Your Brick and Mortar Can Do Better Than Amazon

Written by Renee Clare-Kovacs June 22, 2017

Brick and Mortar Beats Online Retail Powerhouse—Simple?

You know how we say Sellr makes marketing simple? A part of that is us reading a lot about the industry we’re in. Our reading lists allow us to stay up-to-date on trends and topics and pass the knowledge we gain on to you so that you can be assured that your marketing team is on the cutting edge while you invest your time into running your business.

Right now ZURB leader, Bryan Zmijewski, is giving the Sellr Team a lot to think about. His blog, The Amazon Effect and How Retailers Can Slay the Beast, is both timely (in case you haven’t heard, Amazon bought brick-and-mortar grocery chain, Whole Foods, last week) and incredibly insightful. If you click through it (and I hope you do), you’ll notice that it’s long. Because we’re Sellr, we simplify things—and this blog is no different.

I Can Beat Amazon at Retail? Are You Serious?

I’ll admit it, it is easy to see how what Zmijewski calls the Amazon Effect has impacted brick-and-mortar businesses like yours. In its 20 year history, Amazon has changed the way we shop. More than click and ship buying, customers are creating content for the retailer that help us make more informed buying decisions. This kind of change is known as disruption and if you’re reading this blog thinking “I can’t beat Amazon”, you are feeling the effects of it.

The good news is that you can beat Amazon and the other online powerhouses at retail. Yes, I’m talking to you, the owner of a neighborhood brick-and-mortar store. You have a lot of advantages over the big online retailers. Disruption is not bad—it’s simply a reason to innovate. Sure, if you are happy with printing your own marketing materials, hearing your commercials on the radio, and waiting to see if your sales increase, then the changes that the Amazon Effect all but require are bad news—but you’re not one of those store owners, right?

Marketing is a disruption. Not much more than 100 years ago, the retail market was comprised of a few large companies who provided goods to make the things we need, like clothing and meals. Word-of-mouth was the original marketing; you bought the products your friends and neighbors bought from the people your friends and neighbors bought products from. When media changed, so did marketing. Radios brought sponsorships that became radio advertisements and newspapers carried paid advertisements to promote more than just being alive, but living—compliments of the products sold at your local retailer.

Online media forced innovation. Of course we know about online ordering and having our items shipped directly to our door—we’ve all done it. But, for the first time in marketing, the customer is seeing the compromises that are required for online shopping. The best news is that those compromises are the very things you have to offer: relationships, loyalty, instant delivery, and support of the local community. These are very important to consumers and there you are right in the middle of all of it!

Being There For the Customer Is Modern Marketing

The Amazon Effect blog looks at 3 points in the customer journey where you, a brick-and-mortar business, have the upper-hand against large online retailers. We will talk about each part of the customer life-cycle, lead generation, customer acquisition, and customer retention, in our next few blogs and look at some of the specific ways you can meet your customer where they are on their journey. It is important to know the journey because one leads to the next, but messaging needs and strategies are different at each stage, yet all 3 must exist simultaneously.

The blog points to the natural “survival of the fittest” theory as a possible reason for the Amazon Effect citing Census Bureau statistics that in the last 5 years, retail spending has increased 17% and that a report from ACSI says there is a 5% improvement in customer satisfaction bringing it to 78.3 out of 100 points, an all-time high. Zmijewski asks if this is the poor-performing companies being naturally weeded out. The answer is: perhaps. It is undeniable that online retail has changed the way we shop now. Customers demand transparency and expect engagement. Without it, they will find a company who will offer them an inside look into the company as well as the products they carry and ensure that their concerns are met. The change is that retailers are hearing about concerns across a wider number of channels; customers do not simply bring their grievances to the attention of your store anymore, they review you on Yelp, they post about you on Facebook—to your business page and to their own personal page. This means you must change, be disrupted, and innovate if you are to survive. Businesses that are willing to engage customers and tell their story will be rewarded by the increased spending. More than that, innovative businesses will build loyalty that will fuel an ongoing relationship that benefits both the customer and the business. Believe it or not, customers are willing to pay more for items they want when they are carried by people they have a connection with.

Yes, You Can Win!

It may seem like an insurmountable battle where online retail wins with its online reviews, product videos, always-on price checking and adjusting, and delivery to your door but more and more customers want more than point and click when making a purchase. You are poised to provide these bored online shoppers the kind of interaction they are looking for. You can provide the kind of customer experience that makes them your customer and continues to build their loyalty.

Amazon, you may have won the battle, but brick-and-mortar can still win the war!