How Small Online Stores Can Compete With the Big Players

Size isn't all that matters for eCommerce. Use these ideas to redefine small store success.

In a crowded marketplace where big players dominate, it’s easy for small online stores to feel like the odds are stacked against them. When big companies like Amazon and eBay seem to offer everything customers could possibly want, why start a store at all? Evidence suggests that despite their wide range of products, there are certain niches that big players don’t fulfill. Here’s how small online stores can use size to their advantage and level the playing field.

Target Untapped Niches

Regardless of how many products an eCommerce giant might sell, there is always something new and original round the corner that, if well marketed, can serve a fresh and untapped market. The aim is to find this sweet spot. Don’t play the giants at their own game. Instead, adopt a narrow focus and find the niche that no one is paying attention to. Embrace innovation and offer new, different, or exclusive products that aren’t on the global market already, to avoid being in direct competition with others.

The most successful online stores all find a way to break through and innovate somehow, rather than relying on established products that bring them no market differentiation. Consumer tastes are constantly evolving, therefore to sell well you must evolve with them.

Use Size to Your Advantage

There are obvious benefits to being a huge eCommerce operation that dominates much of the marketplace. However, there are also advantages to be had when running a smaller business, which the global players lack.

As a small online store, you have the ability to be much more agile and flexible in your approach. You can take risks, turn on a dime, and respond quickly to opportunities. Focus on areas such as personalization, customer care, emerging trends and quality control — these are the areas in which sheer size can hold big players back.

Whenever possible, take some time to message customers personally and to listen and respond to their queries. It is this attention to detail that is a unique selling point for smaller companies, as it would be a monumental task for the giants to attempt the same.

Write Compelling Content

It’s no secret that good content sells. Small online stores have an advantage over big ones in that they can form distinct and appealing brand personalities. Much of this is achieved through carefully crafted content, tone and rich media (photos, graphics, videos). By contrast, big players lack a certain cohesiveness, as their product listings are written by individual sellers or tend to be taken straight from the manufacturers.

Great content is a winner in terms of conversions, signups, and SEO. It breeds trust and familiarity, which are the two pillars of winning customers. Don’t be afraid to experiment and be creative with content. A/B testing is a great way to see what’s working and what’s not.

Nurture Customer Relationships

Social media is a small online store’s best friend. When it comes to making those subtle but significant gestures and interactions with customers, the big players always fall behind. Time spent working on client interaction should be seen as an investment. Right from the beginning, aim to foster a culture of engaging with and listening to customers, and responding to their feedback. Check out these 3 Great Social Media Tools for Business.

Run a Loyalty Program

Customers like to be rewarded for their loyalty with special deals. Acknowledging customer loyalty is an important and effective way of showing that you appreciate their business, and it helps them feel invested and makes them more likely to keep shopping with you long term. Whether it’s a points system or a discount on products or shipping, a little love goes a long way.

Have a Beautiful Website

Here is a thing that eCommerce giants are often not — beautiful. There’s a lot going on, with product listings, various calls to action and a heap of advertising. Small eCommerce companies can stand out by creating an online store that is far more attractive, with minimal distractions. Setting up a professional-looking online store using customizable templates is really easy — try this free trial to get a feel for it.

For the best results, both for you and your customers, create a website that is easy to navigate. Include a search function and have optimized content on every page. Include lots of images, but be sure to edit them for web to avoid slow page loading times. Design a checkout process that can be completed in as few steps as possible. You may consider one or two ads, but keep them small and unobtrusive. When visitors choose to shop with you over one of the giants, reward them by ensuring the experience is a good one.

The Virtues of Small Online Stores

As a small online store owner and eCommerce entrepreneur, you cannot hope to rival the mayors of the marketplace on strength. The truth is, you’re playing a different game. They are the Goliath to your David, and it’s possible to succeed if you make use of the assets at your disposal — that is flexibility, specialism, and a more personal approach with your customers.


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