Amazon has made a huge impact on the small business world — in both positive and negative ways.
Entire industries have been uprooted by the ecommerce giant. But it has also given more than a million businesses in the U.S. a place to sell their wares. So it’s up to you to use the platform to your advantage — or at least to prevent it from putting you out of business.
Robbie Kellman Baxter, author of The Membership Economy: Find Your Superusers, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue, said in an email to Small Business Trends, “Many small business owners, both manufacturers and retailers, specialize in items that can’t be found elsewhere—strings for musical instruments or essential oils for example, but now Amazon provides access to a tremendous range of items. Some SBs have gone on the Amazon platform to sell these long-tail items, while others have lost business because Amazon is taking away that niche.”
Creating Repeat Customers
To Amazon-proof your business, you need to focus on creating relationships with customers and getting them to come back to your specific business, rather than just browsing Amazon again and again.
Stay Off Amazon If Your Product Is Really Unique
It’s rare. But there are still a few niches that Amazon has yet to disrupt. There’s probably something fairly similar to your offering on the site — but if customers are still willing to come to you for your specific spin on the product, you don’t need to use the site to find customers.
Baxter says, “Small businesses with a truly unique offering might do well to stay off Amazon altogether, like Northface and Birkenstock already have.”
Use It to Get Eyes on Your Products
However, new businesses and those looking to gain some new fans could use the platform’s massive reach to your advantage. It just depends on your specific situation and goals.
Baxter adds, “Amazon can be a great place to build awareness, if you are able to translate that awareness to direct engagement with your business.”
Offer Limited Products
If you choose to sell on Amazon, you don’t necessarily need to offer everything you carry on the site. Consider using it to gain some awareness with your flagship product line, but offer specialty items only on your site. This could be a “best of both worlds” approach for some brands.
Promote, Promote, Promote
When marketing your business, it’s important that you don’t just send everyone to your Amazon site. You have less control over their experience there and it also gives shoppers more opportunities to browse with other sellers. So your actual promotions and marketing methods should be geared toward getting customers to your own online shop or storefront.
Baxter explains, “Do everything you can to convert Amazon business into direct business—have information in your packaging about buying direct, for example, and try to develop a direct relationship via social, connecting your social accounts to your Amazon account.”
Convert Amazon Buyers into Direct Buyers
Once someone discovers your product on Amazon and buys from you there, use it as an opportunity to show them how to buy from you directly in the future.
Baxter says, “Consider tucking a personal note or small gift into your packages to create a real connection.”
Sell Off Remainder Inventory
Amazon can also be a useful tool for selling discontinued, clearance or excess inventory. You don’t need to clog your actual shop with those items. Just get them sold fast on the popular platform.
Cut Unnecessary Costs
One of the major reasons why Amazon has put so many companies out of business is because it runs with such low overhead — and other businesses failed to adapt. So if you’re feeling the strain from Amazon, use it as an opportunity to rethink some of your costs — like your physical retail location.
Baxter explains, “Rethink the purpose of your store—do you still need a physical location? If so, what can you do in the store that Amazon doesn’t do—it’s no longer enough to be convenient.”
Create a Unique Experience
You need to present people with a good reason why they should choose your business over Amazon. Amazon offers a very fast and convenient option. So it’s best to try and stand out in some other way.
Baxter says, “Investing in customer experience, beyond Amazon’s rapid and often free shipping is also smart—concierge access or expert advice, maintenance etc.”
Provide Helpful Guidance
For many small businesses, this added value could come from personalized or expert advice. People go to stores or shop from small retailers when they need help knowing what product is the best fit for them or if they need help setting it up or learning about all the features.
Baxter explains, “Small businesses still thrive where education and guidance is important, in addition to the products themselves.”
Use It as a Research Tool
Finally, Amazon doesn’t have to serve as a selling platform in order to be useful for you.
Baxter adds, “There is tremendous data on Amazon about what your competition is doing, how they price and position their offerings etc, and also information about how customers feel about products you sell. Use Amazon as a market research tool to understand favorite colors, pet peeves and other insights about what consumers want!”
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