How to Beat Amazon; the Local Retailer’s Strategy

The Question of the Decade: How to Beat Amazon?

Amazon; just the mention of the word can make a retailer cringe. They’ve felt the pressure of Amazon’s growth first-hand, consistently trying to out-beat a giant who offers endless deals, perks, and convenience. But contrary to popular belief, Amazon’s rise doesn’t signal a fall for the mom-and-pops of the world.

When the “big-box stores” came into existence a couple decades back, small retailers certainly suffered—many main streets of America are a testament to that. But today, the tides are shifting again. Despite all the headlines of a 2017 “retailpocalypse” studies show people still want to shop in stores. This is especially true of millennials, with over half saying they prefer to shop in physical locations. The key is to provide the shopper with the convenience to buy how, when, and where they want—either on foot or on web.

So you’re wondering how to beat Amazon? It’s not possible on every front, but you can win over your local market.   We all know that it’s no secret the rise of e-commerce is causing a contraction of many brick-and-mortar retailers (big and small) but there are ways for local retailers to get more competitive, breath new life into their storefronts, and get the customers they want most.


Think engaging experiences

What’s the one thing you can offer customers that the Amazons of the world cannot? A really amazing, unique in-store experience. Strive to offer your customers something different. Customers do not live for product alone, they head out to stores to enjoy the experience of shopping.

Consider British Brand TopShop- -they strive to excel past basic apparel. Their stores include free personal shoppers, hair and beauty services, and trendy drinks/snacks. Feel like you can’t compete with the experiences created by these larger brands? Small brands can still focus on awesome in-store experiences. Consider “Peach Tree Boutique” in Bellefontaine, OH. They’ve created a children’s room filled with books, toys, a 32-foot neon light rainbow, and yellow brick road. Some people will travel over an hour for this unique shopping experience.

Ready to brainstorm ideas? What about creating an event, or hosting classes related to your business? Or maybe it’s something even simpler, like offering awesome free samples or giveaways for shoppers. A small shop can create just as great of an experience as a larger retailer; it’s all about knowing your customers and what will draw them in.

Personalize everything

It turns out, impersonal shopping experiences leave a lot of money on the table. In fact, the State of Retail 2017 survey results suggest that U.S. retail stores missed out on about $150 billion in potential revenue in 2016 by failing to offer shoppers the personalized shopping experiences they want. When it comes to data on millennials, Nearly 70 percent said they would pay more for products or services if they had a highly personalized in-store experience. In fact, 24 percent of these respondents would pay up to 20 percent more.

State of Retail 2017 survey results

A “personalized” shopping experience can apply to both in-store and online. In store, you want attentive staff members who cater to customers. This includes learning about the customers and getting them what they need. Online, a personalized experience could be a website that recommends products based on your shopping history, or tells you how close a product is in store based on your location.

From a marketing perspective, a personalized experience means you send specific offers to specific shoppers based on what you know about them. A repeat customer who bought five pairs of hiking boots from your store may be more interested in a boot promotion than a coupon for high heels. Or maybe that same customer needs some hiking gear to go with those boots, so you send them offers for hiker backpacks. Regardless, today’s customer has an expectation to be treated as a unique entity, not just another line on a spreadsheet.


Go beyond just the commodities

What is it that a shopper can only get from you? This could include one-of-a-kind items, custom items, or rare/unique items they have a hard time finding elsewhere.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a selection of mass-produced items. It just means that Local retailers should also be stocking more locally produced items or uniquely distributed ones, so they aren’t always competing on price directly.

win your local market
Red locator symbol with We’re Local message, on a map with tacks

Make it about local

It’s human nature—we want to support the “underdog.” And according to reports, customers are most attracted to a local businesses’ caliber. Survey respondents cited quality, service, and trustworthiness as the main reasons they shop local over major retailers (even if the price is better!). Make it clear that you are a local company supporting and caring about your local community, and that your store offers the one-on-one attention customers expect. Also optimize for local SEO– you want to ensure that anyone in your area looking for your products finds you first. You can learn more about getting started with SEO here.

And while surveys do in fact say that most consumers would prefer to shop from local/small businesses over the bigger guys, there is a caveat… They still want those local businesses to be digitally savvy, and they still want some of those big-box perks.


Emphasize speed and convenience

Even with almighty prime shipping, customers have to wait a day or two for their orders. Maybe eventually it’ll be a matter of hours, but we aren’t quite there yet. As a local retailer, this is where you have an advantage. Highlight the fact that if a shopper wants something right now, they can stroll into your store and pick it up. No need to wait or pay for shipping.

What’s a great way to do this? By marketing to your local customers. Be visible, emphasize your location, and make sure everyone in  your vicinity knows who you are, what you do, and where you are. If you really want to drive that in-store traffic, promote special in-store promotions to local customers on your website. They can research products online, then swing by to get a great deal on what they would alternatively have to wait days to get. That’s instant gratification, and 2018 shoppers are all about that.

website for rug, home furnishings
E-commerce site for Giant Rug built by RM Innovation

Get online

Last, but certainly not least, accept that you do need to have an e-commerce presence. If you really want to know how to beat Amazon, you’ll have to play their game in at least some regard. This is not always an easy pill to swallow for long-term retailers who run brick-and-mortar stores, because it can be a big change. However, the reality is, people are shopping online. If they aren’t shopping online, they’re researching online. Refusing to invest in a digital storefront means you’re missing out on a lot of potential customers.

Luckily, there are great e-commerce options to get up and running online fast and easy; It’s no longer a hassle to take your retail into the 21st century.  Just ensure you choose a platform that syncs inventory and data across all of your retail channels so you can work in one unified space.

AND REMEMEBER: If you want to know how to beat Amazon, play to your strengths as a local business. The best way to compete with the Amazons of the world is to find their Achilles heel; look at the details they neglect and give your local customers a truly personalized experience.



Comments (1)

[…] While Wayfair has been extremely aggressive in their marketing and advertising (particularly with Google search), Amazon has been more calculated in their moves into the category. What does all this mean for local retailers? It means be wary that Amazon is in the game, and Wayfair may not be the biggest threat after all. And if you’re looking for tips and tricks to beat the big retail giants, check out our post here on How Local Retailers Beat Amazon. […]

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