Learn How to Compete With Amazon and Win

Steve Guillemette | December 17, 2018

Learn How to Compete With Amazon and Win


As a retailer, do you fear for the future of your online business as Amazon’s reach grows ever broader? Here are seven ways to dominate ecommerce in your niche.

In the David and Goliath story you probably know, the underdog, David, wins a battle that no one expected him to survive. Here’s what actually happened, according to Malcolm Gladwell. In ancient Palestine, projectile warriors who fought with rocks and slingshots were renowned for their deadly precision. Goliath, a warrior loaded down with full armor, called for someone to fight him in hand-to-hand combat. When David advanced with his slingshot, everyone knew the game had changed. It was like a little league pitcher with a 100-mile-per-hour fast ball. Sometimes when you think you’re the underdog, you’re not. Goliath would’ve seen David as a formidable foe—he knew he couldn’t compete in David’s domain. In the realm of e-commerce, Amazon dominates in pricing, product range, and convenience. In 2016, Amazon drove over half of all e-commerce growth, according to Slice Intelligence. However, Amazon can’t offer highly personalized attention, and it can’t brand itself as the best in your niche. These not-so-secret weapons will help you exploit your laser focus on your niche to your best advantage.


Amazon’s one-size-fits-all platform doesn’t do much to invoke a mood. However, your website can create the feeling of stepping into a beloved shop. Amazon strives for functionality; you should strive for personality. Add elements that complement products and conjure specific feelings. For example, use racks of fabrics as a backdrop for a clothing business, evoking tactile sensations and creating a sense of place. Every product needs a great description, with photography to match. Good content not only answers all of a consumer’s questions, but it can also reflect your brand voice and help you connect with your target audience. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, customers might typically learn about it online. Maintain a consistent image between online and physical stores to leave a strong impression.


“Consumer confusion” means feeling too bombarded with options to choose the best one, In Lee says in Encyclopedia of E-Commerce Development, Implementation, and Management (Volume 1). People use Amazon when they know exactly what they want, a study by Cowen and Company found. When they’re less sure, they’re not as likely to go there. Your website should be the antidote to confusion—a helpful friend who takes people’s hands and guides them to the best choice. Think a gallery of images with short blurbs prompting visitors to enter the “doorway” that’s best for them, or optimized copy that engages, fully informs, and helps them decide to “add to cart”. Answer questions on your website, too. This organic content will help build a strong social presence by keeping your audience engaged.


Think of a search engine results page as the “digital shelf”, the online equivalent to traditional shelf space in a brick-and mortar-store. Getting onto that first page is a surefire way to get your products noticed. One way to rise to the top? Ensure that your content is fully search SEO optimized. Making sure your content is fresh and highly relevant, as well as incorporating search relevant words and phrases that consumers use when shopping your niche, will help your listings get into that coveted spot.


When people aren’t sure how to use a product or figure out which size to order, they’re less likely to turn to Amazon, according to Cowen and Company. Creating rich content with snappy videos, gifs, or interactive tours will encourage customers to try (and buy) new things. Plus, videos will strengthen your rapport with customers by showing who you are. Organize your thoughts and set a tone that fits your store. You may want to hire a professional for a more polished feel.


Give personalized care to your packaging. Make opening a package an experience in itself with extra touches like a ribbon, customized label closure, or witty quote stamped inside the box. Include other low-cost extras like wrapping a product on request. Enclose a handwritten note for a large order and give product samples. Customers will remember opening the package with delight, making them return.


Identify potential advocates with a strong online following. Then leverage their social media presence by getting them to promote your products. Earn their support by giving them samples or offering something in return, like an interview with a link to their site.


Use Amazon’s platform to drive traffic to your site. As Wendy Wiedenhoft Murphy says in ConsumerCulture and Society, selling on Amazon Marketplace gives you access to its search engines and customer base. Stay informed of key search terms on Amazon and plug them into product descriptions where possible.As you build relationships with customers, you’ll see that you were never actually the underdog—you’re a powerful force in your own right. Stay respondent to their needs, and watch business boom.

Business Insider, “Amazon Accounts for 43% of U.S. Retail Sales,” Feb. 3, 2017.

Cowen, “Retail’s Disruption Yields Opportunities—Store Wars!” Apr. 6, 2017.

Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, 2013.

Richard Kestenbaum, “What Retailers Can Do to Beat Amazon,” Feb. 9, 2017.

In Lee, Encyclopedia of E-Commerce Development, Implementation, and Management (Volume 1). 2016.

Slice Intelligence, “Echo Turns Up the Volume on Amazon’s Ambitions as Audacious Bets Pay Off,” Feb. 1, 2017.

Wendy Wiedenhoft Murphy, Consumer Culture and Society, 2016.