For small businesses, the internet has become an incredible tool. You can build customer bases and sell to nearly anyone in the world with the click of a button, without worrying about the hassle of traditional globalization techniques.
Of course, being an online seller also means competing with giants like Amazon, which sell similar items for a fraction of the cost and often with faster shipping. Selling your items on the Amazon marketplace often means allowing the site to take a large cut of your profits, too. It’s something that’s not often sustainable for small businesses.
Here are some ideas of how you can get customers to buy directly from you instead of going to Amazon:
1. Have a Sale
One of the best ways to get a customer’s attention is to have a sale. Everyone loves a good deal, after all. Having perpetual sales isn’t a sustainable business model, but having them on either a regular basis or based around special holidays/events— and making a point to inform your customers about it — can help encourage them to make a purchase on your site instead of going to Amazon.
You may have something a customer is interested in, but it’s a little out of their price range. So they’ll follow you on social media and wait for a sale. That’s your opportunity to convert them from an Amazon shopper.
2. Offer Free Samples
The pandemic has killed free samples in places like Costco, but everyone loves getting stuff for free. Not all types of online sales are conducive to free samples. But if you have the ability to do so, free samples can be a great way to let people try your product before they decide to buy.
This is particularly useful for online stores selling things like soaps, candles, or perfume. “Try before you buy” has become a popular tool for online sellers, and you may find that it brings in a lot of conversions simply because free samples aren’t a thing on Amazon.
3. Utilize Blogs and Mailing Lists
Blogging is as much an art as a science. But for online sellers, maintaining things like blogs and a mailing list is an invaluable tool. These give you what you need to communicate with your audience without expecting them to come to your website every day looking for information.
Having a sale? Post a blog article! Launching a new product or product line? Send out an email! Having this open line of communication can help you bring customers to your site because it gives you the ability to stay in touch with anyone who might be interested in your products.
4. Invest in Advertising
As consumers, we might point at and make fun of Amazon’s targeted advertising. But it’s undeniably effective. Amazon uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to target people based on their internet searches. This sort of AI application is growing in retail and could potentially save businesses upwards of $340 billion every year.
Small business owners may not have the funds to compete with that sort of algorithm, but word of mouth will only carry you so far on the internet, especially when you’re competing with giants like Amazon. You don’t need to break the bank, but investing in advertising can help make all the difference.
5. Engage Your Audience
It’s impossible for a business, regardless of its size, to grow and thrive in today’s marketplace without a social media presence. Amazon was responsible for more than 60% of the 2018 spike in online sales and the company accounted for more than 50% of the U.S.’s total digital sales in the past year alone.
As a small business, use this to your advantage. Engage with your customers on various social media platforms and encourage them to use your site — even if you list items on Amazon too. Send them to your website first. If they decide to switch to Amazon from there, there isn’t much you can do to stop them. But you can give them the opportunity to work with you first.
6. Offer First-Purchase Incentives
Have you ever opened a website, only to be confronted by a wheel of fortune that you can spin for discounts or even free stuff, in exchange for entering your email address or signing up for a mailing list?
These first-purchase incentives are a great way to entice people to buy with you, because it’s not something that you find on sites like Amazon.
7. Create a Referral Program
Referral programs are a fantastic way to encourage people to shop with you and reward them for suggesting your site to their friends as well.
In recent years, referrals have been called the most valuable form of marketing. They can cost almost nothing if you do them right, but they bring all sorts of leads that may translate to sales.
8. Use Amazon to Your Advantage
While selling on your own site is preferred, selling some or all of your items on Amazon isn’t the end of the world. You can use these sales to your advantage.
While you’re not allowed to directly send customers to your website for the purpose of making a purchase, you can send them to your site for things like instructional videos or more information about the product they’ve purchased.
Some companies only sell a limited part of their inventory on Amazon, relying on those instructional videos to send customers to the right place to find the rest of what they might be looking for.
As it stands, Amazon is the first stop for most internet users when it comes to online shopping. Rerouting them to your website can be tricky. The best place to start is by getting to them first by letting them know you are there and that you provide better quality service. And if you find yourself coming in second, consider using Amazon to your advantage to bring new customers around.
It’s a delicate balance, but there are plenty of things you can try to bring shoppers back to your site and out of the clutches of the Amazon giant.
Devin Partida is a technology writer and blogger. She is the Editor-in-Chief at ReHack magazine, where she covers consumer electronics, apps and tech trends.