Online retail in the United States is booming. According to Internet Retailer and The U.S. Commerce Department, ecommerce grew 16% in 2017—a peak since 2011, when online retail grew 17.5% over 2010. To understand the drivers behind the growth in 2017, look no further than Amazon, which was responsible for 70% of the $62.47B increase during that year. How can the rest of the retail industry compete with the shipping speeds, product diversity, and personalization capabilities that Amazon offers?
The best ecommerce sites approach this challenge with curiosity rather than a feeling of defeat. To stand out in a crowded market, the best ecommerce sites turn challenges into opportunities. Here’s how.
Challenge #1: Digital marketing ecosystems are crowded
If you want to build a customer base, you’re up against massive advertising budgets from major brands. According to research from eMarketer, digital ad prices rose as high as 10% between March 2017 and March 2018. Marketing teams risk wasting valuable resources if their strategies are even slightly off-base.
Rather than competing with giants like Amazon, the company’s founder Aubrey Marcus sought to build his store as an experience—a place where shoppers can become better versions of themselves. Every product sold has a role in helping customers achieve a core benefit—what Marcus calls “Total Human Optimization”.
“I recognized nothing works in a vacuum,” explains Marcus in an interview that explores Onnit’s product philosophy. “You have to bring it all together if you want to maximize what’s possible.”
Bringing it all together, for Marcus and his team, means focusing on Onnit’s core brand experience.
Challenge #2: Customers have high expectations
Retail giants like Amazon have created an expectation for instantaneous service.
Stores that can’t keep up with these fast speeds may see themselves at a disadvantage. In a recent study, PwC found that over 40% of online shoppers said that they would pay an extra charge for same-day delivery.
“Unfortunately for many ecommerce marketers, Amazon has given customers very high expectations around shipping cost and speed,” explains Adam Thompson, an experienced SEO and PPC manager at Comodo SSL Store, in an interview for this article. “Without a national network of shipping centers like Amazon has, it’s very difficult for small and medium companies to deliver the same experience.”
The solution? Offer something different. If your company can’t compete on speed, focus on other elements of your experience.
“Customers want to work with organizations that listen to their needs and deliver them the products and services that address those needs,” says ecommerce consultant Terence Channon in an interview for this article. “Through most of history, business was conducted in 1-on-1 exchanges. The best ecommerce sites are able to model that dynamic.”
Automation helps. Send emails that are relevant to customers’ interests. Personalize outreach based on buyer activity. Anticipate the questions that customers are likely to have. Accurate and useful messages make for a better customer experience.
Tying it all together
To compete with giants like Amazon, some of the best ecommerce sites focus on offering a unique value proposition. Success is about forging unique solutions to customer needs, retail giant or not.
“What’s surprising is how fast the game changes now,” said Marcus.