How Local Retailers Can Compete with Amazon and Win During the Holiday Shopping Season

It is no secret that Amazon is an e-commerce powerhouse. It is estimated that more than 197 million people around the world visit Amazon each month. Thanks to this traffic, Amazon’s share of the US e-commerce market reached 49% in 2018, making it the number one e-commerce platform in the country.

These numbers are hard to compete with even for companies like Apple and Walmart. So, how can your local retail store compete? 

While these numbers may not be attainable, you have something that Amazon doesn’t: An in-store shopping experience that has the potential to wow your customers and guarantee return business, and a focused target market local to your community. 

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. You can also leverage some of the same strategies that Amazon uses to boost your own sales during the holiday season. 

1. Create an unforgettable shopping experience. 

The instant gratification of holding your new purchase is no longer exclusive to the in-store experience. Now that Amazon Prime has exploded, members can receive an item the very next day. That being said, those who choose to shop in-store tend to do so for the experience.

One of the most exciting aspects of the holiday season is the atmospherics. Amazon can make changes to their website, create festive social pages and promote holiday themed offerings, but they can’t decorate a brick and mortar store.

The holiday months are your opportunity to go big with lights, scented candles, custom displays, festive music and themed events. If you choose to host a holiday event, stock your store with items that are exclusive to the day and partner with other local companies to create even more awareness and a stronger turn out. 

In the Tampa Bay area there are so many events and markets throughout the holiday season. If you can secure a spot at a local market, do it. Markets are great because people are going with the intention to buy, especially during the holidays. 

2. Run holiday sales.

Its reported that 9 out of 10 people price check a product on Amazon before making their purchase. In order to compete, especially during the holidays, you need to run promotional sales. Amazon is the leading e-commerce platform in the US. It is highly unlikely that your local retail store can offer prices just as low, but you don’t have to. 

According to Forbes, a survey conducted by First Insight showed that shoppers spend significantly more per visit when shopping in-store than shopping online. They attribute this to a compelling store experience and, you guessed it, impulse buying. So, where your promotions fall short, make up for it with a killer sales team that can funnel customers through the buying process.

While your in-store and online sales may not be as big or as frequent as Amazon’s, they can be just as competitive.You may not be able to host sales all month long, but planning ahead for Black Friday is a must. Look carefully into your finances and last year’s numbers to come up with promotional deals that are in your budget. Offer free shipping on your website at the very least.

3. Carry seasonal items. 

Amazon sells everything and beyond. They are selling to the masses and therefore need to appeal to the masses. All you need to do is focus on what you offer to your specific target market.

What did you sell the most of last year? Make sure to stock up on those same or similar items. But don’t forget to also stock up on what is trending. According to Business Insider, Amazon’s major holiday sellers in 2018 included the third generation Echo Dot, Bose wireless headphones and the Ring Video Doorbell 2. Notice a trend? These items were the latest electronics to be released. No matter what type of products you sell, make sure to offer the latest and greatest of your niche.

Also stock up on greeting cards and wrapping paper. Amazon might seem like they carry everything, but they don’t. Source smaller brands that not many people know about, but that you know your customers will love. The more exclusive the shopping experience, the better it will be for your customers.

4. Alter your return policy and hours of operation.

Most small local retailers have strict return policies. This is understandable as it may be what you can afford, but put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Why would they buy from you if they can purchase something from Amazon and get a complete refund if the gift doesn’t pan out? 

To account for this problem, you may consider altering your return policy during the holiday months. Rather than giving two weeks to return an item, extend your return policy to mid January for holiday shoppers. If you typically don’t accept returns on certain items, for example jewelry or stationary, consider bending the rules going into the new year. Make sure that you edit your return policy on receipts so that there isn’t a clap back later. 

Be clear in your policy whether or not receipts are required for exchanges. Also be sure to print out a gift receipt for every purchase made. When making changes like these, be sure to meet with your entire staff to confirm you are all on the same page.

Also consider increasing your store hours if you have the staff. Many stores extend their hours of operation in hopes of making more sales. Always open the day before Christmas to account for last minute shoppers.

5. Don’t wait

The final tip may be the most important. The holiday months are approaching and you need to put in the ground work. Amazon doesn’t have record breaking holiday seasons by waiting idle. They achieve their business goals by planning ahead. 

Boost your online promotions. Produce killer content to get customers from the internet to your store. Incentivize customers to shop during November and December by handing out coupons only valid through the holiday months. Plan promotional deals that give Amazon a run for their money. Even if you are late, there are last-minute holiday marketing tips that you can find useful.

Now that you have all you need to beat out Amazon this holiday season, what will your first course of action be? Leave a comment below!

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