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Six Ways Your Business Can Outsmart

Six Ways Your Business Can Outsmart

Did you know that there are approximately 80 million Amazon Prime members and that Amazon accounts for 80% of the growth of online sales and $4 out of every $10 spent online is at Those are depressing numbers depending on your perspective. I can’t even get my head wrapped around those numbers! Every day, I see several Amazon deliveries in the building lobby where I live. I was chatting with a friend the other day and she mentioned a store in town had been Amazoned. I had never heard the term before but it wasn’t hard to figure out the meaning; a store was closing because they couldn’t compete with Amazon.

I am passionate about small business and backing the underdog so I began to think about how small businesses could find a way to compete in the age of Amazon. Here are six ways that can help your small business can compete. They are either free or low cost and even if you don’t sell online, they can still help your business thrive.

Define Your Niche

You didn’t start your business so you could be like everyone else so concentrate on what makes you different and what value you provide that other businesses don’t. You have to differentiate your business from your competitors both big and small or you are going to blend in with the background and not get noticed. While there is no way you can compete with the breadth of Amazon’s product inventory, you can have a tight focus on the products your customers want. Having detailed buyer personas is helpful in targeting what to sell. A buyer persona  is representation of your ideal customer and it can help to narrow down what products to carry or identify any opportunities to adjust your service offerings.

Find those customers who are most likely to buy from you, learn what their needs are and target them with the products or services that will help them. By carrying a curated product inventory, you will often avoid the need to price match your competitors. Products that aren’t widely available but are well liked, will create demand. Shoppers often assume it’s easier and less expensive to buy on-line, so if you have a physical store, there had better be a reason for them to come in and shop. Provide them an experience they can’t get online such as an in-store event along or personalized service from your knowledgeable staff. Learning the names of your regular customers will make them feel important and give them a good impression of your business. Our blog post How to be Competitive Without Going Broke will give you suggestions for how to help your business to stand out.

Use Content Marketing to Build Customer Relationships

This is one area that Amazon doesn’t utilize so use it to your advantage. What is content marketing? It is a strategy of producing and publishing information that builds trust and authority among your ideal customers (another reason you should use buyer personas). Content marketing keeps your brand or service in front of customers and builds a better relationship with them. It also builds loyalty with customers and gives you the ability to get personal with them. You can market to customers via your website, email, printed material, a blog or on social media.

Content marketing will also help to build your follower base. Not just Facebook followers but followers of your business. This is where being small is an advantage. You can interact with followers directly on your social media pages and give them the personal attention that can turn them into a brand ambassador. Everything you do as a brand should have this personal and close-connected feel to it. When you form a bond with followers they are much more likely to do business with you. Interested in learning more about how content marketing can help your small business? Visit our Content Marketing page to find out.

Provide An Exceptional Customer Experience

While this may sound obvious, you have an opportunity at every touch point with your business to create a positive experience with your customers. What are those touch points? Your in-store sales people, your return policy, social media pages, live chat, even the way you present your store are all opportunities to create a great customer experience.

While you shouldn’t compete on price, you can compete on service. Do your best to make every customer experience with your business a pleasant one and if a customer is dissatisfied, do your best to resolve it to their satisfaction. It’s better to have the problem solved and at least have the customer happy that you cared about them then do nothing and have them leave a negative review or tell their friends not to buy from you. Have a flexible return policy including free returns and exchanges. Find ways to show customers how much you care about them. The biggest factor that drives customers away from your business? Feeling like you don’t care about them.

Have you looked at your website lately? Your website is one of the best ways to build and improve customer relationships. Treat it like a combination online storefront and most valuable employee and you’ll recognize the importance of first impressions. Think of it this way, if you pull into the parking lot of a store you want to visit and the storefront looks tired and worn down, that forms a negative first impression. Take it one step further and you go into the store and the sales person acts like you’re interrupting them, that’s another negative impression. Would you want to make a purchase or go back to that store? Probably not. If your website hasn’t been updated within the last two years you better get on it. It is well worth the investment. Read our blog post on What A Good Website Looks Like for help.

Create a seamless shopping experience between your online and brick and mortar sales. Customers shop 24/7 and if you don’t have an online shop, you are losing out on them. It increases your customer reach, can drive visitors to your brick and mortar store and enhance relationships. Having an online store isn’t just about online sales though. Offer customers the option to buy online and pick up in-store. Local customers enjoy the convenience of not having to wait for their shipment to arrive. While Amazon offers same-day shipping in some areas, they aren’t interacting with their customers. When a customer comes into your store to pick up their order, it’s another opportunity to create a good experience for them.

