Amazon and Local Retailers – How To Stay Alive

9 Online Marketing Strategies for Retailers

AmazonLet me share a recent conversation with a local retailer of Children’s Toys and Books.  He sells his products online and in a brick and mortar store.

This business owner started by expressing his frustration and asking an SEO question.  He wanted to know what he could do to capture one of the top three spots – the sweet spot in organic search – and outrank Amazon in Google.

Other than spending a lot of money, how does one get above Amazon in organic search?

As our conversation continued, our small business owner also complained that many customers are no longer loyal.  According to him, customers immediately go to Amazon and never bother to shop other retailers’ websites regardless of how well one does SEO.

He goes on to say:

We can’t stay in business being a show room for Amazon anymore than Wal-Mart, Target or other big companies can. And we can’t compete with companies that are using our products as loss leaders or simply selling below cost to drive others out of business.

Our guy is expressing what a lot of retailers are experiencing and he is right about many things.  And he seems to get the fact that the little guy isn’t going to be able to go head-to-head with the likes of Amazon and win.

What one also begins to understand, is that our small business owner isn’t really wanting some SEO magic.  He’s really asking how can he keep his business alive.

What is a small business owner to do?

Here are nine marketing strategies our small business owner and other retailers in a similar situation can use to address these issues.

1. Capitalize on one’s own strengths – Drop the notion that Amazon is trying to erase local retailers. Both Amazon and small business owners share the same goal, which is to achieve more sales.  Amazon is using their strengths to their advantage and capitalizing on consumer trends.  Small business owners need to do the same. This is the essence of smart marketing.

What strengths do retailers have? Here are a couple:

  • personalized service(s) – no shipping, no wait, friendly smile, home delivery, knows your name, etc.
  • a physical space for on-site promotions and on-going programs that strength loyalty and community presence
  • community promotion through the support of local initiatives (e.g. high school sports, charieties, etc.)
  • partnering with other retailers targeting a similar audience for periodic joint promotions

Amazon can’t take these steps.  Use these and other unique advantages to create both local as well as online sales.

2.  Don’t confuse Amazon’s website goal with your website goal – Amazon’s site is designed to make sales.  Period.  Local area retailers’ websites have multiple purposes: introduce visitors to  the owner and to the business, get them to connect and engage on their platform of choice, get them to consider the store as a viable option, bring them into the  store, and perhaps to make some product sales.  A different online marketing game plan is needed.

3.  Expand and upgrade online presence - Forget about outranking Amazon on Google.   Rather think about creating strong online communities through the website and through various social media platforms.  Think about making these sites the very best experiences possible and always keep in mind both local as well as online visitors.

4.  Extend the “personalized” approach online – Use online contests, hang-outs or webinars as a way extending the personal touch factor and to build more loyalty among local customers as well as online customers.

5.  Create ongoing communications – Every effort should be made to capture email information from every visitor online or off for consistent ongoing communications.  Every purchaser should receive a thank you card.  Every loyal customer should get some recognition for demonstrating their loyalty.

6.  Seek ways to educate – Think of topics customers might want to learn more about (e.g. top ten toy this month, toys that facilitate learning, etc.).  Use an e-newsletter, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc. to expand the customers’ knowledge about specific products or services so they will want to come and visit.

7.  Ignore the price shoppers – One will never be able to compete for the price shopper – not and still be able to make money.  So don’t bother.  Let them go to Amazon. Rather, focus attention on the niche audiences that appreciate the extra personal touches and that can afford to pay for what you are offering.  Let other retailers lose their shirts with this group of consumers.

8.  Offer unique or extraordinary experience – The Internet has made the unusual ordinary.  This means retailers have to up their game by offering unusual merchandise not typically found online or by creating a truly unique in-store experience or, ideally, both.

9.  Take a page from Amazon’s playbook – Use lost leaders to pull customers into the store and onto the website.

What additional marketing strategies might you suggest to our local area retailer?  Use the comments section below to share your thoughts and ideas.

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Sheila Hibbard

Sheila simplifies marketing and social media for small business owners. She offers straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results. She has four decades of experience in all phases of marketing including communications, research, strategy and social media. Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn |Twitter

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