e-Commerce and brick-and-mortar stores are constantly fighting for consumers' attention. While most sales are still taking place in stores (Around 94% of all sales). e-Commerce is expected to increase annually by 17% reaching at total of around $414 billion by 2018. With basically all businesses going online, it's hard for small businesses to compete against giants like Amazon and eBay.

So, we asked some of the biggest names in the e-commerce industry: "What tip would you give to small e-commerce business owners in order to remain competitive?" and here's how they responded.


"What tip would you give to small e-commerce business owners in order to remain competitive?"

Tristan Pollock

"Remember to always bring your brand to where your customers are, even if it's offline."

Back to Experts

Nathan Resnick

"Understand your supply chain. A lot of companies focus solely on lowering their cost per acquisition. What if you could increase your unit margin and then have more cash flow to spend elsewhere? To stay competitive, companies need to continue to drive costs down on both sides of the table."

Back to Experts

Susan Bradley

"I own, so I understand the challenge of competing in this crazy competitive market.

In the last few years, I’ve worked with hundreds of e-commerce Entrepreneurs who come to The Social Sales Girls for help. Most have great products, but they’re struggling to get traffic and conversions. The reality is there’s so much noise, that those of us without massive ad budgets have trouble finding their perfect audience.

Here’s the thing: It’s next to impossible to stand out from the crowd as a Generalist. Let Amazon be for everybody. The simple way to get and keep a competitive advantage is to be a Specialist. You’ll be ahead of the competition if you figure out early on “who” your product or concept is “for”. What do you want to be known for?  Stop trying to get 10 messages out. Focus on one.

Craft a clear, tight message that tells “your person” the benefit of the product. Use that message in every place that you’re looking for leads. Your Social Media, your advertising, and in your branding. Avoid the temptation to add in a laundry list of features and benefits. Stick with one clear message, and you’re more likely to be heard.

When you identify “who you are for”, and speak only to them with your message, people self-identify. They’ll want to visit your website, and once they’re there, you’ll have the chance to tell them more and develop an affinity with them.  

Competitive pricing and delivery times become less important because your audience knows your site was built just for them."

Back to Experts

Catherine Howell

"Facebook’s algorithm is geared to help protect small advertisers just as much as the big spenders - it’s why start ups and bootstrapped online businesses are able to compete with the likes of Coca-Cola. The algorithm in it’s most basic form is made up of three elements (bid, expected actions, and relevance). Understanding the algorithm and the auction process should be the number one focus for new advertisers - if you get this, then you can leverage results to your heart’s content.

For example, some ways to improve campaigns are; Make sure your targeting and creative are suited to your objectives to protect your relevance and run social proof on your ads to increase this even more.

If you’re not getting great results from your campaigns and your relevance is great, this is a sign you are losing the auction against an advertiser with a bigger budget (and good relevance). Adjust your bidding strategy here in order to be shown to better quality subsets of your audience and - in turn- improve conversion rates."

Back to Experts

Anthony Vincent Mastellone

"I would say that in order to stay competitive a strong focus on consistent, high quality social media content will separate you from the pack. A compelling content strategy will help build rapport and brand awareness, giving prospects a greater sense of trust and comfort to purchase from your store. Mixing that with placing your products in the hands of social media influencers is key to getting the ball rolling! Sending out free samples and engaging with influencers is a great way to get your foot in the door and begin gaining massive exposure without a large budget.

One last (very important) piece - make sure that you are utilizing customer/abandon cart emails. An email list is a huge asset to any eCom store and can generate a huge chunk of your revenue if properly utilized. With my upcoming app, MailFunnels you can automate the commitments people take on your store and put them through automated email funnels to market to them in accordance with their actions - setting you up for huge conversions via email."

Back to Experts

Steve Chou

"In order to stay competitive, make sure that your unique value proposition is clearly expressed whenever a customer is exposed to your product. If there's nothing special about your goods or your brand, it will be hard to stand the test of time. In the long run, remaining competitive is all about establishing yourself as an authority in your niche. Once you have a strong presence, people will buy from you based on your brand alone."

Back to Experts

Dave Huckabay

"I'd say to combine your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) with your online personality. Are you a family owned cookie store? Trumpet that! Family recipes, pictures of Mom in the kitchen, and quality images of all the little things you do that makes you you - and not Keebler or some other corporate giant.

Maybe you came up with a new way of composting - tell us how, and why the old way didn't work. Give us a look at how you came up with your new gizmo. Where ever possible, tell the story in multiple ways - pictures, text and video. People absorb info differently. Also be genuine. Don't try to sound smart or use industry jargon. Tell the story the way you'd explain it to a new friend.

Define any industry specific terms in plain language and finally - Make sure this info is all out front and center. I should be able to look at your home page and tell instantly what you do and who you are."

