July 19th, 2017

How Small E-Commerce Can Take on Amazon

e-commerce can take on amazon

We get it, this is like saying “how your small store can take on Walmart.” It’s a lofty claim to say the least. But, it can be done. To clarify, that doesn’t mean that your business will necessarily put Amazon out, because no, it won’t. Amazon, Walmart, eBay, these things will remain, and they will continue to be the biggest stores on the planet. But you don’t have to be put out of business by them, and do better than them on specific things. 

So, how is this possible? You have to be better than them on what you know how to do in the e-commerce sphere. Here’s 4 steps you can take, to help your small e-commerce company take on Amazon.

Be Specific

Willie Keeler was a second basemen at the turn of the 20th century. He had a famous saying, “hit ’em where they ain’t.” The guy wasn’t the biggest or the fastest player, but he had an unusual skill, he got on base no matter what. He was unique, he did things differently than many of the players of his time. (he had a really short bat for one)

Being specific on what you do, finding a niche product to sell will help you in two ways. One, and most importantly, Google rankings. When Google’s goal is to get customers to exactly where they want to be and to the products they want as fast as possible. If you think you’re going to have the widest selection of all the products and win, it’s not going to happen. That space is already filled. But if you do something more specific, and it’s what people want, you’re going to get rewarded. Amazon isn’t specific, it does a great job of being everything to everyone, but that’s not always what people want.

Oh, and if you have brick and mortar stores where customers can get it faster – encourage it. That’s one thing that even Amazon can’t offer. (yet) So while they don’t, perhaps you can hit ’em where they ain’t

Product Knowledge

Walking into a place like Dunham’s Sporting Goods, you’ve got 25,000 products ranging from kayaking to lacrosse. But you’re just getting into, say, tennis, and you don’t know what kind of racket, shoes, apparel is best for your budding interest. You’ll browse 50 rackets and settle on something that you read online last week.

Now, walk into a tennis store (yes these exist) and tell them, “I’m just getting into the sport, what suggestions do you have?” You’re going to be met with a much different response.

But how do you do this online? Simple, create content! Educate your visitors on your products and the industry in general. Let them know that you know what you’re talking about. And if that doesn’t work, offer the ability to chat with a representative. This can bring the offline shopping experience to the online world.

Customer Care

This is definitely an area that Amazon has gotten a lot better at, so it’s going to be tough. Their return policies have gotten better, their customer service in general has become friendlier and more responsive over the last 10 years. So, how do you do better? Follow up with your customers.

Following up could be time consuming but very worth it if you like having repeat customers. This isn’t just about sending them a “hey give us feedback on your purchase” this is continuing the education you offered them during the sales process in the first place.

They’ve purchased from you, they should now feel like one of the family. It’s not all about rewards cards, and referral discounts, but how they can use their product for a better life. That’s why we buy things in the first place isn’t it? (and how other’s have used related products to make their life EVEN better)


We have to talk about the elephant in the room when it comes to Amazon. Their shipping is insane. 2 day free shipping for orders of $25 or more? If you’re a Prime Member it’s free no matter what? That’s crazy. You don’t think you can match it.

But you can do something different. If you’re in a competitive space where price is important, it might be more difficult to raise your prices to cover shipping costs. But if you’re not, that’s an easy way to make it look like you’re competitive.

The other thing you can do is add a little something extra that they weren’t expecting. If you’ve ever bought an iPhone, the most coveted part of the packaging is the little sticker that you can put on your car to show your brand loyalty. Now none of us are Apple either, so your brand alone may not warrant that kind of love. So the same concept of a sticker that’s less branded and more in-line with your audience might do just as well.

I’ve ordered cigars from an online retailer before and in the shipment was a cheap cutter that had their logo on it. If they had sent me a sticker I would have thrown it out, but now I have the cutter with the rest of my paraphernalia and people use it all the time. Their brand has spread not by offering me free fast shipping (it wasn’t). But by giving me something that cost far less than shipping and was a branded item.

While it may not address everyone’s needs, it will make people feel better about having to wait, or pay more for getting that item shipped to them.

The Last Word

At the end of the day this all comes down to experiential shopping. No one wants to be just a transaction. That’s how we feel when we shop at big box stores and on Amazon. It’s just a transaction. When we shop, we’re not buying a product, we’re buying a thing that will help us be a better version of ourselves. The experience of shopping should help us down that same path.

I got a follow up email once from Brooks Brothers after I abandoned my cart. It said “You have great taste – here’s some other things that match your style.” That hit at the core of why I was there. I feel that their products are my style, that their clothes make me a better version of who I am. I could spend the same $75 on a dress shirt on Amazon, but that brand says, “you’ve arrived.” That’s how they’re going to win my business over anywhere.

What is your e-commerce brand telling your customers?

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