Offer Free Shipping

Before you throw your hands up in the air and say you can’t afford to have free shipping, hear me out. While you probably can’t beat the convenience of Amazon’s Prime shipping, you should at least reduce your shipping charge. While it may look like a big expense to absorb, customers routinely factor in the price of shipping when deciding where to purchase from. This is especially true when you are selling a widely available product. You should also aim to ship items the same day they are ordered or offer online ordering with in-store pick up. Another idea is to have an annual subscription, much like Amazon Prime, that offers expedited shipping for a discounted price or free for repeat purchases. This will help to subsidize shipping costs and it builds customer loyalty.

You can shop around to find the most cost effective shipping option for your business. Depending on where you ship to, USPS Priority Mail can be a good option, and it has quick delivery, but I would suggest including insurance, just in-case. If you do a large shipping volume, services such as UPS and FedEx offer discounts. If you can’t offer free shipping, offering flat rate shipping keeps things simple for your customer as they know up front what shipping costs, instead of learning this at checkout. It’s often a big turn off for customers to get to checkout to find out that shipping costs are based on price. It’s like punishing the customer for placing a large order. If your shopping cart abandonment rate is high, your shipping cost is a likely culprit.

Have a User Friendly Website

If you have an online store, make it easy for shoppers to find what they want. Minimize the number of clicks it will take to get to their destination so they don’t get frustrated. With so many products, Amazon’s website can require a lot of clicks and product sorting, especially when you’re not exactly sure what you want. Since shoppers on your website don’t have the ability to try on the product or touch it, it is imperative to have useful and detailed product descriptions. Take the time when writing your product descriptions to have as much information as possible including sizing and fit, but without overwhelming shoppers. Poor descriptions will drive customers to look elsewhere for the information they need and they will most likely not come back to purchase from you.

It’s very important to have high quality product images. Shoppers want to see multiple views of the product as well as have the ability to zoom in to see product details. If the shopper isn’t familiar with the product, they are not going to trust the quality of it if the only image they have to go on is a small thumbnail. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take your own product photos. It just takes a bit of creativity.

Allowing purchasers to post pictures of them using your products helps to demonstrate usability and build confidence in the product. Photos can be posted on your website or social media pages.  Having a list of the most asked questions about a product is another way to instill confidence in shoppers.

Reviews and Testimonials

Today, customers frequently look to reviews and recommendations from friends when researching products or services. They are a very valuable selling tool, so be like Amazon and post reviews of your products or services . According to a survey by BrightLocal, 88% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation when making a purchase decision. But, make sure you post all reviews, not just the good ones or you risk losing credibility. If someone does leave a negative review, make sure you address it to the customer’s satisfaction and post your response below their review. This shows that you are accountable to your customers and that you care about them. It’s also another way to form a good impression.

How will this help you compete with Amazon? Having reviews on your website can boost your ranking in organic search results. While many shoppers choose Amazon as their default shopping site, there are many shoppers who are looking for something unique or want to support their local merchants. Having reviews on your website adds more unique content to it and makes those pages more relevant to shoppers. Both are components of Google’s ranking algorithm. Reviews left on external review sites like Yelp are also good for boosting your search rank and can even put you in Google’s local three pack, which appear just below paid ads. Having a high search ranking means more shoppers will find you.

The common thread in all of the above tips is your customer. Care for customers as though they are a rare gem because without them, you have nothing. Amazon doesn’t have to be the death knell to your business. You can compete with Amazon as well as your other competitors. The only requirement is to accept the fact that the face of selling is changing and that you either adjust or risk losing your customers and your business. I hope these tips will help your business thrive. If you have any tips you would like to share or have found success using these, please tell us in the comments. You’ll be helping other small businesses facing the same struggles, so thanks!


E-Commerce: Finding Your Space in a Crowded Field

E-Commerce: Finding Your Space in a Crowded Field

Think about the last purchase you made. Did you drive to your local retailer or did you do your shopping online? From grocery shopping to same day delivery service from, there is almost no limit to what you can purchase online. If you’re a retail store owner who has yet to take the plunge into opening an online store, there are some compelling reasons to do so and it’s not as hard as you might think to get started!



