If you’re a small business owner, you either love or hate Amazon — or both.
Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is an amazing platform for retailers. In 2017, it generated $177.9 billion with a net sales increase of 31% from the previous year. It shipped more than 5 billion items via its Amazon Prime program worldwide. With Amazon, your small business has a high potential of becoming an international success.
However, Amazon also often strikes fear into the hearts of small business owners. With millions of products in stock and prices that many retailers can’t compete with, it can also drive many small business owners out of business. Add to this the fact that Amazon has ventured into brick-and-mortar retail and it becomes more of a threat.
But Amazon is here to stay. And if you want your business to grow, you need to figure out how to compete with third-party sellers and even Amazon itself on this massive e-commerce platform. Here are some of our top tips:
Brand Yourself as an Expert on Your Niche
The fact that Amazon has such a huge global presence means that your products can reach an unparalleled number of potential customers. However, it is also because of Amazon’s massiveness — the dizzying number of products and the hordes of sellers — that you could also find yourself struggling to become more visible, reach more customers, and make more sales.
To compete, you’ll have to set yourself apart.
The thing about Amazon is that it offers such a wide array of products but it doesn’t really offer a specialised experience. You can buy almost anything from the e-commerce giant. But when you want a specific product and you need expert advice about that product, you tend to look elsewhere.
You can take advantage of this weakness by becoming and branding yourself as an expert on the product or service you’re selling. Whether you’re selling clothes or cookies, it pays to know your industry inside and out.
Set up both your seller page and your business website or online store to be as helpful to customers as possible. By looking at your product descriptions and your own website, visitors should be able to tell that you’re an expert in your niche. Offer content that’s specific to your industry and dish out answers to specific questions or concerns from potential clients.
Provide Quality Content for Your Customers
Investing time, money, and effort into crafting high-quality content for your Amazon pages or online store is important because it helps your business grow in several ways.
First, good content helps build awareness of your brand, company, or products. Awareness drives potential clients to seek you out and see what you have to offer.
Second, when you provide value (in the form of videos, manuals, tutorials, best-of lists, detailed articles, infographics, how-to guides, etc.), you build rapport with your potential customers and you give them a reason to keep coming back. This helps you build a loyal following.
Third, it helps establish the fact that your customers can trust you. And when they trust you, they’ll be more likely to spend their hard-earned money on your products.
Take the time to create useful, relevant, and engaging content. The more valuable information you share with your potential customers, the more you give the impression of being credible and reliable. Chances are, when someone wants expert help with a certain product, they’ll go to your store and/or check out your products on Amazon.
Connect with Customers Over a Shared Goal
When you connect with customers over something deeper than design, price, and brand name, you stand a good chance of building long-term relationships that translate to repeat orders and increased sales.
For example, Tom’s shoes remain one of the most successful shoe brands today simply because millions of people around the world believe in and are passionate about the social enterprise aspect of the brand. Every time a Tom’s customer buys a pair of shoes (and donates a pair of shoes to a child in need), he or she gets a sense of satisfaction over having done something good. This is a feeling that surpasses the satisfaction of having scored a good deal or of purchasing a super trendy item.
Other brands have gained millions of followers by embracing an eco-conscious worldview. Companies like Honest, Badger Balm, or Seventh Generation, for instance, don’t have to rely on insanely low prices or other gimmicks to sell their products. Lots of people feel strongly about these companies’ advocacies, which is what keeps them coming back for more of their products.
If you can embrace a deeper goal that other people share, you’ll have a better chance of building a loyal customer base.
Be Active Elsewhere
As old folks like to say, don’t put all your eggs in one nest. While you should definitely do your best to make your presence on Amazon as strong and as inviting as it can get, you should also work on generating revenue from other channels.
For instance, you should invest in building and maintaining your own business website or online store. You can even think about setting up a presence on other online marketplaces.
You can share your expertise by writing guest blog posts and guest columns. You can go on social media and join groups dedicated to your specific industry.
Be active offline as well. You may consider putting up a physical store or even just a pop-up. At the very least, you should consider being more active in your community and trying to engage potential customers in person rather than solely online. Participate in fairs, local celebrations, block parties, fundraising activities, and such.
At the rate at which Amazon is growing, you will inevitably have to reckon with it someday. But don’t be intimidated. Just because you run a small business doesn’t mean that you don’t stand a chance against the third-party sellers on Amazon or against Amazon itself. The trick really is just about carving out a niche for yourself and learning how to position yourself in the online marketplace.