Is there a giant looming over you? Do you feel like you’re a small fish in a big pond? The ecommerce landscape changes rapidly, and thanks to mergers and acquisitions, the big guys just keep getting bigger. But just because they're bigger, doesn't mean they're better.
Technology is making it easier for businesses of any size to compete with titans in their industry because today’s shoppers are increasingly putting more of an emphasis on their experience. In fact, 81% of consumers are willing to pay a higher price for a better experience. So how can you provide it better than a giant? You have to use their disadvantages to your advantage.
No business is perfect. Even your biggest competitors have their weaknesses. Knowing how the major players in your industry work will not only help you improve your own processes, but also help identify and exploit their vulnerabilities.
With size comes benefits. Often large companies are awarded certain economies of scale that smaller companies simply cannot compete with. Whether it’s the price of their products or the resources at their disposal, there are aspects that you simply won’t be able to compete with. To beat the big guys, you need to understand how they are getting personal with their customers.
This can range from researching a variety of things – how they email you, what products appear when you view their website, the purchasing process, how they craft their messaging, what customers are saying about them, etc. Determine their process for making personal connections with shoppers, and try to identify areas or touch points that they may not be doing well.
Online shopping isn’t limited to the moments between adding a product to a cart and completing the payment. The full experience is made up of many small micro-experiences that accumulate over the entire customer journey, starting from the awareness stage and continuing long after the actual purchase.
Think of an ecommerce shopping experience as driving a car. Green lights as positive micro-experiences and red lights as negative ones. No matter how many greens you fly through, too many reds in critical areas can leave even the most patient shoppers with a little road rage. To conquer this, you have to give your customers nothing but green lights in the following areas:
If a shopper can’t find what they’re looking for, they aren’t going to stick around. This is where being smaller can be advantageous. Sometimes bigger companies can suffer from bloat, leaving customers lost in endlessly expanding menus with hundreds of product offerings. Focusing on a simple, user-friendly navigation will keep shoppers engaged on your website.
Shockingly, one place that’s often overlooked is the mobile homepage. In an effort to make things more streamlined, companies will sometimes go too far and make it difficult for shoppers to understand what the company even offers. One Baynard study found that 42% of mobile home pages don’t clearly explain what type of site the shopper has landed on. The study also found that 70% of users immediately scroll the length of the homepage in order to quickly scan the products. By providing clear and specific product categories on the homepage you can help your customers drill down to find exactly what they were looking for.
Be sure to review your competitors navigation formats to see how they fare. Select a couple of products and measure how fast you can add them to your cart, then comparing it with the cart process on your ecommerce website. Take note of their page hierarchy and try to emulate what works, shaving off any unnecessary clutter.
Once your customer has loaded their cart, you want to whisk them through the checkout process as fast and seamlessly as possible. This is one element where the odds tip in favor of the ecommerce giants, as they have the manpower to allocate countless resources to perfecting the checkout. Having said that, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t give your customers a similar - or better - experience.
One thing you can do to level the playing field is outsource your payment processing so you can focus on all the other critical steps of the checkout rather than manually dealing with payments. Focusing efforts on payment strategies such as providing a variety of payment options and optimizing acceptance rates can be a daunting task, but it’s one that can easily be handled via outsourcing.
The ideal checkout is one your customer doesn't even notice. People love shopping but hate paying. Remove as many fields as you can, such as giving shoppers the option to use the same address for billing and shipping. If you’re trying to build repeat customers, allow shoppers to save their information so future purchases can be made with as few clicks as possible. Or better yet, consider adding a subscription component so your customers can checkout once and benefit from your products for months to come.
One of the most important elements when it comes to competing against the giants is customer service, with three out of five customers abandoning their purchase due to poor support. Just because you don’t have a large customer support team doesn’t mean you can’t remain competitive in that regard.
More than 80% of online shoppers need help completing a purchase in one way or another, so give them an easy way to connect whether through social media or directly on-site with live chat. Facebook Messenger now has an estimated 1.2B monthly users, so rather than managing two separate channels, simply combine your social support and your website live chat into one channel by offering Messenger directly on your website.
Another way you can ease your customers’ concerns is by giving them assurance before they begin the purchasing process. Listing your refund or return policy, providing customer reviews, and featuring high-quality product pictures and videos will help quell the anxiety online shoppers have. The more accessible this information is, the fewer inbound questions you’ll have to address.
What’s the greatest advantage you have over the giants in your industry? You! People want to feel a personal connection from businesses, and it’s the reason why tools like email and social media are so important. While retail giants have their advantages, shoppers like to feel that their money is going towards someone they want to support.
The Harvard Business Review found that fully connected customers are 52% more valuable than customers that are just highly satisfied. Adding a personal touch to your website copy, company information pages, email blasts, and social media posts will help you build a deeper emotional connection with your customers. So give them the information they need to build that connection with you. Don’t be afraid to show off what makes your business truly unique.
While it’s easy to get into the mindset that going up against the major ecommerce players is an un-winnable battle, the truth is that there really are a lot of advantages working in your favor. By following the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to increasing your market penetration and capitalizing on additional revenue.