Prerequisite: You need to accept that Amazon is the power player in the e-Tail (eRetail, eCommerce) space. Do use stick your chest out and try to go mano-e-mano with Amazon (you WILL lose), leverage your small business and niche, “show off your smallness” to build an advantage over the Amazon machine.
The good news is more segments of consumers, particularly the millennials, are looking to support a cause, including promoting small and local businesses. Leverage this trend and hop on board, broadcast your story and startup culture as much as possible. For example, explain the history and mission of your business on your “About Us” page, tell your unique story on the social media channels and emphasize what makes you unique and different at every opportunity. Even more, your small business vibe should become a core brand component, so be sure to include any relevant icons (Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce and others) on your website.
Also, one of the most impactful perks of being small is the ability to personalize the customer experience. This can be done through simple tactics like sending personalized “thank you” emails, or even including handwritten notes in order packaging to add that special touch. The key here is to make customers feel good about buying from your site, something that Amazon simply can’t do.
With the amount of products and customers that Amazon has, they’re not nearly as flexible as your small business. Leverage this advantage by launching flash sales on your website. For example, if you wanted to make a big splash on Black Friday, you could run a one-hour sale with a deep discount on your most popular items. Or, you could try running a special where the first 20 shoppers to purchase receive a large discount, the next 20 get a smaller discount, and so on. This type of deal keeps customers excited about your business, making them pay more attention to your email and social media communications.
Below is a video from spring 2015 of a grassroots Flash Mob Friday effort in the Downriver Detroit community.
Areas that Amazon has completely dominated are shipping and customer service. It is, in fact, one of the company’s greatest successes. Members of Amazon’s Prime service can get two-day shipping for free, and next-day shipping for just a few dollars on each order. And same-day shipping? Yep, they offer that, too. Free returns? Yep, that too! Customer service, some will argue otherwise however the general public sentiment is that Amazon provides EXCELLENT customer service. This is not an accident, Amazon abides by a 5 step policy to ensure customer service, loyalty and retention (click here for article);
Okay, so I laid out the Amazon roadmap and gave away all their trade secrets (wink, wink) BUT how does that help you, the small business owner? For starters, you have to understand your competition, you must be in-the-know what you are up against. Some examples of “crazy shipping ideas”:
Some examples of “crazy customer service” ideas:
Remarketing is an absolute MUST DO for every small business owner with a website. Your website will require a minimum of 300-500 visitors per month to take advantage of remarketing, if you meet that criteria – DO IT NOW! Once again, remarketing is the advertising practice of displaying ads to previous visitors on your website. Some proven facts (click here for more info) about remarketing;
Not convinced yet? Confused as to the value of remarketing? I highly recommend that if you are a small business owner or retailer, that you do a little research into remarketing, learn the process and empower yourself with the knowledge to make a decision if remarketing makes sense for you. I suspect 9-out-of-10 small business owners with no knowledge of remarketing that do 15 minutes worth of research on remarketing will immediately take action to add remarketing to their advertising budget!
Taking inspiration from Hillary Clinton’s book about how “it takes a village” of individuals and groups outside of the immediate family to have an impact on the well-being of a child. The same philosophy can be applied to small businesses! Communities (online and in real-life) need to have a mechanism of mutual support for each member in the community. Members need to advocate and promote the cause of other members in the community, raising awareness to the benefit of the community as a whole as well as the benefits of each individual member.
Branded communities, specifically in the social media space, have a profound impact and influence on consumers within that community. I cite an example of one Facebook group in our community, Downriver and Friends. The group was started about 2 years ago with a mission of creating a platform to promote local business, local causes and a mechanism for mutual support. Fast-forward two years, the group has grown to almost 20,000 members and is probably the single most important branded community in our area for business referrals and mutual support (support both for personal and professional reasons). There is a strong goodwill component of non-profits, charities and volunteers of people that come to the aid of community members when aid is needed. The people and businesses that are most active in contributing, volunteering and supporting others are those that have acquired the biggest brand name recognition (think about it).