Amazon is a significant player on the eCommerce landscape.  Their dominance can strike fear into the hearts of the most nimble competitor.  But there is hope.  We present exclusive, original research conducted by Protea Digital.    

We explore Amazon’s apartment advantages, and how you can ju-jitsu your way into a position to keep your eCommerce firm growing and thriving.    

1. It is tough to beat Amazon at everything

Competing Solely on Price

Don’t try and beat out Amazon’s prices.  Not only are you competing with Amazon and Amazon’s supply chain, but you have to compete with Amazon Affiliates.  Chances are, your price point will be unable to compete.

However, our research shows that online shopping is not just about price. According to a recent study by Protea Digital, a minority of consumers are only focused price. 

We surveyed 1,000 online respondents within the United States , and our survey found that  just 27% of consumers think that only price is important when making a purchase.

Think Beyond Price

There are other ways to show price competitiveness, like free shipping. If your company can offer free shipping or shipping discounts, that will often entice customers.  Realistically though, your company might be unable to offer free two day shipping for every product.

Research shows that the conventional  wisdom (that you must have free shipping) is not entirely accurate. A lack of free shipping is not always a deal-breaker. According to the same Protea Digital research, only 15% of consumers said they will not make a purchase if free shipping is unavailable.  

Brand Recognition

Everyone knows Amazon’s name.  They may not like Amazon, they may not like some of Amazon’s business practices, but people know that they can trust Amazon on products they may purchase.

Don’t be discouraged; this is nothing you have not heard before.  These things are important to keep in mind when thinking about your company.  Put your energy into areas that will allow you to successfully compete against Amazon. According to our survey, just under 40% of respondents had never made a purchase from Amazon.  There is still room for growth for e-commerce sites. 

2. The Joys of Specialization

So if Amazon sells everything, what should you sell? Specialization of your company will allow for differentiation and competition.

Sell Something Exclusive

This may be obvious, but sell something that Amazon doesn’t.  The product itself does not need to be unique, but the branding and expertise you provide can help.  If your customers cannot get it from Amazon, then they will come to you.

Create a Brand

If you can’t sell an exclusive product, then create an exclusive brand.  A unique voice will appeal to specific demographics.  This could include quirky product descriptions, advice and tips, and even demonstrations. The point is if you control the brand, you can keep it off Amazon or competitor sites.

Become an Expert

Excellent customer service is just part of becoming an expert.  Offer advice on your website and provide a way for shoppers to easily ask questions.  If customers feel like they can return to your site to ask questions after a purchase, they will be more likely to invest in one of your products.

3.Make it unique

Another way to make your products stand out is through special touches or services.  Special, unique touches can reinforce the uniqueness and the identity of your brand.

Packaging Matters

It is amazing what nice packaging will do.  There is a reason stores at the mall use nice paper bags with handles instead of plastic grocery bags that say “thank you.” Packaging will make your product appear “special” and exclusive.  Besides, have you seen Amazon’s packaging recently?


Another way to make your company stand out is to make it into a subscription service.  Why? People love getting something new every month, but something they still need.  For example, Birchbox is a cosmetics website that sells products you can certainly find on Amazon, probably for much cheaper.  However, Birchbox has a program where subscribers receive a monthly box of makeup samples for $10. 

Handcrafted Difference

Amazon’s products, though inexpensive, are rarely handcrafted or unique.  Are your products created by a unique process?  Is there a special designer?  For example, Corter Leather products are all created by one person, Eric Heins, in a process that does not use electricity.  People love products that have stories, and being handmade is certainly a good story.

Unique Gift or Add-On

How else can you make your product special?  A unique complement or gift may be just what you need to incentivize your consumers.  For example, Totally Chocolate offers customers a small hammer to break the chocolate as an order add on.

Easy Bargains

Consumers love bargain hunting, but with ease.  The new models of e-commerce companies like offer consumers the choice of one pair of shoes, from a curated collection, with all shoes the same price of $39.95.  Easy to look through, but also gives consumers new choices!

Product Photos & Videos

One of Amazon’s weaknesses is they often have poor product photos. Because of affiliates and the nature of the site, certain products are poorly photographed, or only feature photographs submitted by consumers.  Excellent photographs and videos of products will build trust with consumers, and they will be more likely to purchase.  The videos of, which are included for all products, allow consumers to get a better feel for the clothing before they purchase.

Does design matter?

Pretty much everyone thinks that their website is beautiful, and a well kept and crafted website is a great way to differentiate one’s company from the rest.  But according to Protea Digital’s research, only 85% of online consumers will purchase from a website even if they think it is ugly.

4. Engage!

Make Loyalty a Virtue

Amazon does not have a rewards program for its loyal consumers, but you can.  Sell a product that people order multiple times a year.  Reinforce that behavior with the reward of free or discounted products.

Social Media

Because Amazon is such a large company, their social media does not bring together people with similar interests or hobbies.  Chances are, your customers have a lot in common.  By building a community centered around your company and what it provides, your customers are more likely to be enthusiastic about your company in the future. For example, we have clients who always respond on the same day to any comments they receive on Twitter and Facebook. Customers are impressed and often say they have referred friends to the company for this reason.

Blog, Blog, Blog

‘Get blogging’ might sounds like advice from five years ago. But blogs have now become the building block of social media. You can write substantial pieces for your blog, and then use social media to distribute and amplify your message.

Not only will a blog contribute to your website’s search ranking, but it will also allow those who visit your website to connect with others.  A blog establishes a voice for your company, and it will let your consumers know that your company is operated by dedicated, real people.

The web can be impersonal, but adding your own personality and flavor through your blog really does help.

5. Smart, Targeted Ads

The internet is a big place, and there are many opportunities for you to connect with new customers.  As a unique company and brand, there are ample opportunities to share your story and website.

8% of consumers who receive an email from a company they know click-thru. 

Promotions on other blogs

Teaming up with well-known blogs will allow your company to reach new consumers.  Give away products to bloggers to review, or sponsor a contest on a blog.  This will bring traffic and new shoppers to your site. Thomas Lee Ltd, a luxury sheets company, offered a free set of sheets to the bloggers and more sheets to giveaway to readers.  This led to a photoshoot, review of the sheets and many more Thomas Lee customers.

Partner with other sites               

This may sound counterintuitive, but selling your unique products on another e-commerce website can help alert people to your brand and products.  Leverage a better-known website’s brand name to help build your customer base. 

Email marketing

Make sure your customers are up to date on new products and promotions on your site.  It is easier to get a past customer to make another purchase than to recruit new consumers. One tip: never, ever buy a list of email address. It might sound tempting, but it almost never works out.

Pay-Per-Click advertising

There are many things that you will not be able to beat Amazon in, and one of them is search engine rankings.  Google Adwords and Bing ads can work. With high-quality ads, the click through rate to your site can greatly increase, and you can get your ad listed next to Amazon.


Everyone knows what an Amazon display ad looks like, and they stand out little to consumers. Retargeting with display ads will remind those who visit your website of your brand and products.  There are so many retargeting networks right now, that it has great potential to increase your overall conversion rate.  


 Want to know more?  Download the full white paper under our resources section.