Online Shopping for Small Businesses in the Age of Amazon

In 2017, more than 6,000 small businesses closed their doors for good. And it’s not just the mom-and-pop shops that have suffered — big brand names like Borders Books and KMart have also felt the pinch. After Amazon acquired organic grocery store chain Whole Foods, one of their main competitors closed 15 of its stores. That’s why in order to succeed as a small business, you have to be able to compete with powerhouses like Amazon.

For a small business to survive in the digital age, it’s critical to commit to maintaining a robust, modern website designed with the user’s experience in mind. What you need is a few strategies to help people find the online shopping experience they want — and make it simple and smooth with crisp, clean design.

Understand your target market

You may think everyone needs your product and that everyone is a potential customer. That kind of shotgun thinking is actually limiting your business, not broadening your audience. Conduct market research to find out objectively who your target audience is. You should learn about their shopping preferences, other brands they love, lifestyles they lead, and more. When you understand your target market, you can design the right kind of user experience for your online shop.

Prioritize the user’s experience

A lot of times, we design our websites with our companies in mind. It’s not usually intentional — we just tend to focus on what we think our customers need or want instead of focusing on their actual needs and wants. That’s why implementing some user experience (UX) design strategies can help set your online brand apart. This means intentionally designing the experience a potential customer has, from the first moment they engage with your company to when they open their purchase after receiving it in the mail. When you have a strategy in place for user experience, you can significantly enhance your website and online shopping platform.

Make your website more engaging

While it might be tempting to stick with easy-to-use templates so you will have an easier time running your website, this might not be the smartest move. Instead of settling for something generic, hire a web developer to help you update your site so that it best represents your company and gives your customers or clients a friction-free experience. One way to make this happen is to bring in HTML freelancers, who, as Upwork points out, need to have plenty of experience with web fundamentals, CSS, HTML5, various front-end frameworks, and different types of UI. If possible, it’s also important to see examples of their past work to see if they’re a good fit.

Once you’re armed with a dynamic website and a user experience strategy, you’ll be ready for another major component of your ecommerce platform: customer service.

Create an empathetic customer service culture

Many people think that an online shopping experience cannot be personalized, but think again. If your tone with your customers is always empathetic — from website copy to confirmation emails — then they will feel like they are purchasing an item from a friend, someone who cares about how this product makes them feel. A lot of people have complicated or even hostile customer service experiences, so yours should feel like a breath of fresh air. While Amazon is large, their customer service is very personal, easy to use, and in most cases, takes the customer’s side. That is part of what makes them so successful — and why your customer service policy has to be all that and more.

Small businesses can thrive in the age of Amazon, but they need to get creative. Of course, that’s what makes small businesses best prepared for the challenge. An entrepreneurial spirit requires creativity, and applying that to your online presence could make for some big wins.

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