But don’t worry, I’ll give you more than that!
I don’t mean give up on your dreams of being a retailer. I mean don’t compete with Amazon, differentiate from them. Compete on a different level, in a different way, compete in a way where you set the tone, and where ultimately, they can’t compete with you.
The same applies to any big name retailer, you can’t compete with them at their game, so make sure they can’t compete with you at yours…
Don’t try and sell everything to everyone. And don’t try and be everything to everyone. Unless you are Amazon, you won’t get away with it. Even HUGE retail brands are starting to buckle having fallen for this one. And when you inspect the Amazon model more carefully, it may look like they are selling everything to everyone, but they do have a very clear and distinct place in the market, now you need to create yours.
Decide what your going to do and do it well. Exceptionally well. In fact be the best that there is in that niche. And the more you niche down, the more opportunity to will have to stand out from the crowd. Amazon may provide customers with opportunity to buy a toaster, a pair of flip flops and a mouth guard in one hit, but they can’t compete with a store that is the best in the business for Scandi inspired maternity wear, that people travel from miles around to visit.
Have you ever searched on Amazon for something and been totally overwhelmed by the number of results that come back? Not to mention the range of prices. If you’re looking for a cheapest option and have no concerns about quality, then you’re in luck! That’s not to say quality products aren’t available, but if you’re looking for a good quality product that works for your specific requirements, then ploughing through the hundreds of options available can start to become really hard work.
As humans we are often overwhelmed by choice. How often have you sat staring at a huge menu in a restaurant for over 20 minutes, only to remain totally flummoxed by what you’re going to chose when the waitress comes over? And how often when she reads and recommends the specials do you think - ‘oh that sounds great, I’ll just have that!’ The fact is our brain copes much better with a fully presented solution to our problem, than long lists of options and a lot of decision. By providing fewer quality solutions tailored to your customers needs, you are providing something for your customers which Amazon can never compete with.
Sitting on the couch, mindlessly browsing whilst you watch ‘The Great British Bakeoff’ has definitely won a place in our hearts. However, in the same way the Kindle has not replaced the book, online shopping will never fully replace the in-store retail experience.
Make sure you take the opportunity to provide your customers with that experience they are craving, whenever they enter your space. Think about everything from the look and feel, to the ambience, the service even the signage. You have the opportunity to provide an immersive and exceptional experience across everything you do, something Amazon can’t compete with. Take it, and leave your customers wanting more…
There are times when the quick and convenient experience of Amazon can feel like a false economy (don’t get me wrong I love Amazon), however when faced with thousands of the same item varying from £3.99 to £399, the time required to sit and sift, can quickly undo some of those efficiency gains.
Being able to provide someone to talk to immediately differentiates you from Amazon for many customers, but ensuring that person is able to listen, advise and tailor solutions to your customers individual needs, is something that Amazon can’t compete with, so take advantage.
After the customer has walked away with their product, Amazon will ask them to rate it, as well as feeding a new piece of data through their algorithms to recommend further products (all very savvy ideas, that independents can take a lesson from). However, one area I regularly see small retailers missing out, is their ability to utilise their smaller size to their advantage in aftercare.
If you have a regular customer who always comes into your clothes boutique looking for a certain thing, do you contact them when a piece comes in you know they’ll love? When you’ve sold a customer a large purchase, do you send them a personalised email to find out how they’re getting on and check they have no further questions? Do you contact your customer on their birthday and offer them a gift? Are you even keeping customer data at all?
There are so many great combined POS/CRM systems these days, there’s no excuse not to completely set yourself out from the crowd by providing a second to none aftercare relationship with your customer. You can also use social media and events to do this too.
Automated aftercare solutions are great, and certainly have their place in boosting sales and building customer relationships. But never lose sight of the magic you have as a smaller independent and how you can use that to extend your service, even after your customer has walked out of the door.
Amazon aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. They’ve built an exceptional business model that has carved themselves a large share in the retail market. However, as a smaller retailer, sitting around worrying about this is not going to make a blind bit of difference.
Amazon don’t lie in bed at night worrying about you as their competition, and I’ll let you in on a little secret, it’s not arrogance, it's because they’re not competing with you. What you provide is something different entirely.
Don’t fall into the trap of seeing Amazon as your competition and then as a result, trying to compete with them.
Differentiate yourself and compete in your own unique market, and then you won’t have to lie awake at night worrying about Amazon either.
Seth Godin - The History of Marketing
Don’t focus on the goods and services, focus on the magic.
If you're ready to elevate yourself and your retail business, bring in more customers, connect and become part of something bigger, you can find out about The Independent Retailers Association Here