It is no secret that there is one major player in eCommerce today and that player would be Amazon.  Anyone running their own eCommerce company or even just dabbling in making their products available online should be worried about Amazon but, this concern need not drive small business owners to give up on eCommerce completely.  Competing with Amazon is easy, the greatest strength of Amazon is also its greatest weakness, its size. 

Easily Differentiating Yourself from Amazon 

To start out any small business trying to sell online needs to understand what their main advantage is over Amazon.  The main differentiating factor that your small business has compared to Amazon is your ability to forge a personal connection with your customers.  No matter how great a customer experience Amazon delivers it will always lack the personalized touch achievable with small businesses.  From always talking to the same handful of customer service representatives to never being put on hold, small businesses can outpace Amazon in the realm of personalized customer service with ease. 

Customer service is a primary area of focus that small businesses should place at the forefront of their differentiation strategy.  Amazon may have great customer service, but their service is primarily focused on their ability to bear losses with little effect through “no questions asked” refunds.  This approach is difficult to replicate for many small businesses and may not even be possible for certain products, so how do you compete?  The first step is to understand that customers do not only want a refund, they want assurance that the mistake is not going to happen again. 

Amazon may refund your money without question, but they do not always address the larger problem at hand.  For example, Amazon is plagued with low-quality products which are not strictly vetted and continue to be allowed on the platform even after multiple customer complaints.  Customers do not always want a refund, sometimes they just want a sincere apology, something an Amazon customer service representative cannot always provide.  Your primary goal as a small business should be customer communication.  Your customers should know that every praise, complaint and question will be heard and addressed in a timely manner. 

Fortunately, competing with Amazon is not the only way to survive the influence Amazon has had on the eCommerce industry.  With a little planning, strategy and an eye to long-term profits instead of short-term earnings a savvy small business owner can use Amazon as a tool to garner market exposure, add brand legitimacy to themselves and even advertise new products.  The next part of this blog will provide you with some insights as to how to use Amazon as a cost-efficient tool to aggregate sales and drive traffic to your site. 


Using Amazon to Your Advantage 

Make no mistake, in order to survive Amazon, you do not have to beat Amazon.  It is likely you can use Amazon to your advantage in order to gain market share and advertise new product releases.  Many people running eCommerce businesses think that you either sell on Amazon or you sell on a specialized site.  Most people don’t realize that you can use Amazon to your advantage by putting your products in front of more customers and using Amazon’s SEO capabilities to get gain internet exposure.  By posting your products on Amazon you can gain greater brand awareness and add legitimacy to your business.  Associating yourself with Amazon can be a great way to grow your company’s exposure but more importantly listing products on amazon can draw more customers to your site and increase the likelihood of your products showing up in search results. 

Drawing customers to your site isn’t enough though, you need to make sure they keep coming back.  One great way to provide your customers with a reason to keep coming back to your site and not Amazon’s page is to provide them with better prices and more personalized options on your site that are not listed on Amazon.  This can include larger bulk purchase options at better rates or simply better rates.  Further, Amazon’s free shipping is great… that is, if you do not need your product anytime soon.  In many areas Amazon’s free shipping for prime members is unreliable, offering expedited shipping prices such as next-day air and two-day air options can set your apart from Amazon for customers in areas that Amazon continually delays shipments to.  


What do I list on Amazon? 

For those who do not want to list a lot of options on Amazon a great starting point is providing a “sampling platter” of different products by creating a pre-made assortment of products in smaller quantities than regularly purchased at.  This is a great way to provide customers with an immediate introduction to your products at a minimal investment.  Likewise, another great option is to list other pre-made packages of multiple popular products.  Again, a great way to expose customers to multiple products at once but more importantly, this also provides you with a great way to advertise multiple products at a time which can then only be purchased individually directly from your company’s site.  

Similarly, taking advantage of holidays and impulse purchasing can further create market exposure for your company.  We have all needed an emergency gift and these pre-made assortments of products are great holiday gifts but more importantly can expose an entire holiday party to your products.  The main purpose of listing your products on Amazon is not to gain profits, instead you are trying to gain customers.  Amazon should not be viewed as a means to procure earnings but rather a cost-effective means to market your products and brand.