Shopping online is:

  • Convenient – Shop anytime day or night from the comfort of your own home
  • Cost Effective – Get pricing from multiple stores to get the lowest price
  • Educational – Research product attributes, read reviews and find out what your friends on social media are recommending.
  • Global access – Wide availability of products you might not be able to source locallyecommerce

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, adding an online store will broaden your customer reach and with fewer people shopping at their local retail merchants, it’s a good way to capture lost foot traffic.

If you have a new product you’re going to launch, having an online store avoids the legwork and potential hassle of
finding distributors and sales reps as well as lessening the amount of inventory you’re going to need to carry (something many product developers don’t factor in). It also allows you to start slowly and easily make any adjustments to your product before going “big time”.

What are the key components of a successful online store?

  • It communicates who you are and what your brand stands for
  • It needs to have a clear and easy to follow navigation path. The more clicks a buyer has to make to find what they want, the more likely they are to leave without making a purchase.
  • It needs a homepage that is visually appealing without being overpowering as well as having a clear call to action.
  • It needs to be optimized for all devices – pc, tablet and mobile phone. With more people using their phone to make purchases having a mobile optimized website is vital.
  • Product photos need to be large – image zoom and light box features help show detail. Tiny photos are no good especially on mobile devices. What if you don’t have any photos? Ask your distributor(s) for suitable images. If you don’t have good product photos, consider taking and using your own photos. Just make sure whatever you do, the photos are professional quality and have a consistent look. If you’re not sure of your photography skills, it will be worth it to hire a professional photographer.
  • Use compelling content to describe product attributes – Content needs to entice, clearly describe the product benefit and differentiate it from similar products. Keyword loaded descriptions, are out. Instead, you’ll need to create a story around each product.
  • An easy checkout process – Preferably have a single page checkout process to make purchasing as easy and seamless as possible. Again, the more pages a visitor has to click through, the more likely they are to leave your website without making a purchase.
  • Accept multiple payment options – Besides the major credit cards, consider having PayPal and/or Google Wallet as an option.
  • Easy account sign up – Allow customers to create an account using their social media login details.

Behind the Scenes

While your customer will be concerned with what they see on the front end, the back end is just as important. You’ll need to be able to track inventory. Fortunately many shopping carts providers offer this. Make sure your inventory count is accurate from the get go. Otherwise you could be caught short stock and lose sales.

It goes without saying, inventory management from an order standpoint is key. You have to know how often and when you’ll have to replenish inventory along with the ideal amount to have on hand. This helps to insure that not only do you not run out of inventory, but that you’re not carrying (and paying for) too much.

Decide what shipping options you’ll offer. Will you use UPS, USPS, FedEx, free shipping, flat rate shipping? You should research the costs of each option before deciding. If you’re going to offer free shipping, where will you make up that cost? Many shopping cart providers have shipping and order management included but you’ll still need to know what percentage will be borne by the customer and/or your business.

Customer Service – As the online shopping place gets more crowded and competitive, having excellent customer service is one way to distinguish your store from its competitors. Even if you’re the sole employee, you need to be available. Customers should be easily able to find contact information on your website. You can have a virtual toll-free number that forwards to your office or mobile phone number and it’s less expensive than adding a toll-free number through your local carrier.

Consider offering live chat on your website. There are many live chat solutions and with mobile apps, you can manage your live chat conversations from anywhere.  In a study conducted by Bold Chat, in 2012, the majority of a group of 2,000 U.S. and U.K. shoppers viewed live chat positively and over 90 percent of those chats had a favorable outcome. Also from that year, more than 65 percent of online shoppers used live chat, a number up from roughly 50 percent just two years prior. The addition of Live Chat can help improve conversions and provide a solid ROI for your business.

Even if you’re a small company, it’s possible to run a successful online store. While the marketplace is very competitive, if you establish your own niche and are laser focused on who your customer is, you can achieve success. The beauty of being a small business is you can make product adjustments much easier than the big online merchants and no one will know how small you really are unless you tell them; you’re like the Wizard of Oz! One person, really can influence a lot of people.



Thinking of opening an online store? DLJ Creative can help you get started. As a small business we have the ability to see things from your perspective and can tailor a complete e-commerce package no matter what your company size is. Our passion is your success. Contact us today at