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6 Ways Small Online Stores Can Compete with Mega-Retailers

The sheer scale of mega-retailers like Amazon is difficult to grasp. In 2018, Amazon was projected to earn almost 36 percent of US online sales. Despite their lesser share of the U.S. e-commerce market, eBay, Shopify and Squarespace have also carved out substantial businesses by partnering with retailers.   

If you’re a realist, launching an e-commerce store that successfully competes with those numbers is unlikely.
revenue on laptop
Fortunately, your online store doesn’t need those numbers to thrive. What you need is a niche within your share of the market. Doing this, you’ll eventually scale and organically increase your revenue over time.
Here are 6 strategies you can implement to compete in the world of e-commerce giants.

#1. Start by Selling Niche Products and Services

Ecommerce is proving to be the best channel for selling niche products–items often made in small batch runs or on demand.
Why do these types of products sell so well online?
Forward-thinking online merchants have unlimited opportunities to educate about a new product and don’t necessarily have to compete with commoditized products (i.e. products everyone needs) sold by Amazon or Walmart.
The key is to create products that solve a problem or are on the early wave of a trend (e.g. technology, survival gear, vintage, healthy living, flash tattoos).

#2. Offer Subscription-Based Services

The subscription model owes its success to what it provides both company and customer.
For customers, subscriptions remove the thinking from a purchase decision. They never have to remember to reorder every month and rest in the assurance that whatever they need will arrive well before they actually need it.
Products arrive at the door and, presumably, within budget since subscriptions offer a flat rate.
While products and SaaS (software-as-a-service) businesses have caught onto the subscription model, its uncommon for professional services to move away from monthly retainers and pre-purchased services.
Add potential flexibility, scalability, and stronger relationships with a subscription model.

#3. Provide Cheaper Shipping

While many brands start out in ecommerce by taking a simplistic approach to shipping — like offering free shipping across the board or displaying unmodified UPS or USPS rates — the most successful brands use strategic shipping options.
You’ll likely never compete with massive online stores whose sheer volume means unmatched discounts and perks. But you can target the benefits of a specific region.
Offer better-quality shipping options for your particular city or region. While global stores have greater coverage overall, you may be able to offer faster shipping times and a more personalized experience throughout the process.

#4. Optimize Online Store Performance

At times, the very survival of an ecommerce site depends on how it performs instead of what it delivers. Even the best designed website offering the most in-demand products will not amount to much if it’s not able to attract visitors.
According to Harry Shum, a former speed-specialist researcher at Microsoft, “Two-hundred-fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the Web.”
Nearly 64 percent of smartphone users expect a website to load in four seconds or less, which means you need fast and reliable hosting, a Content Delivery Network (CDN), browser caching, and fewer scripts to your pages.

#5. Promote on Social Media

Small ecommerce businesses may not be able to invest millions into daily advertising, but they may actually have an advantage over bigger companies. Why?
Social media effectiveness boils down to engagement. If a business doesn’t engage with its customers, chances are it won’t have success in social media marketing. Being engaged involves:

  • Varying your social media presence across different platforms
  • Engaging with your audience and reaching new users
  • Utilizing influencers who can promote your products or services
  • Using visuals like infographics to reach more people

On social media, small businesses can give more than scripted responses to customers. Directly connecting with your consumers is essential to your store’s success.

#6. Use Email Marketing to Scale

You’ve likely noticed that almost every website and online store wants your email address. That’s because the more email addresses you acquire, the more sales you can drive via campaigns.
Here are just a few of the ways your business can use email marketing to reach and grow your subscribing list:

  • Send discounts for holidays, events and birthdays
  • Update customers on new products
  • Share informational blog posts
  • Remind users of abandoned carts
  • Reward loyal customers with special discounts
  • Remind customers to leave product reviews

All of these methods are direct techniques that can bring small and medium business up to a 3,800 percent return.
When it comes to an online business, it’s important to be realistic. Inventory and pricing are highly competitive, but you can shine with personalized customer service and high product quality.
Want more insights? Contact our digital marketing experts at RLC Media to start growing your online business today.

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