How scrappy, online retailers can thrive and grow in the Amazon era
Photo by iStock.com
By Scott Gifis, president, AdRoll
There's an ongoing debate around Amazon's impact on our industry and economy as a whole. With Amazon recently topping $1 billion in profit for the second quarter in a row, it's clear the e-commerce giant will continue to reign supreme as we look to the year ahead.
While there is a lot for SMB e-retailers, or online retailers just starting out, to be conscious of — there's one thing that I haven't seen talked about enough. Overreliance.
Online retailers naturally turn to single channels like Amazon, Facebook, or Google to get started, however, it's crucial to understand how to optimize across them holistically. These platforms are great places for small businesses to build a foundation for themselves, and an easy place to go from 0 to 50 sales quickly. But, by over relying on one or more of these channels, you're missing critical opportunities to stand out from the crowd, and create a brand that is optimized to attract customers for life, versus shorter term metrics like CPA.
For brands getting started in the era of Amazon, here are a few recommendations and tips to grow and optimize your brand, connect with your customers and increase sales.
Establish your brand
It's not surprising 230 million Americans will make an online purchase in 2018. In order to ensure these potential shoppers make purchases that help you reach your sales goals, you have to establish a recognizable and trustworthy brand. In order to establish your brand, it is critical to have your own online shop or website to direct current and prospective customers to. Brands that only rely on Amazon or other distribution channels to sell products have a much harder time establishing themselves as a standalone or differentiated brand, and end up splitting valuable growth, profit, and data with the individual channels.
By taking the time to develop your own website and social pages, you are not only protecting your own personal assets but also turning your business into its own distinct, legitimate entity. Even further, investing in building a brand, not just marketing but the experience overall, creates repeat customers, referrals, and the residual impact on your business compounds into an outsized return on investment.
Differentiate your distribution channels
There's so much more than just establishing your brand and creating an online presence. From there you have to maximize sales while building your business and brand effectively for long-term growth. In fact, studies show that on average, multi-channel marketing and selling increases revenue by 38 percent, 120 percent, and 190 percent with each additional channel.
In order to do so, online marketers need to ensure differentiation through effective distribution channels and have ownership of their story and voice across all channels in a way that feels connected and seamless to the consumer.
Think about the show "Shark Tank." Right from the start, each of the sharks ask every contestant: "What stores are you selling in?" They want to make sure the product is seen in different stores, and can appeal to diverse groups of people. You wouldn't want to be selling in only one store, like Target or Macy's, in the same way you don't want to be selling or marketing on only one channel or platform.
Diversify your offerings
One of the best ways for a small online business to thrive and grow throughout the entire year is to diversify what it has to offer. A shoe brand may seasonally offer collegiate theme shoe wear during graduation and back-to-school seasons. Or a cosmetic brand may include a free product with a purchase of $50 or more. Adding those extra offerings helps to even out cash flow and increase your small business's word of mouth to potential customers as a company that puts their customers first and meets a wide range of needs.
Forge ahead with a strong, inclusive digital strategy
From paid advertising, affiliate partnerships, and mobile marketing, to content distribution, small businesses are also seeking visibility online with digital strategies that tap into their audience from all angles or touch points. Businesses conduct pay-per-click advertising, optimize their sites for mobile, and schedule and create content that resonates with their audiences, including video and graphics for social media. To really understand the best strategy to put in place, you need to have a clear understanding of your customers, which can be found through first-party data. Combining that with today's adtech solutions and partners who know how to use it, you can make all of these campaign decisions in a more informed way.
Don't let the era of Amazon deter you from following your dreams and creating a great brand. Just remember there are crucial steps to establish a brand of your own by not relying too heavily on one marketing or distribution channel, diversifying your offerings, and always having a strong, inclusive digital strategy in place.