The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.
Standing out in an increasingly crowded marketplace is becoming harder and harder for brands. But what happens when the place where your consumer is actually shopping and buying your brand turns into a direct competitor, eating up your market share? That’s exactly what’s happening with the world’s largest online retailer.
There are many reasons why companies should sell their products on Amazon. There’s potential for huge traffic; brands get access to Prime members (big spenders!); specific products are more likely to pop up on Amazon during online searches; and shopping on the go is streamlined with Amazon’s mobile site and app. Add this to the fact that Amazon handles product fulfillment, and it’s almost impossible NOT to sell on it.
But what about the downside? Amazon is tracking all the data surrounding your product. Seeing a popular product, Amazon makes its own branded version and promotes it over yours, becoming a direct competitor.
In the clothing segment, for example, the shopper will see competitive products as “Amazon Essentials” which are promoted over the brands that they replaced. The original products’ retailer is now THE generic brand — and, to top it off, consumers trust this approach.
Amazon has the advantage of access to key data points surrounding trending items that people are buying. This gives a leg up over smaller companies and brands — and next to Amazon, nearly everyone else is small.
Amazon’s new business cloud service allows access to even more data than before, beyond simple consumer behavior, giving further influence and power over the marketplace.
So what can brands do to shoulder this heavy competition?
Know your customer intimately. You must understand your target audiences and exactly how they are shopping on Amazon. Dig into how they are filtering their searches and how you popped up in those searches.
Uncovering how they found you and what exactly they are seeking can help you hone your messaging and communications. After all, Amazon already knows all this, so you need to catch up.
Play the belief-based shopping card. Amazon entering your category is a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Customers love the convenience Amazon offers and tend to trust it as a well-known brand.
But it’s also true that people are shopping based on beliefs and convictions, paying attention to a brand’s values and how those values resonate with their own sense of self. Couple this with a widespread distrust of large corporations, and you have an opportunity. Remind your customers why they should buy from you instead. Being the underdog has power.
Tell your brand story — loudly. As consumers are demanding more and more transparency into the products they buy, they also want to form personal connections. Your brand has a story to tell that is different from Amazon’s. Give your customers a peek into what makes you unique, and wrap up your communications in a story that will provoke an emotional response.
Amazon’s not going anywhere. It’s growing rapidly and tapping into new revenue streams all the time. Remaining competitive in a world where this shopping giant is actually taking over brands will take a deft mix of approaches.