Originally published on June 3, 2020, updated July 7, 2020
Amazon is the world’s largest internet company and one of the most valuable companies in the world, with its employee count closing in on a million. As an eCommerce behemoth, it is pretty much unassailable in the sense of trying to become bigger or more successful.
However, this does not mean that you can’t make your eCommerce business compete against Amazon in your niche. Because of Amazon’s immense network, you will probably not be able to compete in terms of variety, price, and volume, but you will always be able to come out on top with smart branding.
Finding strategies for how to compete with Amazon has never been more important for eCommerce companies than it is now, during the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused an unprecedented spike in online shoppers. Many of these shoppers were averse to online shopping before. When Amazon suspended FBA shipments for non-essential items, many businesses took a hit. Having alternative sales channels (as well as supplier & fulfillment channels) makes a business more robust to changing fortunes.
So, how do you take advantage of smart branding to compete with Amazon?
On Amazon, you can buy everything, from a prefabricated home to 1,500 ladybugs to a home mushroom farm. No, really. The variety of products offered on Amazon is spectacular and pretty much unbeatable.
However, this is where your biggest opportunity lies. You can go the other way, and aim for specialization. You need to set up your eCommerce business to cover a specific niche – the more specific, the better. This shouldn’t be hard to do, right?
You have to strike a balance between keeping your niche narrow and focused enough and still having a target market segment that is big enough for you to actually make a profit.
For example, let’s say you want to sell hand-knitted baby hats. However, you do a bit of research and discover that the market for your product is simply not enough for you to make enough profit. Do you start doing little sweaters? Do you start doing knitted baby shoes as well? Maybe there is a massive knitted baby shoes eCommerce business out there with a die-hard following and you simply cannot compete against them?
As you can see, this can be quite difficult to gauge.
One of the best ways to approach this is to use a keyword explorer tool of some kind (Google’s keyword planner, Ahrefs, and such) and find out how many people are looking for certain products online. Of course, that is just a start.
A focused niche approach enables you to meticulously build a brand that will be all about this specific type of product, making it easier to do effective marketing and build a strong following.
A great example of this is VitaMonk, an eCommerce company that specializes in supplements. They know their market, they know how to cater to it and, more likely than not, they are doing very well.
While Amazon’s product pages are not really that bad, they are definitely not state-of-the-art. And there is a very simple reason why this is the case – the sheer number of them. It would be insanely resource- and time-consuming to have elaborate product pages for each of the bazillion products available on Amazon.
For you, this is not a problem.
You can afford to really go all out on your product pages. It will make sense for you to write elaborate copy for your products, providing extensive information that will educate as well as entice the visitors. You can add additional resources to your product pages, such as FAQs, price calculators, helpful guides for potential buyers, and more.
You can feature numerous product images that will give your potential shoppers even more information on your products. You can also provide testimonials from your previous buyers and perhaps add a recommender engine that can guide them to more products.
Check out this great product page from Zoma as an example. It has everything mentioned above and then some.
Comprehensive product pages are even more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic as many of your potential shoppers need as much information as they can get on the products they used to purchase in brick and mortar stores. This is actually your main advantage over Amazon during these times.
One added benefit of having elaborate product pages is that you can better utilize them for off-page marketing efforts such as SEO and paid ads. You can optimize your copy for search engine performance, easily outranking Amazon and other larger eCommerce companies.
Furthermore, you can play with your product pages, trying to find new ways to boost the number of visits and conversion rates.
When we are talking small, agile companies, there is one part of the branding efforts that is far easier to do than when you are a giant corporation, and that is customer care. Or, to take it a step further, building a community.
Amazon doesn’t have to build a community, and it couldn’t even if it wished.
You, on the other hand, can and should.
The mere fact that you are focused on a single niche already gives you an entire set of tools that you can employ to build a community that will be loyal and do repeat business with you. In case you didn’t know already, repeat business is crucial for any eCommerce enterprise.
A great way to start building a community is to start producing content your target audience will enjoy – from blog posts to elaborate product guides, from social posts to podcasts, from custom-made tools to videos. There is really no shortage of possibilities here. Not only will this do wonders for your community-building efforts, but it can also make for great marketing channels.
Another way in which you can build a community of loyal customers is through loyalty and reward programs. In essence, you reward your most loyal customers with special discounts, free shipping options, or anything else that you think they would like. You can check out this example from Gourmesso’s website for inspiration.
It goes without saying that you will also go out of your way to provide the finest possible customer service that will be as personalized as it is humanly possible. Your email campaigns should always show your customers that you value them for more than just their wallets and that they are really a part of a community.
When competing with Amazon, you have to pick your battles. Focus on a specific niche, make your product pages spectacular, and build a community of shoppers.
This will give you a fighting chance against Amazon, both in the COVID-19 era and once everything goes back to normal.
Originally published on June 3, 2020, updated July 7, 2020
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.