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By Barb Weidner Updated on October 6, 2021

How to Compete with Amazon: 5 Clever Ways

How to compete with Amazon is a burning question for small and upcoming online retailers. Standing against the e-commerce giant is a bigger struggle than making a sale or fulfilling an order. In 2018 alone, the retailer generated a whopping $77 billion in net sales, according to Forbes. So you’ll have to fight to compete with Amazon’s low prices, speed and convenience.

Check out these 5 clever ways to set yourself apart from Amazon and become an established name in the e-commerce landscape.

1. Focus on a Niche Market

When you’re competing with an established retailer such as Amazon, you should showcase your authority in your target market. The best way to do this is by first focusing on a niche and then setting up your brand as the go-to supplier in that niche. For instance, you can create niche-specific content that adds value to your target audience. This could be anything from buying guides and how-to videos to educational infographics.

  • Beauty brand Mount Lai specializes in Chinese skin care tools such as face rollers and gua sha. They regularly provide their Instagram followers with skin care tips such as when to use a face roller vs. a gua sha and what properties different stones have. This kind of content further establishes their authority in the Chinese skincare niche.

    An Instagram post from beauty brand Mount Lai. It competes with Amazon by presenting itself as an expert in its niche market.

2. Optimize for Speed and Convenience

Although you might be unable to offer the same services and capabilities as Amazon, there are still a few ways you can optimize your store for added convenience.

Allow One-Click Sign-In

Speed up the sign-in process by providing your customers with a one-click sign-in option. This would allow them to sign in with just a click using their social media accounts such as Facebook instead of entering their email and password.

FreshDirect’s website allows users to sign in with other, existing online profiles, helping them compete with Amazon’s convenience.

Enable Guest Checkout

You could also minimize the sign-up hassle by enabling a guest checkout option. This is guaranteed to get you more conversions as 34% of shoppers have abandoned their cart because there was no guest checkout option, according to research from OptinMonster.

Enable Easy Reordering

If you sell products that would get a lot of recurring purchases, enabling easy or automatic reordering options can add to shopping convenience and help you compete with Amazon. For example, you can promote a subscription service to customers buying condiments. You could also add a reorder button for their past purchases.

Set Up Expedited Checkout

You can speed up the checkout process by setting up instant checkout options. This will allow existing customers to set up a default address and payment method. They can instantly complete their purchases from the product page instead of going through the process of adding to the cart, selecting a shipping address and paying for the order.

Barnes & Noble’s website has an instant checkout option. This feature can help retailers compete with Amazon.

3. Minimize Buyer Anxiety with Handy Guides and Recommendations

If shoppers have to browse through hundreds of items to find a single product, it’s not only time-consuming but also overwhelming. When customers are overwhelmed, they get anxious about making the right choice because there’s too much distraction. Then they get frustrated and in the end, they leave without buying anything.

As such, it should be one of your top goals to reduce buyer anxiety and make it easier for people to find the right product. This involves adding easy-to-use site search features that allow shoppers to customize their filters and quickly narrow down the most relevant products.

For example, Bed Bath & Beyond neatly sorts their products into relevant categories. They even have dedicated sections for products that would be helpful for college students and people who are moving.

The Bed Bath & Beyond website separated its products into easy-to-navigate categories.

In addition, you can minimize distractions by highlighting your most recommended products. Make appropriate product recommendations based on factors including relevance, customer rating and browsing history.

Another excellent way to minimize buyer anxiety is by providing tools and guides to aid their purchase decisions. Include charts that will help customers see how a particular product compares to similar items. You could even include tools to help them select the right type or size of product.

For instance, Nordstrom provides shoppers with a tool to find the clothing or shoe size that would best fit them. This tool asks for details such as which brands best fit the customer and what size they wear in that brand.

The Nordstrom website asks for a customer’s shoe size to determine the person’s best fit.

It will then give a size recommendation based on the collected information. A shopper can add more information to improve the accuracy of this recommendation.

Based on information the customer shared, the Nordstrom website recommends what shoe size the customer should buy.

4. Enhance Customer Experience

Even if people love your products, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be loyal to your business. In fact, 17% of U.S consumers will walk away from a company after a single bad experience, according to professional services company PwC. A whopping 59% will walk away if they’ve had several bad experiences, even if they love the company and/or its products.

So if you’re going to compete with Amazon, you have to provide your customers with an experience that’s worth a return visit. This means enhancing their overall experience right from website navigation and product discovery to checkout and customer service.

There are a few additional ways to enhance the customer experience. Consider inspirational quotes to enhance the customer experience and follow these techniques.

Be Accessible

First, make sure help is easy to access for your customers. Provide multiple support options so you can cater to the unique communication needs of each customer. For example, having live online chat support will be a huge relief to someone anxious about phone calls.

A Zendesk study even found that 28% of customers have a good experience when you give them multiple options to contact your support team. Meanwhile, 27% of those surveyed report having a bad experience when they can’t use their preferred contact method.

Add a Human Touch

Amazon may win in terms of speed and efficiency, but what it lacks is a human touch. The retailer is so big that it can’t pay special attention to every customer. That’s exactly where you can gain leverage as a small or upcoming retailer.

So make sure you add a human touch to your customer experience strategy to compete with Amazon. Start by tailoring responses to your customers instead of using an automated script. You could also assign a personal stylist or a personal shopping assistant for each customer, for example. However, this might not be viable for every business.

Another simple tactic to add a human touch is by sending a handwritten “thank you” note to welcome new shoppers. Pet food and supplies company Chewy kills it with their personalized, handwritten notes to customers. The “Experience This! Show” podcast featured a Chewy customer who shared how Chewy sent him a handwritten note and flowers after people at the company learned the customer’s cat had recently died.

A Chewy customer posts to Twitter to share a photo of the handwritten note she received with her online order.

Have Flexible Payment Options

Give your customers the option to pay for their purchases with their desired payment method. Not everyone has a credit card, and even if they do, they may not want to use it for this particular purchase. Retailers can compete with Amazon and convert new shoppers by accepting alternate payment methods, such as PayPal.

5. Revamp Your Shipping and Return Policies

Did you know that unexpected or high shipping costs are the top reason people abandon their shopping carts? So it’s time to reassess your shipping policy if you’re going to compete with retailers like Amazon.

Even if you can’t offer free shipping on every order, try setting a minimum purchase threshold so your high-value customers can take advantage of the offer. For instance, you could offer free shipping on orders above $150.

Additionally, see how you can improve your return policy to benefit both parties. Is the return process overly complicated for your customers? Is the return window too small and unrealistic considering the average shipping duration? Retailers who are competing with Amazon could even survey your customers and collect ideas to improve your shipping and return policies.

Follow a Customer-First Approach to Compete with Amazon

Prioritizing your customers is key if you’re aiming to compete with or beat Amazon because that’s where the company is the weakest. Focus on enhancing your customers’ experiences at every single touchpoint. Then solicit and incorporate their feedback to find new ways to satisfy their needs.

Barb Weidner is the co-founder and CEO of Fast Capital 360, a leading online business loan marketplace. Prior to entering the Fintech space, Barb was the Chief Credit Officer for a mid-sized mortgage bank based in NY. Barb is passionate about simplifying the lives of small business owners and empowering them with the resources they need to thrive.
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