Blog Post By: Scott Burton

So You've Decided To Compete With Amazon


You're selling online. Amazon is selling knockoffs and front-running you with competing products. It's time to up your game. Here's what you'll need to know.

You'll need something that beats Prime

We've heard this phrase a few times in the past few years. "We need a Prime killer".

This probably sounds absurd to you. How do you "kill" one of the most successful products in ecommerce history? Obviously you don't. Some words to live by: "You don't beat Amazon, you out-value Amazon."

First, understand the psychology of Amazon Prime. You can impulse shop on Amazon and skip the fine print if you have Prime. The value is not in Free Shipping or Free Returns; it's in "I don't have to care about this right now".

You can offer value like this too. Consider Free Shipping or Hassle-Free Returns, sure, but also think about ways to reassure the customer, such as knowledgable on-site customer service chat. You're trying to make the decision-making process automatic.

Second, understand where and when Prime makes its move. Amazon really sells it hard in the Shopping Cart, as you're staring at shipping options. This (and payment) is when customer anxiety is at its highest - and Amazon assuages that anxiety by offering you a trial. It gives you a no-risk opportunity to stop stressing about your cart; who wouldn't take that?

You don't beat Prime; you make the buying process less stressful.

You'll need to be helpful

Amazon is the go-to for product search. How do you compete with that?

This one's easy, because it's the rationale today for all websites: be helpful.

Start by leaning in where Amazon is weakest - customer education. Product pages are a disaster on Amazon, because they're typically operated by merchants, not marketers. A typical Amazon product page is full of tools to help customers buy competing products, but it isn't very helpful when you want to understand the product you're looking at; product details are sparse, copy is small, and it's buried in the least-engaging part of the page.

Customers usually don't learn what a product is on Amazon, which is what fuels its competitive price-and-Prime-based positioning grind. By the time they're buying on Amazon, customers already know what a product is supposed to be, and are deciding between multiple similar competing offerings.

You need to get in earlier. Use your website to educate visitors about the problems your product solves, and how your products are positioned to solve them. Your website can have better, more engaging product images. It can do a better job of explaining how your products & accessories work together through blog posts and videos. Companies like GoRuck, Pelican and Sports Research use their websites this way.

By the time they enter the Decision Phase, customers will understand the market better, and they'll view you as a trustworthy resource. 

You'll need to be unique

Apologies for stating the obvious. Less competition makes running any business easier.

But I can't stress enough how much price and social proof competition there is on Amazon. We'll get into the social proof of review scores in future posts, but just realize that when a customer is in the Decision Phase, they are weighing multiple competing options that they consider equivalent. Minor distinctions get lost behind price and social proof.

The best way to outcompete on Amazon, or outsell Amazon itself, is to market a product that has little or no competition.

Or, you know, don't

An Amazon-only strategy works for some retailers, but it's getting harder and harder to pursue a no-Amazon strategy. If your brand is established already, you should view Amazon as a valuable sales channel. But the rest of the strategy is the same: use your owned digital properties to offer unique, helpful value.

Amazon can be a valuable partner, too. Programs like Amazon Brand Registry exist because larger brands caught the ecommerce giant front-running their products with knockoffs and lookalikes. Take advantage of the services Amazon itself provides to protect your brand and stand out.

Summary

In short, be unique, be helpful, and offer value. It's possible for companies to thrive in the age of Amazon if they position their products well and make Amazon a part of their overall strategy.

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