eCommerce has undergone a lot of changes in recent years. The emergence of Amazon and other marketplaces has proven hugely disruptive, redefining what it takes to be a successful online merchant. So what is eCommerce, now that Amazon has conquered so much of the digital world?

Most eCommerce business owners are familiar with the “Amazon Effect”. This describes the effect that Amazon’s practices and policies have had on customer expectations. As Amazon made online shopping an easy, frictionless experience with innovations like 1-Click ordering, customer-friendly return policies, and same-day delivery, customers began expecting other eCommerce stores to provide a similar experience. Most independent merchants, however, don’t have the resources to replicate the Amazon experience in its entirety.

For these merchants, staying competitive in an eCommerce landscape dominated by the Amazon “dragon” seems hopeless. It’s easy to see why. Amazon continues to expand into new markets every day, moving in on industries ranging from groceries and apparel to furniture and jewelry. Thanks to its focus on offering the lowest prices possible, this eCommerce giant has become the second American company to hit $1 trillion in market value last year.

Independent eCommerce in the Age of Amazon 

For independent merchants, competing with Amazon means operating within the reality Amazon has created, adapting to changes as they come, and finding ways to thrive. While it can be easy to see Amazon as a threat, independent merchants are actually able to sell in ways that are almost impossible for Amazon. Sure, you may need to think slightly outside the box, but there’s no reason why you can’t give the dragon a run for its money.

Find Your Differentiators

Going toe-to-toe with the dragon isn’t the answer. Independent merchants can’t out-Amazon Amazon, no matter how hard they try. Fortunately, there’s a better way—a way that doesn’t force you to compete with Amazon. Leverage your company’s unique strengths and differentiators to deliver an experience that customers can’t get anywhere else. Can you offer some unique expertise and advice for shoppers? Does your company have a mission that cause-oriented consumers can get behind? Do you offer pre-assembled product kits and curated bundles for specific needs? Amazon is focused on low prices and convenience, leaving plenty of room for your business to claim a differentiator.

Making a Splash: Royal Swimming Pools’ award-winning website is a fantastic example of the power of differentiation in action. Their unique Pool Kit Configurator feature uses conditional logic and beautiful visuals to help shoppers build the pool of their dreams. You won’t find this kind of product expertise and shopping experience in a marketplace.


Create Convenience

Amazon is arguably the best there is when it comes to convenience, particularly when you consider their free shipping options and subscription services. As a result, customers now expect subscription options for automating their recurring purchases. If you sell the types of products that can work well in a subscription model, this could be an excellent option for your business.

Subscribing and Thriving: Thrive Farmers has made it so no one will ever have to miss their morning java with their coffee subscription. Shoppers are offered a discount for subscribing and get to decide how often they would like to receive their coffee. The convenience of this “set-it-and-forget-it” option delivers the convenience that modern shoppers expect while securing recurring revenue for the merchant.

Think Outside the Box Whitepaper

Control the Sale

Selling your products through Amazon can be lucrative, but directing shoppers to your own site offers some significant advantages. On your site, you can control each and every interaction visitors have with your brand, create the type of experience that best represents your business, and use the insights and information you gain from their browsing habits to drive sales, improve your marketing strategy, and inform product development.

Driving Engagement: Xtreme Diesel Performance has leveraged their site to enhance the customer experience at every stage of the purchasing journey (and beyond). As a result, they have accumulated a strong community of loyal, engaged customers.

Stand Up for Something

As previously mentioned, Amazon wins by offering the lowest prices, making it difficult (if not impossible) to stay competitive on price alone. However, younger generations are increasingly turning away from the cheapest options in favor of brands that reflect their own values. Many Millennials are willing to pay extra for more sustainable brands, and 74% believe brands should be taking a more public stance on important social issues. While taking a stand isn’t for every brand, it could be worth it to get loud and proud about your company’s social initiatives and causes.

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