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3 ways E-commerce brands can thrive in the age of Amazon

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Ben Froedge

Shopify Growth Specialist

If you want your business to succeed in the age of E-commerce giants like Amazon, you have to go way beyond just plugging products into a pretty site and throwing Facebook ads at it.

Bigger players can afford to join a race to the bottom on pricing. You can’t do that. They will absolutely beat you every time. You will not beat a big retailer on price. You also won’t beat them on advertising budget.

So how can you survive and succeed as the giants take over the land? Here’s 3 strategic moves

Optimize your site to convert your ideal buyers

If your website is ancient, terrible looking, or impossible to use, you should be looking for a complete redesign. But if you have a modern, good looking website that works for your visitors, you can just sit back and enjoy it for a few years without working on it, right?

Yeah… that’s probably not the best idea.

You have the opportunity to gradually and continually improve your website by making it better for your specific buying audience. Doubling your conversion rate is literally doubling your revenue without spending more on traffic. Consider whether that might be worth a little bit of effort.

The first place to look, if you want to get a handle on these issues, is your analytics platform. This will let you find the issues that are hurting your ability to sell through the site, as well as assessing the real dollar value of your marketing assets.

Analytics data allows you to see how various elements of your site and business are performing.

  • Are mobile visitors buying?
  • Are your ads worth what you’re spending on them?
  • How much is a name on your email list worth?
  • Do you make more sales among a particular demographic?

You can also monitor on-site visitor behavior with tools like Hotjar. You’ll be able to see what design elements are getting viewed and clicked on, what parts of the page actually get read, and what kind of problems visitors run into while trying to buy from you.

Hunches and gut feelings can be useful, but optimization efforts should never be directed by blind guesswork. You should gather data, look for patterns, and test your ideas. Start by fixing things that are obviously not working, then move forward with improving those things that are -kind of- working, but could be doing better.

Build strong relationships with your buyers

If you owned a brick-and-mortar business, you’d have the opportunity to look your customers in the face. You could ask them if they need help, and get feedback from them in real time.

Over time, these customers would develop a relationship with you.  They would come to trust and like you, and as a consequence, you would always be top of mind when they need something you sell, and they would send others to you.

But we aren’t talking about a face-to-face, brick and mortar business. So how do you do that with an online store?

  • Become a part of their online interest communities. Interact, talk, help. Have a personality.
  • Create content that enriches their life and makes your products more useful/valuable to them.
  • Send them emails that are relevant to them and will stick in their memory to build a strong presence for your brand in their minds.
  • Use surveys and analytics data to understand their behaviors and buying triggers, then use that information to serve them better.

If customers feel like they are part of your in-group (tribe, 1000 true fans, etc), you’ll never lose them to lower prices. They will tell others about you, and will be your biggest supporters.

If you answer questions on Reddit or a message board, you may not get the same numbers as a big advertising effort, but you might make a lifelong fan who regularly buys from you and shouts your name from the rooftop every chance they get. Those are the customers that get you through lean times.

Maximize the impact of everything you do

You can’t do everything, and you can’t win at everything you do. What you can do is pick a few things and be great at them. That means you should look for the tools/tactics/opportunities that work the best for your specific situation, and maximize your efforts by picking and choosing the most effective things you can do.

By the time you are making a significant number of sales (or before) you hopefully have a fulfillment partner that takes care of receiving, packing, and shipping your orders. You are maximizing your time by outsourcing jobs that can easily be done by someone else.

But that’s not the only way you can use automation or a systems mindset to maximize the impact of your efforts and budget. The other side of your business holds plenty of opportunities as well.

  • Maximizing your conversion rate (using analytics and user research data).
  • Automate what you can. Email automation allows you to create once and send over and over. Analytics reports can be delivered to a dashboard or emailed to you.
  • Be picky about where you advertise and market. Measure the effectiveness of your marketing and get rid of low ROI options.
  • Go deep, then go wide: Rather than trying to create for everyone, find your 1000 true fans, and then create more new things for them to buy.

Efficient and effective aren’t always the same thing. Some of your efforts may be less efficient, but still have a huge impact on your business. Automating spammy Tweets is efficient, but it’s probably not effective.

You can’t win a fair fight, so don’t fight fair.

By building a premium brand that serves a specific market and making everything you do high-impact, you can thrive as a David in a Goliath world.

To make that happen, you should do whatever you can to multiply the effects of all the work you do within your business. Every email you collect is an asset. Every decimal point of conversion rate you increase is more revenue coming into the company over the long term.

Emails that help you make more money

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