How to Successfully Compete Against Amazon, and Win!

Today is “Amazon Prime Day,”  the once a year mega sale held by Amazon for all Amazon Prime members.  Members get exclusive discounts on all sorts of products, ranging from tablets to crock pots to shoes.  This is the third year of the event, which has become greatly anticipated, similar to “Black Friday.”

Look closely, however, and you’ll discover three key components to the event.  Not coincidentally, it’s the hallmark of why Amazon is so successful.

  1. You have to be an Amazon Prime Member!
    • Amazon has “tens of millions” of Prime members.  Prime is the yearly subscription, for $99, that allows consumers free two-day shipping on many items.  In addition, members get access to other great content such as streaming video and music. By paying money for a subscription, many customers go to Amazon first to maximize their investment.  Subscription services and incentives are GREAT for repeat business!
  2. The Biggest Discounts and Best Prices are on AMAZON PRODUCTS!
    • While, yes, Amazon offers discounts on other products that aren’t theirs, a business MUST differentiate themselves from their competitors with their OWN products and services.  Take the Amazon Echo, for example, powered by the Alexa AI (Artificial Intelligence) platform.  The Echo, and Alexa, are proprietary technologies owned by Amazon.  The Echo can control your thermostat, turn on your lights, play music, and much more, all with just using voice commands!  Oh, and you can also order more things from Amazon with Alexa.  Differentiate yourself with your own products and services!
  3. These Amazon Products are Simply a GATEWAY TO BUY MORE STUFF FROM AMAZON!
    • Amazon Prime, Echo, Fire Tablets, Dash Buttons…what do all these things have in common??  a. They are great technology devices that make our lives more fun and convenient. b. They entrench consumers into the “Amazon Eco System.”  Once there, consumers will virtually live their life through Amazon.   I was recently reading reviews about the Amazon Dash Wand (a hand held device that scans products in your house and automatically adds that item to your shopping cart for ordering) and it’s getting very negative reviews for the following reason:  When you scan an item, and Amazon adds it to your shopping cart, it often picks the most expensive one!  Maybe this is a function of a new technology that doesn’t quite have the kinks worked out, or MAYBE it’s how Amazon recoups their money from all those great deals they’re offering!  One thing is for sure…the discounts and technologies are simply a means to an end.  And that end is to build Lifetime and Loyal customers!  Build and loyal and fanatical fan base.

Dwight Eisenhower once said, “Learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you.” (Thank you Forbes.com quote of the day!)  While Amazon is a BIG challenge for small businesses, you have to admit that many consumers love them for a variety of reasons, some of which are outlined above.  What can we learn from that?  What lessons can we apply to build great customer loyalty and grow sales and profits?  Below are some ideas…

  1. Don’t Compete Head On, Narrow Your Niche
    • Amazon is buying planes and trucks, building fulfillment centers, and creating Artificial Intelligence.  Last time I checked, small businesses are going to have a hard time competing with that head-on.  However, all of those things can’t replace real world, local experience!  Narrow your niche and service the UNIQUE needs of your market.
  2. Sell Expertise and  Experience, not Products
    • “Experts get rewarded, Sellers get slaughtered.”  I equate this example to buying a bag of rice at the grocery store…you have the store brand for a $1.00 and the name brand for $2.00.  What do you typically do??  Unless that name brand rice does something really cool, you’re going to buy the store brand for less.  The same lesson can be applied to all the similar items that consumers can buy in the marketplace.  If a consumer THINKS two competitive products are the same, they will always buy the least expensive one.  How can we overcome this problem?  In the rice example, the name brand made “boil in a bag” that’s ready much quicker than traditional rice!  If you value time and need a quick solution, you will now buy the name brand (not the store brand) for more money!  Are you an expert in your field?  Do your products and services solve a unique problem?  Why should a consumer buy from you?
  3. Leverage Unique Advantages
    • Artificial Intelligence is great, but can it build relationships with a customer?  Can it design a unique website?  Can it space plan for a furniture install?  Can it deliver a product to a customer in a pinch?  The answer, of course, is NO!  But you can!!  Play to your strengths as a business.  Think of your biggest competitors…where do they fall short?  You’ll be successful by filling those gaps!
  4. Build a Fanatical Fan Base
    • In many cases, people buy from people.  By leveraging your unique advantages and providing expertise in your field, you’ll build a loyal customer base!  When the customer needs something, they’ll think of coming to YOU first!  Loyal customers are your greatest advocates.  They leave great reviews on your website, talk about you to their friends and family, and are repeat buyers!

Feel free to leave comments on your successes and challenges!  We’re all in this together!  Have a great week!

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