Do You Feel Like You’re Constantly Competing with Amazon?

Do You Feel Like You’re Constantly Competing with Amazon?

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:

  1. Offering free shipping
  2. Offering free returns
  3. 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. 

Competing with Amazon

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.

Elephant in the room

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.

Efforts to Match Amazon Can Be a Form of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ for Retailers and Brands

ecommerce stockholm syndrome img

Rapidly evolving Commerce as a Service (CaaS) model can give mid-tier operators in the fashion, CPG, beauty, health, and wellness industries a better way to keep pace with big retail and drive predictable profitability, advises tech veteran Jan-Christopher Nugent.

Too many retailers and brands suffer from “Amazon Stockholm Syndrome” — the unquestioning effort to compete with the world’s most dominant ecommerce company on its own asymmetrical terms, writes Jan-Christopher Nugent, CEO of Nogin, in an opinion piece for multichannelmerchant.com.

“If the Stockholm Syndrome theory were correct, you’d expect to see long-enduring captives parroting the propaganda of their captors and engaging in behavior that was not in their long-term interest,” Nugent writes. “This is exactly what we see.”

Indeed, companies routinely give up sizable chunks of their margins by trying in vain to play Amazon’s game, he contends. “While a healthy brand’s average discount should be no higher than 26%, we routinely see brands with average discounts of 50% once you factor in shipping and return costs,” Nugent writes.

In the Oct. 11 piece (“How to Snap Out of Amazon ‘Stockholm Syndrome‘”), the ecommerce sector veteran describes Amazon’s success in training consumers to expect free (or seemingly so) shipping and nearly instantaneous delivery. Amazon has also been able to drop prices and force competitors to cut their margins.

While going head-to-head with Amazon may be viable for a tiny number of true giants, for others the rapidly evolving commerce-as-a-service (CaaS) model creates new possibilities, Nugent writes. “In the CaaS model, specialty firms create, maintain and operate ecommerce stores on behalf of retailers and brands. These platforms can deliver superior ecommerce and increase sales, profits and conversion rates using advanced algorithms, data-driven intelligent promotions and discounts, and cloud-based R&D upgrades.”

But before retailers or brands can take full advantage of these gains, they may need to face some captor-induced fears. That could include reconsidering whether there’s truly only one way to please the customer, Nugent notes, and being open to using tech and analytics to win back the respect they have given away by selling at a loss.

For example, CaaS methodologies can reveal which customers are loyal enough to buy even without receiving free shipping, notes the executive, whose firm has delivered CaaS for such major brands as Kenneth Cole, Honeywell, Hurley, Bebe, Lululemon, True Religion, Yeezy and Charming Charlie.

Generally, the mid-tier “is where CaaS has capabilities and services that bolster competitiveness, including higher-order AI and predictive analytics,” Nugent explains. By running intelligent algorithms and multivariate tests, CaaS providers can ferret out which customers will balk at the removal of shipping, delivery and price giveaways, and which ones will keep shopping and stay loyal.

“When CaaS technology is carefully applied across an entire ecommerce store, intelligent segmentation can result in a drop in the average discount from 50% to 25%, or even as low as 4.5%-6% in some cases,” he writes. “Most importantly, it can also help bring you to a cash-neutral position when it comes to returns … That’s what it takes to keep pace with big retail, drive predictable profitability—and snap out of the Amazon trance.”

The full column is available at:
https://multichannelmerchant.com/ecommerce/how-to-snap-out-of-amazon-stockholm-syndrome/