Every year around this time (although ESPECIALLY this year, bc well, 2020…) there’s a flood of messages online about shopping small instead of giving your money to the big guys.
And rightfully so! Your business and livelihood is important to you, and small businesses are hugely important for local communities and their economy.
The issue though, is the conversation often spirals down to all the negatives of a company like Amazon — which means we miss some very key takeaways from their success. And I don’t know about you… but I’m all for shortcutting some trial + error and using proven strategies.
So today, let’s chat 5 strategies to steal from the big online player.
But first …
YES. Yes, they offer free shipping.
And no, for most small businesses like yours, this doesn’t make sense financially. BUT I DON’T WANT YOU GETTING STUCK HERE. If it’s not an option for you, set that idea aside for now.
That being said – if you DO have the margin to offer free shipping, this can create a strong (and v real) sense of urgency to purchase.
You can treat it as your “promo offer” — instead of discounting your product, make a big splash with a free shipping weekend! Most people, myself included, are THRILLED to not pay for shipping, and won’t bat an eye at paying regular, full price for the product.
OKAY? Elephant cleared for now, so let’s jump in.
5 MARKETING STRATEGIES TO STEAL FROM AMAZON:
ONE | Reviews Rule
You can’t shop on Amazon without noticing an item’s reviews… they help rank products within categories, the stars have a central spot under each product, and they help get products bumped up in search.
Understandably, Amazon may have a leg up on some tech features, but their huge emphasis on this feature still gives us key insights – no matter what technology or platform you’re working with.
To put it simply — customers want to know, “WHO ELSE SAID SO?”
When making decisions online, possibly from new brands or shops, we want to feel safe in our choices… so having access to reviews can greatly influence our decision to buy (or walk away).
In fact, surveys have found up to 85% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision.
Where to place reviews:
- within individual product listings
- on your shop’s homepage
- on a separate ‘reviews’ / ‘what other’s are saying’ page
- sprinkled throughout Instagram captions
- standalone Instagram highlight
TWO | Quick Turnaround
Yes, agreed, Amazon has ruined our patience… if a package doesn’t arrive from them in two days, I’m, how do you say… “not.pleaseddd.”
Which puts some small businesses again in a difficult position (hello, you boss one woman shops!!)
So, let’s back up and look at how you can make the most of this need for instant gratification.
- Under Promise, Over Deliver. Be realistic with your production + shipping timelines. When in doubt, err on the longer side and delight the cozy slippers off of ’em when their package shows up 3 days early.
- Offer a limited quick ship collection. If you do mostly custom work or made to order, consider creating a quick ship collection or stock a limited run that can quickly get out the door. Your customer will love the chance to get that instant hit from you, and you’ll love the quick pack + ship process since productions already complete!
(Pro tip – if it’s not your regular business model to have stock on hand; choose a short contained window for a “quick ship” sale. Treat it as a one-off so you can focus your attention in stages – creation > marketing > shipping; before closing the option down and going back to your regular sales flow.)
THREE | Easy Shipping Experience
Limited clicks, quick checkout process, one-click buying. Amazon is clear about what they want you to do == BUY.
You may not have the capability to fully update your website; but you can recreate this experience with direct links from your Instagram bio/Stories and emails, reviewing your checkout process, and creating buying guides or gift guides to clearly direct a customer from “I want it” to “I got it”.
If you do nothing else (and are under 10k on Instagram, so no swipe up feature yet!) … don’t be shy about changing up your bio link to whatever you’re talking about that day. IT TAKES 10 SECONDS.
FOUR | Personalized Recommendations
I can feel at least one eyeball rolling lol. stop that 🙂 Amazon’s systems are ROBUST AF. I get that.
But again, this is all about replicating the core of the experience… and personalized recommendations are helpful because they guide people to other things they may like or have indicated they’re searching for. How can you mimic the “you may also like” recommendations you ask?
Try one of these:
- If an item has sold out, recommend a similar item/solution on Stories/email/etc — “If you wanted one of these items (sold item 1, 2, 3) and missed out, let me show you a few similar looks you may like (in stock item 1, 2, 3)”
- Use Instagram to make “personalized” recommendations based on purchase trends you’re seeing — “Already own our xyz style, we love to pair it with this”
- Knock off Amazon’s recommendations for you section by making suggestions based on product they’ve already seen vs. new product you’re launching — “If you’ve had your eye on x item, you may also like y new release… coming on Tuesday!”
FIVE | Low Risk Purchase
Easy returns. simple process. no hassle. generous return window.
While reviews help alleviate a lot of purchase anxiety, as mentioned above… inevitably someone may be concerned about what the heck to do if the item doesn’t work out. And this may increase depending on your product category (for example, jewelry is pretty easy to gauge… something like home decor may be tougher if they’re changing their mind while designing a room, or they didn’t measure correctly).
This isn’t about going beyond your boundaries and what makes sense for your individual business – but ask yourself, when’s the last time you mentioned it to your audience? Because whether or not you’re talking about it, they may be thinking about it before they hitting purchase so help to put their mind at ease by presenting your policies clearly + upfront.
And in case I haven’t said it yet (or at least not yet in this blog post), YOU DON’T HAVE TO COMPETE WITH AMAZON.
The value of a small business or handmade pieces is different from their value. Tap into more of what makes you unique, special, one-of-a-kind and the personal customer relationships you create within your community because THAT is a strategy Amazon can’t steal from you.
WISHING YOU AN AMAZING, KNOCK-YOUR-STOCKINGS-OFF HOLIDAY SEASON! 🎄🎁