By Paul Black, CEO, sales-i
Amazon has changed the global commerce landscape for good. The company as good as ‘owns’ the e-commerce space and its growing success is impressive – if not overwhelming. While not all companies are actively trying to compete with Amazon – in fact, many choose to work with it and use the platform as a supplementary sales channel – there are many that still want to sell directly to their customers. But try as they might, these other product-based companies are struggling to keep up. This goes for all businesses and industries, including those operating in the global fastening sector.
It’s highly unlikely that you can beat Amazon at its own game, so why try? Rather than spending your resources on playing catch-up, look for ways to make your products and services more attractive and enticing. Examine your current business model and decide how you might need to adapt it. Of course, it’s worth paying attention to – and borrowing from – Amazon’s efficiencies and logistical improvements. Use what you can, put some good foundations in place, and then focus on how to be different, emphasising your areas of strength.
You won’t find success trying to duplicate Amazon’s scale of service, but you can still impact the marketplace and win new business in an increasingly competitive environment. Here are five ways to effectively differentiate your business from Amazon and drive sales.
1. Improve your distribution
Having a reliable distribution network is key to realising consistent sales. No matter how fast your current delivery times are, with a good review of your current processes and partners, you’ll certainly find ways to boost efficiency and cut costs.
For local stores, introduce a same day delivery service within a certain mile radius. You could also set up a system that enables customers to buy online and pick up instore. A two day delivery service is not exactly a benefit for a customer living down the road. But you can make shopping a more pleasant and convenient experience if all they have to do is drive down and collect their order.
Bear in mind that when orders include heavy or specialised equipment, for example, distributors are much better positioned than Amazon to ensure speedy and efficient delivery. Play this to your advantage and emphasise your niche expertise in this area.
2. Introduce repeat order programmes
Rewarding customers is an easy way to build loyalty and encourage repeat business. If your customers’ purchases are predictable and regular, you could give them their tenth purchase for free or create a referral programme that rewards the customers who bring you more customers.
A repeat order programme is another great idea that works for many businesses. It automatically refills and ships a customer’s regular order for say, certain types of fixings and equipment. The key for distributors is to make sure they keep on top of their customer purchasing data, so they can spot which accounts are going to be most suitable to offer repeat order programmes. This also gives you valuable information about your customers that you can put to good, relevant use. This might include sending those customers helpful content about new developments in the fastener industry, along with information about your product line.
A loyalty programme is a win-win. Your customers feel acknowledged, and rewarded, and your business gains deeper insights about them that helps you understand their priorities. With more knowledge under your belt, you can create impactful communications that drive results.
3. Turn salespeople into consultants
The aggressive sales approach is no longer the way to win over customers. Nowadays, customers prefer a more personal touch that guides them naturally towards a purchasing decision. They don’t want to feel like just another number on your sales ledger. They want to feel special – like they have your undivided attention. A consultative approach pays closer attention to the actual customers’ needs and can tailor an attractive solution that seals the deal.
What’s more, today’s customers are pretty well informed about the products they’re looking for. They’ve done their online research and had a good look at their options before even engaging with you. Your salespeople need to be very informed – not just about the products they’re selling, but about your competitors’ products too.
Let’s consider Amazon again for a second: Its product range is way too vast to provide expert advice on each and every item it sells. Being a niche business with a select product range does have its advantages, so use them! Train your salespeople to become consultants. Make sure they have the knowledge and expertise to really provide customers with valuable guidance and advice. This way, your business will stand out from the rest and become a trusted advisor – and supplier.
4. Don’t fixate on price
In addition to its vast product range, Amazon’s market domination enables it to offer incredible deals and low prices. This makes it very difficult for your business to compete on price – yet so many companies use discounting as an attempt to attract customers. This tactic may result in some quick wins but if you overdo it, you’ll only cheapen your brand’s reputation in the long run.
The good news is that while consumers are price conscious, they do consider a variety of other factors too. These include quality, convenience, availability and service. Focus on building real relationships with your customers. You don’t just want one-off bargain hunters, you want to get to know who your customers are, what keeps them up at night, and how you can help them.
5. Test, review and refine
Every now and then, an educated guess will stand you in good stead. However, to really engage with your customers, you need to know what resonates with them. Again, put your smaller than Amazon size to your advantage and test your communication channels for optimum engagement.
You can, for example, easily set-up simple A/B tests to determine consumer preference for call-to-action content. Another good idea is to test your online ads driving traffic to your website – does a more word-heavy message or a visual one work best? Review these test results carefully and refine your marketing efforts accordingly.
Amazon wants to be all things to all people. It’s size and reach are impressive – but its vastness does limit its ability to take a more targeted approach to its customer engagement. To stay competitive, you need to offer your customers a truly different buying experience that focuses on their specific needs. Fill the gap that Amazon can’t; build a personal relationship with your customers so that no matter how low Amazon drops its prices, it can’t compete with you.
About the author
Founded in 2008, sales-i is sales performance software designed to make every sales call more personal and profitable. sales-i allows sales professionals to clearly identify and target high-quality sales opportunities within their current customer base.
Equipped with customer buying behaviour alerts, salespeople can make insightful, personalised, quick business decisions – realising repeat sales, reduced customer attrition and maximised profit margins as a result. sales-i is currently used by thousands of businesses worldwide to maximise the intelligence of their sales teams and is accessible on any device with an Internet connection.
Having joined the magazine in 2012, Claire developed her knowledge of the industry through the numerous company visits, exhibitions and conferences she attended both in the UK and abroad.
Claire prides herself on keeping readers well informed and up to date with the latest industry news.