Let’s face it: e-commerce is the future of retail.
If you still need proof, look at Amazon. This is the business that forever disrupted traditional retail and re-shaped it into what it is today. Using innovative technologies and practices, world-class customer service, and betting on outstanding user experience, the e-commerce giant showed everybody that retail companies can do better.
Amazon is not just about one-day shipping and increased diversity of product offerings. It’s about the experience it can offer its customers. After all, who wouldn’t want to shop from the comfort of their couch, after a long day at the office?
But I’m not here to praise Amazon’s achievements, amazing as they may be. I’m here to tell you that their success can be replicated. Furthermore, small businesses in e-commerce can create their own success and cut their own share of the market. And they can do all this while being in direct competition with the mighty Amazon giant.
Did I get your attention? Good! Here are three strategies that should put you on the right path when creating a strong customer database.
#1: Amazon is Not Made for Niche Businesses
Amazon is a full-blown market. It provides a huge diversity of products to an equally huge diversity of customers. This means they can’t get too up-close and personal with a specific niche.
But your small business can!
Small businesses have the luxury of identifying their product within a niche and vice-versa. This way, you can be laser-focused on your customers’ wants and needs and nothing else.
For instance, “a clothing product designed for women” is way too general a product to be successful. It also requires a different marketing approach, with more costs and a more complex distribution process. But, if you address only women between 25 and 35 who work in an office and have a white-collar position, things will be different.
By designing a product that caters to a specific segment of the market, you will be able to get to know them better. It’s also easier to be relentless in marketing campaigns and help the target audience connect with your brand.
Such an example comes from Red Bull. The company first started with a canned sports drink that could be enjoyed by everyone. However, this confused customers, who couldn’t decide what it was or how it was different from the other drinks on the market. As a result, sales were slow. The situation changed when the product was rebranded as a sports drink for students.
The company niched down and laser-focused their campaigns on a specific audience. And now, they are among the biggest energy drink brands in the world.
#2: Effective Storytelling & Passion
How many of Amazon’s customers know (or care) about the story of the company? How Amazon started and what motivates them to move forward?
Right now, Amazon is part of the big business category, but they too started small. What used to be a store for books, grew into the behemoth we see and fear (as entrepreneurs) today.
This story (which is often overlooked) can inspire today’s small business owners and can be a lesson in storytelling.
A beautiful origin story that shows your motivation and is supported by your care and compassion for people is extremely compelling. That’s how brands build a loyal audience – by touching people’s hearts through stories.
For instance, some entrepreneurs build everything from scratch, including their e-commerce store. If this is your situation, such a founder’s tale can make for a wonderful and motivational blog post where you share how you decided to learn Python in order to create the best customer experience. Such a story provides customers with perspective and shows them your brand is reliable and open to authentic communication.
Furthermore, when the story is as good as the “Just do it” from Nike or the Dove #ShowUs campaign, people start to attribute extra value to your products.
Luckily, you don’t have to fabricate a story (and you shouldn’t try!). The story can be written by people who like working with your brand. So make sure to be visible, quick to answer customer complaints, and always involved in the community. The rest will show up on its own when you research what people are saying about your business.
#3: Get Personal & Create a Strong Community
A giant like Amazon attracts people from all corners of the world and all walks of life. Still, this doesn’t mean that the business is supported by a strong community. In fact, their wildly diverse customer base often opens them up to rumors, negative opinions, and more.
While these may be inevitable, a small business has the unique chance to create a knit-tight community of customers and fans that will support them through thick and thin. This can be done by opening up to your target audience with niche-specific content that best speaks to them.
In today’s world, businesses have a wide range of platforms to use, but blogging is probably the one that is most accessible. Blogging done right allows you to differentiate your brand from the rest and helps establish your business as an authority figure on the market. It’s also a great way to establish a personal relationship with customers and people who follow and respect your efforts.
Furthermore, blogging is a versatile tool that can create community engagement when you connect it with your social media channels and email campaigns. Not to mention that you can invite customers over for a debate, in your blog’s comment section (which is useful for both marketing and SEO efforts).
It can be discouraging to open a business in a world that looks saturated. Things are even more intimidating when one of your competitors is a giant like Amazon (they own about 50% of the e-commerce space).
However, they do have a weakness that’s easily explored by smaller guys. They don’t have the kind of personal communication and branding smaller entrepreneurs can develop with their audiences. This way, big guys like Amazon may seem a bit cold and distant to the new generation of shoppers who want to connect with their favorite brands.
In addition, there are always new angles to try, emerging e-commerce models to explore and fresh stories to tell, so don’t let anyone intimidate you!
About the Author
Stewart Dunlop looks after content marketing at Udemy and has a passion for writing articles that users will want to read. In his free time, he likes to play football and read Stephen King..
Featured image by Canva