stellar customer service.
Amazon Prime sets a standard for loyalty programs. It's done the same with customer service by having instant chat for order inquiries and complaints. Aim to do the same, either with a team or an automated chat service.
People want a business to hear their concerns and listen to feedback. If they feel ignored, they might respond with further negative criticism. It's your job to handle address those complaints as soon as possible. While you can't please everyone and not every customer will be satisfied, you can provide that service as best as you can.
A chatbot — software that can automatically respond to customer concerns — is one option that might be able to help you compete. Try to add a bit of personalization to it so that it can be a smoother experience for your customers.
In terms of loyalty, you can offer different benefits within your program. Rewards points are an option; customers can accumulate them with repeat purchases. This helps them feel like they are receiving another benefit and incentivizes them to keep coming back.
Always have integrity.
You can show that you are ethical in how you treat your workers and ship products, with a transparent policy about office and workspace conditions. Customers will get an intrinsic value out of knowing that they support a business that spreads more good into the world than harm. If you can offer similar product value to them without the moral dilemmas, they are more likely to keep buying from you and leave positive feedback.
A reputation is an important commodity to protect. A business can recoup losses from a natural disaster or a competitor poaching its customers, but it cannot as easily recover from losing itsreputation. You see this most often on social media where posts can go viral and inspire action within hours.
Positive reputations take longer to cultivate, but they are worth it. When customers love you, they will buy your products. Some might even become repeat customers. You increase a customer's lifetime value by showing that you have integrity, meaning there is a financial benefit.
What's more, having integrity, in my experience, means that you are likely to get loyal employees. Many modern workers want to feel good about where they earn their paycheck, to know that they are providing value to the world. You can ensure that they truly enjoy clocking in, whether to a physical office or onto Slack. As an added benefit, this reduces the chances of employee burnout.
There are many options for you to compete with e-commerce giants and fields of potential. You can show your specialties while earning a fair profit. The trick is to play to your strengths and anticipate customer demand in the future. You want to earn your place and a sustainable market share, and I know that is more than possible.