We get it. The idea of stepping up to the plate and swinging against Amazon Business can be frickin’ scary. It’s overwhelming to think about what Amazon is capable of. It could certainly hurt your business, and completely shake up (maybe even destroy) the entire distribution industry. Recent statistics don’t help calm any of us down either. Especially stats from analysts that sound a little something like: Amazon Business will reach $31 billion in revenue by 2023. Or 8 out of 10 researchers use Amazon to learn more about products.
Instead of freaking out, let’s take a deep breath. Don’t forget about all the times the little guys have won. David vs. Goliath. Erin Brockovich vs. PG&E. The Oakland A’s against… everybody.
In B2B ecommerce, bigger does not always mean better, stronger, faster or even smarter. Amazon Business is, after all, a marketplace. And while marketplaces can deliver some unique benefits, there are still a lot of ways you, as a smaller, more nimble competitor, can use marketplaces to your advantage. Let’s take a look at 6 ways you can win against dominant marketplace players like Amazon Business:
1. Up your customer service a few notches. Manufacturers and distributors compete not just on price, but on a better buying experience. In the complex world of B2B ecommerce that means solving problems. We know what it’s like to deal with chatbots, or customer service reps who know nothing about the widgets being sold and bought. Smaller ecommerce players thrive on the elements of customer service that matter the most. Like powerful human touch points. Salespeople that really know their buyers and products. Customized assets for busy researchers. Multi-location logistics. Consider that you’re probably good at most or all of these things. To you, they may be just an average day at the office. Against Amazon Business, they’re massive differentiators. You don’t have to redesign your operation. Think about how you can step each service area up a notch. Amazon Business simply can’t compete with that. Humans for the win!
2. Build a hybrid experience. Here’s where many Episerver customers really shine, and their business is growing because of it. No matter what industry you’re serving or how digitally mature your customers are, they will always require a hybrid experience that includes both full service and online capabilities. Do some investigation to find the places where customers often hop from online to full support. Where do they need help from a human salesperson? Where do they fall out of the shopping cart? Look for ways to build a better bridge between the two that’s effective, efficient and seamless. It’s called transparency and it’s where medium to smaller distributors and manufacturers can shine. (Here’s a hint – it’s often on the higher buck stuff.)
3. Use Amazon Business for lead generation. This is where the old adage of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” comes in. Change your perception and think about Amazon Business, and marketplaces in general for that matter, as funnels of new business. Amazon, with its massive marketing engine, scours the internet to suck in new customers on a regular basis. Low-margin products are typically the bait you can use to sell on Amazon, then direct those customers back to you for the really profitable transactions. This is a particularly good play if you’re looking to expand to a new audience, or just want to build your new customer list. Take all the things Amazon is known for (that scare the heck out of you) and make them work FOR YOU.
4. Create a multi-channel selling strategy. It’s hard not to be nostalgic for the old days when your salesmen of 20 years combined with a nice little website were enough to bring in the big bucks. But today there are multiple marketplaces and multiple places for B2B customers to research and buy products. And these hundreds of online choices are getting more and more sophisticated on a daily basis. Information is power, folks. Figure out which channels will deliver the best results – revenue, profit, audience, efficiency, whatever your goal – and then build a selling strategy that maximizes that goal. Like we said, promote your high volume, low dollar products on Amazon Business. Maybe create a partnership with another marketplace that sells complementary products, to deliver more qualified leads. Train your sales staff to onboard online faster, so they can focus on the big money deals. Whatever it is, don’t shy away. Be conscious about tactics that not only sell more inside each channel, but bring more customers back home to you.
5. Maximize your data. You’ve been collecting a lot of data from your existing ecommerce system, but have you really done anything with it? What about the information that’s in the heads of your best field sales and customer service reps? Invest in good business intelligence tools that help you understand what’s working, and what’s not. Data can help you create a strong, 360 degree view of your most desirable customers’ preferences and behavior. Think about how much you can score with that.
6. Offer the most advanced ecommerce experience available on your home turf. Luckily, cloud-based ecommerce services and faster implementation means you deliver a B2B experience that can compete with the likes of Amazon Business and still be cost-effective. Episerver Commerce gives you robust B2B capabilities like:
- A fully functional mobile app
- Robust product management that’s fully branded for your line of products or organization
- Built-in B2B capability that’s designed for the complexity of the B2B buying and selling experience
- An easy to use CMS that delivers a powerful, intuitive user experience
- Integration architecture that connects with ERP and PIM and other enterprise systems.
You can and you will beat Amazon Business if you play the game with smarts and the right attitude.