How Small Businesses can compete with Amazon this holiday season


Here is a useful article written by David Kalt, the founder and CEO of Reverb, the leading online marketplace dedicated to buying and selling music gear. David is a content contributor to Forbes, and covers how small businesses survive in today’s retail landscape.

If you’re a retailer, you likely view Amazon in one of two ways: As a threat or an inspiration. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it. Last year, the company generated $177.9 billion in revenue, up roughly 30% from the previous year. And now that the company has a brick-and-mortar platform by way of Whole Foods, its primed for continued success.

Beyond the direct competition from Amazon, small businesses are feeling the effects of the new generation of customer the company has created. Both the Millenials who have grown up with the eCommerce giant and the older generations who have become accustomed to it now expect the “Amazon experience” regardless of where they’re shopping. They want options. They want free shipping. They want their items to arrive shortly after they click “Place Your Order.” How can small businesses keep up?

First, don’t panic. There’s a time and place for Amazon, and I’m a firm believer that consumers will always want to support local and small businesses when they can. Next, consider these three tips that can be implemented almost immediately to set yourself up for success over the holiday shopping season.

Prioritize transparency and details. recent study released by the eCommerce Foundation found that nearly 90% of consumers do preliminary research online before making a purchase online or in-store. Consider how you can help your customer during this step of the buying process. If you’re listing inventory on your website or on an online marketplace, think about all the questions a potential buyer might have and make the answers easily accessible. If you’re selling used or vintage items, be upfront about impurities as well as about any stories that could give your item more personality.

You should also be overly vocal about any causes you support, whether through a commitment to sustainable ingredients, a portion of your proceeds benefiting charity, or something else. Today’s consumers are increasingly more loyal to purpose-driven brands.

Embrace your niche. Amazon’s biggest strength also happens to be its biggest weakness: You can buy practically anything on the site. While the company’s expansive inventory is certainly convenient when you need something fast, it doesn’t make for the best, most tailored experience. Whether you sell jewelry, jam, or jazz records, lean into what makes you and your products/services unique—and the fact that you know your industry inside and out.

Your ability to focus in on one product or service category means that you don’t have to be everything to everyone—you can speak directly to your target audience. Take Prisma Guitars, a Reverb seller that makes handmade guitars out of old skateboards and whose target audience is presumably musicians that skateboard. The company can target everything—from Google AdWords and email marketing to social media and specials—to that specific subsection of people. That’s something Amazon would never take the time (or, arguably, have the expertise) to do.

Above all else, don’t lose sleep over areas where you simply can’t beat Amazon. For example, it might not make financial sense for your company to offer free two-day shipping year-round (one of the biggest benefits of an Amazon Prime subscription), but perhaps you can hold special limited-time sales where free, discounted, or quicker shipping is available. On the flip side, don’t overthink the areas where you can offer personalisation that a giant like Amazon cannot. Inexpensive touches like “thank you” cards and small gifts with a purchase can go a long way.