October 19, 2019

6 Strategies for Small Businesses Competing with Amazon

E-commerce is both one of the easiest ways to make money online and one of the hardest types of businesses to make sustainable. Though anyone can start selling online in seconds, it takes a lot of work to be able to consistently compete with giants like Amazon. That said, building a successful and competitive e-commerce business is possible—you just need the right strategies.

Web Design

An engaging and attractive website is crucial if you want to compete with the big names. Almost half of consumers see website design as the main indicator of brand credibility. Beyond this, you also need to make sure the website is fast, easy to use, and optimized for mobile devices.

If you really want your website to look great and run perfectly, hiring a web designer is your best bet. Upwork explains that a competent web designer should be knowledgeable about coding basics like HTML and Javascript, be familiar with various CMS platforms, and understand both UI and UX principles, as well as possess the ability to communicate with you about the elements you wish to incorporate into the site.

It is worth noting that personalized web design, while well worth it, can be expensive. If you’re just starting out, you may want to use a DIY web builder that is optimized for e-commerce.


The dropshipping model is becoming increasingly popular with small e-commerce businesses. It allows you to save on overhead costs and sell online without keeping any physical inventory, shipping the product directly from the manufacturer to the customer. You can pretty much sell anything through dropshipping, although certain products like clothes and gadgets work particularly well.

Deals & Promotions

There’s nothing like a good deal to hook customers in. There are many different kinds of promotions you can use, from a percentage discount for the first purchase to a free gift with a certain new product. Free shipping is perhaps the best choice if you have the margin for it, as this often ranks among the most important criteria for customers.

Brand Building

Amazon is the biggest name in e-commerce, but there is one thing it doesn’t have: a personality. Buying from Amazon feels detached and impersonal. As a small business, you can capitalize on this advantage by building a relatable, likable, and personal brand.

One way to do this is brand storytelling, a strategy for creating a sense of connection and shared values with your customer. The key elements of this are developing a unique brand narrative, knowing your target audience, using data and campaigns to strengthen your message, and keeping your tone personal.

Convenient Returns

Major online retailers make it very easy for customers to return items. You don’t have to have Amazon’s no-questions-asked approach, but you do need a reasonable returns policy. It can help to see what other businesses are doing. What are their specific terms? Do they offer refunds or replacements? How much time do customers have to return an item? Specifically, check out returns policies of small competitors in your industry to know what you’re up against.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

Finally, there is always the option of using Amazon itself. Many small business owners avoid this, wanting to maintain a distinct brand and to avoid fees. However, there are definite benefits to becoming an Amazon seller: Customers can easily find you, sales will most likely rise, and there is the opportunity to sell to international markets.

Becoming a seller on Amazon is straightforward, but there are a few steps to take if you want to maintain a strong sense of your own brand. Apply for Brand Registry—which gives you more brand-specific features on your product pages—take the time to set up a branded storefront, and register for Brand Analytics.

The simplest way to compete with big e-commerce companies is to combine a good service with a strong, solid brand. The latter takes time to build and develop, so put in the work and be patient. Remember that for every megacorporation you are competing with, there are hundreds of smaller businesses failing to take these steps. Start by getting ahead of them and build your way up.

Author: Marissa Perez

This article was written by:
Alex Terry
CEO of Lemonade Stand Studio.