How eCommerce businesses can grapple ground back from the tech giants

When it comes to online retail, consumers love the convenience, speed, prices, and accessibility e-commerce delivers, and entrepreneurs love that they can now convert limited passion projects into full-time careers and viable businesses. The increasing demand to buy everything online has made it easy for retailers to find an initial audience. Software like Shopify makes it simple for non-technical people to create an eCommerce store, and targeted ads from Google and Facebook make it easy to expand your audience.

But beyond finding an audience, how can a small business compete with what retail tech giants like Amazon are able to offer? A good jumping off point is building a level of trust with your customers that a large, “faceless” business is unable to match. In a recent survey of 1000 Australian consumers, HubSpot Research found that only five per cent of people trust mass online retailers like Amazon as a source of information when discovering new products and services.

Competition is obviously a huge challenge for eCommerce businesses, but it can be done. And it starts by optimising for trust.

1. Meet your buyers’ expectations

You may not be able to compete with the giants on price, but you do need to rise to meet their level of service. Responsive support, fast shipping, and generous returns policies is what we’ve come to expect as consumers. If you’re not already investing in building a great customer experience that prioritises reliability, now is the time.

Using tools like Facebook Messenger and live website chat is an efficient way to scale and automate your customer support, in addition to email. Ensure you’re aware of customer issues and are encouraging customers who are your biggest fans to leave positive reviews. In other words, those reviews are far more powerful than your marketing campaigns.

2. Modernise and personalise your marketing

With the rising popularity of eCommerce, you’re not the only player around – regardless of what niche your business occupies. You’re probably already facing competition. One-size-fits-all marketing emails and ads aren’t going to resonate with the modern buyer.

Look for signals you can use to make your marketing efforts more targeted. For instance, if you know a customer came to your site, put a product in their cart but left before buying, you have a very strong signal that person is interested in that product. Target them with emails and ads that remind them why your offering is the best. It’s a simple yet effective signal that’s often overlooked by smaller e-commerce businesses.

3. Build a brand that Amazon can’t touch

The online retail giants do a lot right, but the one thing they can’t do is be the single best player in any one given space. They offer everything, which limits them from truly going deep in any one area. This gives SMEs an opportunity to build a brand and be the experts in their niche in a way that differentiates them from the giants.

That’s where content comes in. It’s what enables your business to become a brand that people love. In its many forms – whether that’s video, written, visual, and so on – the stories you tell and the content you create is what communicates your company’s expertise, your values and your personality over time.

Today we’re living in a world defined by giants. But the technology now available to small business puts them on equal footing with industry giants. So have no fear. There is still plenty of room for small, savvy businesses to grow.

James Gilbert, Director, Hubspot Australia

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