Back to Experts

Ryan BeMiller

"Differentiate and specialize.  Big sites like amazon can't be all things to all people.  They have trouble being niche-specific experts who relate to their customers.  That's where small e-commerce businesses can shine.  Differentiate your business by going the extra mile for your customers, with things like helpful content, expert opinions, social interaction.  And specialize on a specific niche so that you can become the expert that customers of that niche will come to know, like and trust."

Back to Experts

Zach Heller

"To remain competitive in a world dominated by giants like Amazon, ecommerce businesses must focus on building relationships with customers. It is not possible to compete directly on price or breadth of inventory, so customers need another reason to continue to choose your brand over theirs. They will do this if you invest in loyalty.

Loyalty is not a given, it must be earned. Three things to focus on to build customer loyalty are user experience, customer service, and personalization. User experience means you focus on creating an online shopping process that is simple and intuitive. Customer service means you are wholly focused on making every single customer happy. And personalization means you give the customer the tools they need to interact with your brand in whatever way they prefer.

If you can successfully build brand loyalty among your existing customers, not only will you keep them from switching, but you will create brand advocates that will help you grow organically."

Back to Experts

Tracey Wallace

"My best tip for SMBs looking to stand out is to focus on community. Influencer marketing doesn't mean you have to go after the big guys. Create programs for micro-influencers (folks who have less than 5K followers) where you engage with them and inspire them. Throw meetups. Take their feedback. Encourage social posting. These kinds of programs are the grassroots movements that make brands, that have insanely high customer lifetime value and that ultimately save you money from ads. I've seen these kinds of programs grow small businesses massively, and quickly, even with just two full-time employees working on it (and the rest of the business!). It's doable –– and it's better than ads. And your competitors are probably too lazy to do it. "

Back to Experts

Jonny Challenger

"Buy in small quantities and work out what sells. If it sells you can always get more in. Try and keep your supply chain lean and quick. Know your target audience exceptionally well and find out where they hang out online and speak to them in their own language in a non-salesy way. This personal touch is something that Amazon cannot compete with."

Back to Experts

Chris Boaz

"Many retailers might not be aware but Amazon’s patent on its industry-leading one-click buying checkout experience has just expired. Amazon held the patent for over 18 years, however, now any online retailer, regardless of size, can now implement this into their checkout.

The timing of this patent lifting couldn’t be more ideal for online retailers, especially with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and also the busy holiday shopping season around the corner. With 85% of online shoppers abandoning their order if presented with complicated or lengthy checkout forms, many online retailers who can implement a one-click buying system can ensure they maximise their sales in the run-up to this shopping season and compete with bigger rivals.”

Back to Experts

Adam Gore

"It’s vital you have a unique selling point (USP) when staying competitive against online giants such as Amazon and eBay. This could be the personal way you interact with your customers; your product selection; including quirky images, videos and copy on your website; or your story. Be different and authentic, but you need to really believe in your USP otherwise you are in danger of losing focus, direction and momentum, which is the main thing that differentiates you.”

Back to Experts

Lyndan Orvis

"As a small business we have tried hard to avoid trading on platforms such as eBay and Amazon, due to the high commissions and intense administrative requirements.

Staying competitive against businesses trading through eBay and Amazon can be difficult, especially if they are trading from a living room or garage and only supporting one or two employees. Their overheads are much lower than ours as we have to balance running a retail store and marketing our brand. Even with the commissions given from suppliers, we often find that someone is undercutting our prices, so what can we do about that?

Be selective when selecting the brands you want to sell. What are their policies on trading with Amazon and Ebay. What restrictions do they set to protect your margin. Do they only supply to retailers who have a shop floor to promote their goods? If they sell to every man and his dog, then look at an alternative supplier. Companies know there are conflicts in the market place and the good ones will look to protect retailers who carry and display physical stock. Those who genuinely responsible for building its brand.

Visibility, Flexibility and Service.

Amazon and eBay appear high up in all searches so it's essential that if you want to compete with them that you can be seen. Whilst competing against such strong companies in the organic search, this may never be a viable option, a well managed PPC campaign and affiliate marketing strategy can allow you to be right there next to them. Ensure you offer the same flexible delivery and payment options. Ensure that your trust scores are visible on your website so the customer feels confident in trusting their money to you. This is something that Amazon and eBay do very well.

All that said. It is hugely important that you carve out your own USP in the marketplace and understand where you fit in the grand scheme of things. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but taking market share from your competitors can be very costly if your strategy is not properly thought through."

Back to Experts

Remaining Competitive Vs. E-Commerce Giants [Infographic]

All these great tips got us thinking, why should it only be us that benefit? Share this simple infographic and you too can benefit:

Back to blog