How Can Retailers Successfully Compete with Amazon?

Amazon has been relentless in its strong growth and increasing stranglehold on the e-commerce world. In fact, it has recently been announced that they have nearly half (49%) of the U.S. e-commerce market. With such dominance in e-commerce, this leaves those who sell online potentially facing a tough future. Of course, as explained by Mark Fitzsimmons, managing director, Xigen, retailers can sell on Amazon and have access to their huge audience. It’s quick and fairly straightforward to integrate an existing e-commerce catalogue with Amazon and sell worldwide.

E-commerce businesses wanting to have a lean operation can outsource to an external warehouse and fulfilment house, such as the Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) service. Doing so enables them to place their inventory in the Amazon fulfilment centre and Amazon handles the shipping, returns, and customer service. Amazon also offers this facility for products sold directly via the retailer’s own website, to make the whole process as easy as possible for retailers. It’s a package that helps ensure they dominate all aspects of the e-commerce process, as well as offer the widest range of products to their customers.

Competing with Amazon

Outside of selling on Amazon, retailers in effect need to copy what Amazon does, because the behemoth is setting the standard in how consumers expect e-commerce businesses to operate. So, when it comes to shipping, this means offering a fast and ideally free delivery to customers, as Amazon does via its Prime offering. To do this, retailers need to source the appropriate courier service that can match the market leader.

It’s important to make effective use of post-order communication, particularly the micro-moments related to the delivery period. Once an item has been ordered, customers are very keen to be informed on the progress of its delivery. Therefore, look to use updates on the delivery in emails and SMS to upsell and raise your brand profile. Make sure that the technology you have and that of your courier are API optimised, so they can integrate seamlessly to deliver such communications. Furthermore, transactional emails sent by the retailer to confirm purchase can also be used in the same way.

It’s crucial to always focus on improving the checkout process – the user journey and speed – with mobile in mind. Make sure you have the ability to accept the likes of Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal’s Express Checkout to speed up the checkout. Equally important is to have a quick and easy checkout journey, if selling via an app. After all, Amazon and eBay are the masters at making the checkout process very fast and simple via their apps.

A vital way to improve the checkout process is to constantly test your site and make learnings about how customers interact and engage with it, and use this feedback to tweak the design and improve its performance. With continually evolving technology, it’s easy to use session recording tools, such as Hotjar, which clearly shows how consumers are interacting with your site.

Also, regularly split test the entire customer journey online to find what colour, size, or type, and other content, works best in helping to drive customer conversions and improve the checkout process. Amazon never stops with its conversion rate optimisation (CRO) activity. Retailers should look to use tools like Google Optimise to help them with their split-testing efforts. Alternatively, you can outsource the job of testing to an e-commerce agency.

Think about using a repricing service to remain competitive online – important when consumers search for the lowest prices and buy online, because it’s generally cheaper than on the high street. Repricing tools scrape Amazon, eBay, and other large retail sites to find out the cost of the same or similar products you sell. The software can also find the minimum and maximum price points. Once you have this intelligence, you can price accordingly to generate the best margin – critical when margins in e-commerce are often small.

Personalise, personalise, personalise!

Always present relevant web content and products to customers to increase customer engagement and sales. Amazon is great at using the insight they have on their customers to personalise pages and recommend products. It’s possible for retailers to track customers and build up a strong level of intelligence about them using tools available in the marketplace; and therefore make sure that the categories on their pages are suited to that individual.

To improve the search process and the customer experience on your website consider adding intelligent, predictive type in the search bar. This helps consumers to quickly find the product they are looking for, increasing the chance of a sale. It also has the added benefit of helping to relieve pressure on the website’s server during busy periods. Furthermore, it’s particularly important that this intelligent search should offer fuzzy logic, to handle spelling errors and return ‘did you mean’ results. If you offer a large number of products, these intelligent search features are crucial to a successful e-commerce store.

Positive customer reviews are critical to your success, so let your customers do the talking. Feefo and Trustpilot are recognised by Google as approved review services, so testimonials on these platforms will aid your organic search, along with reviews on Google Shopping. Also, always look to integrate customer testimonials onto your site. Google boosts the rankings of those with testimonials on their website.

It’s possible for retailers to successfully compete with, yet also work with, Amazon to drive revenue. However, to compete successfully, they have to be constantly on their toes and learn from Amazon’s fast-evolving approach to e-commerce. This means, as a matter of course, all retailers need to regularly test their websites, and use the learnings to make ongoing improvements to ensure standout usability and speed to checkout. They also need to source and use new tools that help them to deliver the insight and personalisation required in today’s e-commerce world. Those who do all this will be well positioned to succeed in the ‘Amazon age’.