Tips on How to compete with eBay and Amazon
Many are beginning to question the need to sell products on their own website, especially when it is so easy to set up a store on Amazon or eBay. Their reasoning being that it would be impossible to compete.
Ebay and Amazon Strengths
Ebay and Amazon have size on their side. They are so big, they are the first stop shop for almost any product. Many people go direct to these sites without using a search engine. Massive companies support them, selling with very small profit margins, plus with huge numbers of people selling similar products, it's tough to outrank them for almost any given search criteria.
Auction sites sell everything, both new and second-hand. You can buy small quantities, bulk or repeat items. Products are sold by individuals and big companies from far and wide, leaving great opportunities to grab bargains or items that are incredibly hard to find.
You cannot compete with their experience in selling on-line, as they have already thought of and covered every sales aspect. They have dictated the whole online purchasing process, from where people expect to see 'my basket' buttons to which payment facility people prefer.
They even offer buyers no question money back guarantees and the ability to donate to charity.
Hard to beat?
The key here is not to focus on the strengths, but to identify and capitalise on the weaknesses.
If your product is unique, rare, hard to transport or only normally available from distant locations, then an online shop could be for you.
To decide if an online eCommerce store is for you, visit Ebay, Amazon and Google Shopping to analysis the competition.
You might find that what seems to be a 'niche market' within your local area, has huge international competition, where profit margins are very tight.
Auction sites; to some visitors; are seen to occupy a 'cheap but adequate' position within the market place; there is little brand loyalty and bargains rule. This is usually a false perspective as the products may well be the exact items available in the high street, at identical prices.
A lot of what is sold, is by individuals or tiny companies, so when you ask a question, you don't really expect a reply or at best you anticipate a few days wait - by which time, the item may have sold.
Companies that succeed, have staff dedicated 100%. Similar or greater effort is needed when setting up an independent online store. When online stores are added to websites and subsequently neglected, the returns are unsurprisingly non-existent.
If your customers prefer to talk to a human being, read data-sheets or watch demonstration videos before making a purchase, then they require a website that gives more than normally offered by big auction sites.
The key is to make your website seem friendly, honest and open. Offer on-line chats, 24Hr telephone lines, customer reviews, infographics, statistics and commenting facilities. Offer information that others don't, such as specifications, dimensions, details on whether it's OEM or after-market and even alternative part numbers.
Some successful on-line shops have celebrity endorsement, but regular and honest customer reviews are also great for breaking down barriers. Interview your customers and blog about it, adding lots of graphics and imagery to maintain reader interest and build trust.
Blog often and in depth about the products you sell. This might not bring direct sales, but it will help your ranking for given terms, whilst building credibility and authority within your field. If there are external online resources that may help a customer to evaluate your product don't be afraid of sharing a few external links - It shows you care.
By giving yourself a human face, with friendly staff photos you can establish long term bonds with your customers and build upon repeat business sales.
Often with the big auction sites, sellers are often lazy or inexperienced. Adverts only run for a couple weeks, there are few words and pictures are very generic.
To stand apart, your goal is to offer as much content as possible. Make sure that your content isn't just a string of keywords. It should give user advice, product comparison and tips and tricks. Offer plenty of good quality photography (not generic ones from the product manufacturer) and insert them into the content body to help with explanations and build customer interest.
Embrace the site set-ups established by the main auction sites. Your site should seem as familiar as possible to new visitors. If your shop has a unique layout with complex sales procedures and thousands of fields to fill in, then chances are you are loosing sales.
Most internet users are very familiar with the main auction sites, meaning subconsciously they expect buttons and images to be in certain places. Shoppers can make 'one click' purchases in seconds, with one eye closed, without typing a single character.
Some smaller eCommerce sites are greedy for customer statistics and insist on buyers answering dozens of questions, creating accounts and giving over their life stories. Let face it, you don't get this in high street shops and everyone hates it, so why force your online customers to do it? Don't let statistics rule over sales!
We've all been to eCommerce sites where the category pages are nothing more than a few bullet points or generic, blurred images of products. They offer zero advice and next to no content.
There is the argument that these images help speed up the browsing and checkout procedure by quickly directing customers to the product they want. However, there is a counter argument that they are bland and of little interest.
The goal is to embrace the easy to navigate structure but to offer contextual content about that industry sector. Offer content that is specifically targeted towards those who buy your products. Add imagery and titles that offer assurance to a casual visitor that they have found the ideal store.
Where there is any uncertainty, offer explanations, definitions, useful help and advice.
Offer rewards to regular customers if they provide feedback on the whole checkout procedure. Often simple and very minor changes can make significant improvements to bounce rate and sales figures.
The key is to set yourself above the quality of listing you see on most auction sites. Content is key. Not everything you type needs to be fact focussed, so don't be afraid offer advice on how best to use a product or maintain it over time. When it comes to product information, the more the better.
With independent eCommerce stores you are selling more 'on service' and less 'on price', so offer contact forms, online chats, telephone numbers etc.
If someone has spent hours searching for a key snippet of information, there is a very strong chance they will be ready to buy. Product pages are rarely linked to as 'online resources', so by making your site the 'font of all knowledge', the chances of getting links and traffic from forum sites is greatly increased.
If your product is unusual, interesting or photogenic, blog about it, not forgetting to post it on social media forums.
- Rich snippets (checkout schema.org)
- Video Demonstrations
- Information relevant to your geographic location
- Customer reviews
- What it does and why it's used
- Dimension drawings
- Installation instructions
- Tips and tricks
- Add Brand logos
- Alternative part numbers
- Infographics and statistics
- Links to external reviews and helpful tools
- Product comparisons
- Celebrity endorsements
- Photos of the product in use or in context (embedded in the text)
- Don't Cut n Paste from manufacturer data-sheets
- Don't use manufacturer supplied or generic images
- Don't give short product descriptions
- Don't place all your images in a pop-up gallery (they need to be in context)
- Don't neglect SEO titles and descriptions
- Don't force customers to fill in long forms