When launching a business, it’s crucial to scope out your potential competition. And Amazon, a humongous retailer, is impossible to ignore.
Amazon dominates the online fashion retailer space with fast shipping, low prices, and a vast product catalog and marketplace. In fact, in 2021, it made up 34% of the total online apparel retail space and even surpassed Walmart in apparel and footwear sales that same year. Amazon is the ultimate one-stop online shop, selling everything from books, to food, to clothes. And especially within the fashion realm, they only seem to grow stronger and more product-diverse: they launched their private label apparel products squarely into the affordable basics space, but have now expanded to luxury apparel; they were first known exclusively for online shopping, but have now opened brick and mortar clothing stores.
Amazon’s outstanding benefits have captured the attention and wallets of millions, so you might worry, how or if your growing fashion brand can compete with Amazon’s prices and speed? The answer is – it can’t. At least, not directly.
Competing with Amazon will mean leveraging the strengths of your company, and while Amazon will continue to grow its customers, that fact doesn’t mean that you can’t too. Amazon seems to do everything, but it does not do everything perfectly. Competing with this big business will require you to examine both your brand’s and Amazon’s strengths and weaknesses to find your best opportunities to make inroads.
Competing with The One Stop Shop
As mentioned earlier, Amazon sells almost everything under the sun. That includes 36 different categories of products ranging from Amazon Devices to musical instruments and even watches. A survey from marketing data company, Epsilon, reported that 47% of people prefer shopping with Amazon because they can buy several things that they need from a single retailer. Moreover, when customers search for items like a “handbag”, Amazon’s search engine shows thousands of options with various designs and price points. In some listings, products even come in various colors and sizes. Finally, at checkout customers can enjoy having a diverse collection of items delivered in one shipment.
With such a broad range of products and brands, Amazon sacrifices personality and focus. Companies that list on Amazon can only express limited parts of their brand identity because listing there requires them to abide by Amazon’s required vendor format. Brands are not emphasized on listings, and moreover, they are one of dozens of competing brands, including often competing against Amazon’s own private label products.
Opportunity to Create a Distinct Brand
While people look to Amazon for general items such as AmazonBasics, they will be willing to go to your business if you can target a specific need. A study from Epsilon’s Abacus found that those who use Amazon shop in other places as well, so it's crucial to lure in customers by emphasizing your distinct value.
This is especially important given that it's not uncommon to hear people say, “I can just buy that on Amazon.” Amazon enables this through features such as image search. However, you can combat this by creating stand out designs that target a niche market and can’t just be found cheaper on Amazon.
Also, Amazon can’t achieve true brand loyalty because people’s relationships with Amazon are transactional. They go to Amazon for convenience, but strong brand loyalty comes from creating an emotional connection with buyers through brand stories and expressing shared values. Amazon is too big to be intimate.
Amazon Features Customer Reviews
Amazon created a website that supports reviews, and with such a large customer base, one item can include tens of thousands of reviews. Also, Amazon also allows for pictures and videos to accompany product reviews. That helps buyers to better convey their thoughts and enhances review verification. Reviews provide social proof and allow for peer recommendations, which studies have found people trust over advertisements.
Unfortunately though, Amazon is notorious for fake reviews. A few sellers even participated in “incentivized reviews”, which baited customers with free products or full refunds in exchange for guaranteed positive reviews. Even with Amazon banning this practice in 2016, sellers have tried to get away with it on other social media platforms. For example, Facebook had a similar issue, and had to ban no fewer than 16,000 suspected groups for trying to continue this practice, proving how far some sellers will go to get the upper hand.
Opportunity for Trusted Reviews
As discussed earlier, reviews of your products are a great way for customers to have an informed shopping experience and for you to get feedback on your products. PowerReviews reveals that 36% of customers find verified reviews “very important” and the same company reports that 63% of customers seek out content that includes user reviews of items. Therefore, product reviews on the product page could sway customers to buy the item with the extra tips of information from other verified buyers.
Before setting up the ability to submit reviews, you will want to address a slight dilemma: happy customers are less likely to give feedback while unhappy shoppers will want to vent their frustration. This may result in an unbalanced, negative leaning feedback. Nonetheless, you can take steps to call in shoppers to increase the amount of feedback and ensure the responses are more representative of your customer base.
Firstly, reach out to customers to leave a review. You can do this through email after they receive their delivery, and you can send a follow up email a few days after their purchase.
A second tip is make it easy. In the calls to action, emphasize how it will take just a few minutes or even 30 seconds. When the link sends them to a review form, the process can be fast if it asks one answer questions like rating their purchased items on a 5 star scale. This is easier than providing a free write answer, but that can also be an option for those with more detailed responses.
Customers may also want more ways to review your businesses and products, such as through Google Reviews. Because Google Reviews is connected to a Google account, customers can trust that these reviews come from authentic customers. Also, Google Reviews can help boost SEO. However, providing reviews on your own e-commerce site is helpful as well because not everyone wants to connect their Google account.
Thirdly, it is beneficial to engage with reviews, showing appreciation for positive comments and addressing any concerns or criticism in a personalized way builds consumer trust.
3 Places Where Your Online Fashion Brand Should Follow Amazon’s Lead
While your clothing, shoe, or handbag brand can certainly find opportunities to succeed in areas where Amazon is weakest, it would benefit you to follow certain tactics that the retail giant uses to earn and delight customers:
- An Excellent Website Shopping Experience – The top reason that Amazon has such great sales conversion rates is the ease of shopping from a homepage that showcases items from or based on browsing history, as well as its one click purchase feature. Focus on making your website and web pages fast, intelligent, and easy to navigate. Wix, Shopify, and BigCommerce are great B2C website builders to create your store.
- Free Shipping – The e-commerce giant is known for making free 2-day shipping available for its Prime members. That can be difficult to match 100%, but we do recommend offering shoppers some free shipping deals after a certain purchase amount.
- Easy Returns – Amazon has also set the standard on hassle free returns. It promises free returns and many options for doing so, such as dropping returned items off at UPS or Kohls. Therefore, it is important to consider offering customers free returns. They will appreciate the lowered risk to them and their wallets, and are likely to shop further when guaranteed free returns. Do keep in mind, however, that completely free returns mean paying for shipping and dealing with return fraud, so you will have to weigh this benefit carefully while remembering that easy and low cost returns have become the norm.
When starting a business, it is difficult to know how to find a place among the large elite retail companies like Amazon. However, Amazon is not a perfect company, and it is clear that small fashion businesses can still do well in this competitive marketplace.