Approaching e-commerce without giving consideration to Amazon is paramount to eating your lunch in the tiger cage at the local zoo. That’s not to say it can’t be done—because it can. You just need to be very clear about your strategic planning and what creates your competitive advantage—lest Amazon will eat you for lunch.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. The idea that you can go toe-to-toe with a retail giant like Amazon seems pretty far fetched, right? In many ways it is. Amazon brings massive scale to the e-commerce world. Not only do they offer an incredibly wide variety of products, but they also compete on price, shipping rates, and service.
Yet, even with these seemingly insurmountable advantages, with the right team behind you, competing against Amazon might actually be easier than you think.
Still a little skeptical? I thought so. That’s why we’re going to take a closer look at some of the specific things you can do to make your WooCommerce store more unique, step out from under the shadow of Amazon, and build a thriving business to boot.
Learn From the Best
Love your competition, or hate your competition, the choice is yours. But if there is one thing you must be doing, it’s learning from them. Amazon offers every WooCommerce store owner an opportunity to learn something about what works and what doesn’t from a macro perspective—design, conversions, product placement, comparative selling. It’s all there for you to observe and digest in real time.
What’s more important is your ability to look at the products in your niche that are selling and determine the best way to position your company:
- What are consumers buying?
- What are they complaining about?
- What features do they wish a product had?
- At what price point is a product selling?
There is a wealth of information available. Let’s face it, Amazon isn’t going anywhere, so you may as well use their presence to your advantage in any way possible.
Create a Smart Strategy
Strategic planning should be part of your process. Any time you’re going up against a monster like Amazon, you need to be very clear about every decision you make–about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Are the decisions you’re making in alignment with your vision and brand?
The more focused you are, the better. Make sure your e-commerce store does one thing really well before you add to your product line. Diluting your efforts is never a great strategy.
You should also make sure that you share your strategy with key people on your team. As a company that specialized in web development, the process is always easier when our clients are able to share a clear vision and strategy—if you know where you’re going, it’s easier for us to help you get there. Having a long-term strategy is also tremendously helpful in developing a web-based solution that will be capable of scaling with your business.
To build a successful WooCommerce store, you need to make sure that every action you take is in alignment with your brand and your vision.
Build a Strong and Truthful Brand
This is not to say that the products sold on Amazon are void of a brand. Quite the opposite, really. Most of the top products have taken the time and effort necessary to cultivate a strong brand. You should do the same.
The best way to define your brand is by asking one important question:
When a customer thinks about our company or purchases one of our products, what are the feelings and emotions that arise as a result of that interaction?
That’s your brand distilled down to its most basic form. The first thing you should do is make sure that these feelings and emotions are the ones you want to be associated with your brand. This is not something you can fake. If customers associate your WooCommerce store with “low cost” or “poor quality”, you can’t fake the opposite simply by changing your branding. The process works like this:
Your Actions + Your Customers Emotions and Feelings = Your Brand
If you want to change your branding, you must first change your actions. This can mean higher quality products, better customer service, stronger relationships, competitive pricing, and more. When your actions are creating the desired results, you can then develop branding to reinforce and build upon what’s already true.
Running a small WooCommerce store gives you a competitive advantage over a giant like Amazon. While they must appeal to everyone, you only need to appeal to your target audience and customers. You can make sure that every element of your website works in cohesion. Each word, each sentence, each paragraph, and each image reinforces who you are as a company. We talked potential design tweaks and how we helped StinkWeeds in a recent post right here on our blog.
The same thing applies to the design of your site—the layout, color choices, and overall feel all contribute to a single purpose and the building of your brand.
Another way to compete with Amazon is to leverage your ability to tell a story. When you’re an e-commerce giant that offers over 200 million products, it’s a little tough to focus on one thing. As a small (relatively speaking) e-commerce merchant, you can use your size to your advantage. Craft a compelling story that spurs customers to want to be associated with your brand and products. There is no better way to explain this than by providing some great examples.
Saddleback Leather is a company that obviously sells high-quality leather products. But they’re much more that that. Spend a few minutes clicking through their site and you’ll see a company that exudes quality, adventure, charity, and family values. It’s hard not to visit their website and want to play a small part in what they’re building. Add in the customer service and a 100 year warranty, and you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone why buying from Amazon might be a better idea.
Warby Parker is another example of a company that tells a great story and sells a great product. Eyeglasses are a commodity to most people, but Warby Parker has decided to do things differently, and they do it well. While you’re reading their story, take note of a few other things while on their website. Most notably, their minimalist design, great typography, and beautiful product photos—I know, it’s not specifically related to their story but, it’s all part of the branding package.
Building one-on-one relationships with customers might not be feasible for your company—it’s infinitely difficult to scale. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take the time to listen and communicate with some of the customers who purchase products from your store.
While Amazon offers great customer service, it’s tough for them to take that extra step. Individual customer reactions can be time-consuming, but for a smaller e-commerce store, it’s not too far fetched to think the owner can personally reach out to a few customers each week. Thank them for their business, ask how you can improve, and then act upon the information they provide.
Taking the time to interact one-on-one with some of your customers is a great way to spread the word about your store, even if it’s done on a small scale. People love to share stories and you have an opportunity to control the characters, settings, plot, and resolution.
As a small WooCommerce store, you might find yourself worrying about the giants like Amazon, but it’s not necessary. They’re big, but that doesn’t mean you can’t survive and thrive in their presence.
You may not have pockets that are as deep or a supply chain that’s as diverse, but you’re agile. Change within a small WooCommerce business happens with greater speed and with less friction. You also have the ability to target a specific group of customers and to tell a compelling story that inspires them to be part of your brand.
We’d love to hear how about how you make your WooCommerce store stand out from the big competitors like Amazon. Let us know in the comments below.