It goes without saying, Amazon has changed the way customers make purchases online. From fast shipping to free returns, Amazon has influenced expectations of online shoppers across the globe.
Many brands with retail websites feel like they have to compete with Amazon by:
- Offering free shipping
- Offering free returns
- Selling their products through Amazon
While these are definitely great ideas to keep your shoppers happy and your product in the faces (or screens) of potential shoppers, we’d like to offer some alternatives by looking at what some other brands have done to successfully grow their online stores.
To start, let’s eliminate the thought that if you’re not Amazon then you’re competing with Amazon. While Amazon does appeal to a wide audience, you have something great and wonderful to offer consumers.
Invest in Technology
If you’re not already, it’s time to invest in technology, a variety of technologies that is. We have no doubt you have thousands of visitors coming to your retail website each month, it’s time to start using that readily available data to improve your shoppers’ experience and increase sales.
Predictive analytics is a great technology to incorporate into your site. For some shoppers, offering free shipping may be the perfect way to get them to hit that “Submit Order” button. However, you may have other shoppers who have exhibited behaviors that indicate they would still purchase even if they did have to pay shipping.
Let’s say you offer clothing for men and women on your retail website, do you know which of your customers are buying just women’s clothing, just men’s clothing or both? With this information you could create a more personalized shopping experience based on which audience they fall into. What products you should suggest or what promotional offers would be most effective to get them to purchase.
Where else can you implement new technologies? Your warehouse. Metapack’s 2018 State of Ecommerce Delivery found 70% of those surveyed prioritized purchasing goods from one ecommerce site over another because it provided more delivery options. So what’s going to make your options standout from the competition?
We won’t go into all the details here (we’ve got so much more to discuss below!), but stop to think about what the impact would be on your delivery service and available options if you implemented real-time inventory tracking? And then, continuing down through the delivery process, having your warehouse technology paired with a last-mile delivery solution. Just a couple of things to think about if you’re focusing on improving the delivery options and experience for your buyers.
Focus on SEO
“SEO” has become quite the buzzword (or term) over the last decade, and rightfully so. If done correctly, SEO (Search Engine Optimization for those of you who haven’t heard the buzz yet) can be a powerful and cost effective strategy to bring shoppers to your website.
Your store is online and your potential shoppers are searching online for exactly what you offer. So how are they going to find you? Yes, digital advertising and marketing is one way, and a great way. But it’s not the only way. Let’s be honest, you probably can’t afford to pay Google, Facebook or Instagram to show ads for every item you offer on your website whenever someone from your target audience is searching for it. But you still want people searching for all of those items to find you.
This is where SEO tools can be your hero. With careful planning and a strong SEO strategy, you can build out product descriptions, keyword searches and category descriptions that will help place your product on Google’s page one of search results. We know, you’re probably like us and have been taught being number one isn’t everything. But when it comes to Google search results, being number one is critical.
According to Search Engine Journal, 25% of people will click on the first organic (not ad) search result. They go on to report the 10th search result (the last on page one search results) gets just a 2.5% click through rate. We don’t even want to think about what happens to all those poor results showing up anywhere other than page one.
I’m sure you’re thinking “SEO sounds great! I’m going to start implementing my own SEO strategy today so I can start getting more customers to my site tomorrow!” And we’re going to kindly caution you to sloooooow down. SEO IS great and it IS powerful. However, it takes some time and definitely takes some expertise. It may require investing in a person (or two or three) or hiring an outside partner to help execute an effective strategy that gets results.
Show Your Customer You Know Them
Yes, Amazon can make suggestions of what a shopper should look at based on their previous search history or simply based on what is their “Deal of the Day”. But that’s not a tailored experience, that doesn’t make a shopper feel like Amazon knows them. Let’s be honest, shoppers may wish brands wouldn’t do this when the suggestions start becoming too frequent and/or completely off base from their interests.
So how can you create a better experience for your shoppers? Well, first we’re going to have to circle back to one of our previous points, data. You can’t show your customers you know them if, well, you don’t.
What has a shopper purchased in the past? What complimentary items do you offer? If you’re a CPG retailer, when was the last time a product was purchased? Is it possibly time to refill/replace their last purchase? Maybe offer a discount for that product when they visit your site, whether they’re on that product page or not. You know they purchased that item, and you know what the average timeframe is to purchase again (because you have the data, right?), so serve them up the right message with the right offer at the right time.
Now, maybe you’re an apparel retailer. Let’s not assume your clothing only lasts a certain period of time or that your buyers maybe don’t fit in their clothes quite the same way they used to. Instead, let’s look at creating an audience based on their purchases. You can find similarities (again, using technology) within these audiences. Shared interests, hobbies, other retail websites they visit, and build an experience for them.
An example of an online retailer who has done this well is Lululemon. They’ve created a community (quite literally, they call it #thesweatlife online community) where anyone can access workouts as well as meditation sessions. Really, if you’re buying workout clothing you just might be interested in workout classes, right?
Lululemon took the time to research and recognize what interests their customers have and evaluated the needs Lululemon could fill. This was especially powerful during the pandemic when people were turning to the internet for workouts in a way they never had before. They even started a Facebook group people could join to connect with others.
Now that you can clear your mind of thoughts of competing with Amazon, it’s time to focus on what you can do to get more retail shoppers to your site and create the best buying experience possible to keep them coming back.