Even before the pandemic forced people to shop from their homes, many consumers already enjoyed the luxury of fast order fulfillment and shipping. But in 2020, buyers’ reliance on large retailers, like Amazon.com, increased significantly; from ordering groceries to buying furniture, shopping online seemed like the only viable option for people amidst social distancing and quarantining. And with their fast or free shipping, large retailers like Walmart and Amazon’s convenience and availability attracted customers to use them for all their shopping needs.
Over the past year, Amazon accounted for around 39% of online commerce spending in the US. And while it served as a lifeline for many consumers, its popularity creates a challenging environment for other retailers. So, as a smaller retailer, these big-name retail brands are undoubtedly one of your biggest competitors, but there are ways for you to combat them and other big retail brands. Continue reading, and you’ll learn in just four ways how you can keep up with large national chains.
1. Maximize Delivery Transparency and Free Shipping with Personalized Customer Service
Amazon, Walmart, and Target are goliaths with fast and efficient delivery and shipping networks, creating a competitive advantage unobtainable by smaller retailers. However, these giants do have some weaknesses that you can exploit. For instance, after making considerable investments in its delivery system, Amazon has no choice but to use its network exclusively. But, as an independent retailer, you have more options and can provide customers with various shipping and fulfillment services and prices.
In addition to flexibility with shipping, smaller or independent retailers can offer in-store and curbside pickup. You can also utilize space as a dark store for instant shipping fulfillment, making it more efficient for last-mile operations, or even partner with local delivery services for optimal speed.
Independent retailers can also stand out by prioritizing customer service and order transparency. In a survey of more than 1,000 consumers conducted by Convey, proactive communication about delays and delivery status was the least popular reason consumers used brands like Amazon, with fewer than one in five (19%) saying it’s a factor. . You can also stand out by providing customers with no hassle returns and reduced or free shipping.
Most importantly, you have the perfect opportunity to provide your customers a more personalized shopping experience. As of late, customers seek a more streamlined buying experience based on their preferences and previous purchases due to an increased demand for convenience and control. In fact, 31% of consumers want a more personalized shopping experience than they currently have. As an independent retailer, you have the chance to strengthen your customer loyalty base and understand them on a deeper level than the other national brands.
You can create a customizable experience by utilizing your POS system to gain valuable purchasing information so that you can cater to your customer’s unique needs. Also, you can implement a loyalty program that generates gift certificates and coupons based on your customer’s shopping profile. Overall, consumers appreciate when retailers prioritize maintaining a personalized approach to their shopping experience, rather than stores like Amazon who just merely offer a lower price.
2. Spotlight Authenticity and Leverage Your Brand
Despite its wide array of product selection, where you can find everything from flat-screen TVs to complete volumes of Shakespeare, Amazon does struggle with counterfeiters and fake reviews. Other more prominent brands also experience issues with online orders and product reliability upon delivery.
Because products are commodified under the shadow of Amazon’s brand, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish brands from each other. And although they now support written, photo, and video customer reviews, their platform still doesn’t exude the authority that a company with a specific niche would. So, in the end, it’s easier for counterfeiters and scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting customers.
You can exploit this weakness by emphasizing the availability of authentic and unique goods. Similarly, badges and other verification stressing the legitimacy of product reviews and user-generated content can help independent retailers stand apart from big retail brands. Your specific niche can also attract consumers when you offer them exclusive in-store experiences. Whether it’s highlighting local products or inviting them to a private event, there are ways to make your brand stand out from more prominent retailers.
3. Get Flexible with Fulfillment
Since large brands usually have a broad scope of fulfillment centers, those centers make it possible for them to achieve their highly regarded last-mile delivery to customers. Over time, independent retailers should build flexibility into their fulfillment systems to combat big brands’ scale with agility. Many independent retailers had to adapt and overcome obstacles created by the pandemic and reimagined their storefronts as delivery depots, dark stores, and pickup destinations—an evolution that’s set to continue well into the future.
As previously mentioned, by broadening the scope of carriers that you work with, they’ll likewise give you last-mile flexibility. Of course, these connections can take time to build and put into place, but the ultimate goal is to create more adaptability and convenience for your customers. A POS system with advanced inventory management, integrated eCommerce, data analytics, and customer loyalty solutions can help with this process.
4. Promote a Sustainability Strategy
Convey’s study also showed that, more than 60% of the people surveyed feel that Amazon’s environmental footprint is harmful. If you haven’t already, your retail company should devise organization-wide sustainability strategies and promote them heavily. Some ideas to consider include:
- Emphasizing responsible sourcing and labor practices
- Offering “green” delivery options
- Using low-impact packaging
Environmental safety is a growing concern for many people, and whether it’s big retail brands or independent retailers, consumers want to see businesses support important causes. So whatever you decide to incorporate into your sustainability strategy, your shoppers will greatly appreciate your dedication to helping the planet.
Although big brands like Amazon’s dominance has grown over the course of the pandemic, it’s not all doom-and-gloom for your independent retail business. Sure, convenience is an attractive feature of big retail brands, but consumers still prioritize unique, quality products that only your store can provide.
At Auto-Star, we’re committed to helping your business stay ahead of the competition, no matter how big or small. Learn more about our POS solutions and services, and get started with us today!