When it comes to e-commerce, Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Who puts bookstores out of business, then casually brings back their own version of bookstores? Only Amazon can do something like that, with all its power and reach. In fact, over 75% of American do “most of their shopping” on Amazon.
So how do you compete with that?
You would think that Amazon would put the other players in the e-commerce space out of business, but you’d be wrong. There are many other online stores that are thriving, even under Amazon’s long shadow. And insight into how to compete with Amazon recently came from an unlikely source: Walmart.
Walmart’s e-commerce sales were up 43 percent during the fourth quarter, and it achieved online sales growth of 40 percent for all of 2018, matching its own expectations. For 2019, it’s calling for internet sales to be up 35 percent, with growth each quarter of this year falling between 30 percent and a low 40 percentage, according to Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs.
How to Compete with Amazon, According to Walmart
How Walmart competes with Amazon in e-commerce was laid out simply by CEO Doug McMillon:
Our focus remains on earning repeat [shopper] visits and strengthening our assortment of merchandise.
In just a few words, McMillion speaks to two huge factors in maintaining a successful online business: loyalty and availability. In the face of an online behemoth, these are the two key factors that will sustain, and grow, your sales. Let’s examine each one and see what your e-commerce business can do to strengthen both factors.
Loyalty means repeat business. By retaining the customers you have, you don’t need to spend as much time and money on new customer acquisition, mitigating churn rate, and marketing. As long as a shopper has a great experience with your online business, that person is simply more likely to shop with you again.
While Walmart’s brick-and-mortar stores encourage loyalty with their low prices, location convenience, and branding; Walmart’s online business leverages such advantages as online discounts, free grocery pickup, customized deals, free shipping, and a host of other features to make shopping on their site easy.
And like we stressed in other blog posts about making your customers happy, Walmart puts a big emphasis on its robust review system that’s submitted by its customers. While Amazon is known for its reviews, Walmart is no slouch in this area, offering plenty of feedback on each product so shoppers can feel better about certain purchases.
Walmart understands, much as Amazon does, that loyalty begets repeat sales. The takeaway for your business is to cultivate as much loyalty as you can as well. A great way to start is to create a loyalty program that can also serve as your first affiliate marketing campaign.
The other key way that Walmart is competing with Amazon is in its variety of products. Once you have a loyal base of customers, you don’t want them to go anywhere else for their needs. Walmart first makes their customers happy, then adds more products to keep them satisfied.
As the article linked above states, Walmart is expanding their product base by partnering with various brands such as clothing lines by Ellen Degeneres and Sofia Vergara, as well as established brands like Lord & Taylor. Walmart’s e-commerce site is the network, and these additions provide more for shoppers to choose from. This is working so well that Target is also adding outside sellers onto their e-commerce site.
Your online store is probably not going to offer quite as many products as Walmart or Target. However, the fundamental idea of selling other brands on your network can be a great way to expand your reach to your base. If you invite 3rd parties to sell on your store, that’s one way to go. But you can also be the Lord & Taylor, selling on other networks; and that’s where affiliate marketing comes in.
For example, if you partner with a popular Influencer in your niche, you’re making your products much more available on the back of their established network. They’re Walmart, you’re Lord & Taylor. With affiliate marketing, you can greatly expand your reach in this way, creating a win-win for both you and your partners. Considering how eager brands are to sign up with Walmart and Target, you can replicate this success on a smaller scale by choosing the right affiliate partners.
The death of Walmart’s online venture and other e-commerce businesses due to Amazon has been greatly exaggerated. There are ways to sell online, and we see it every day in the clients we work with. By every metric, the most successful ones always give their customers A+ service that fosters a strong loyalty; and expand their reach quickly and intelligently by utilizing affiliate reps (while keeping an eye on their performance metrics). These two keys to online success actually do work, and can be transformative for your e-commerce future.