5 Ways to Beat Amazon at Its Own Game This Holiday Season

Nearly half of online shoppers will buy elsewhere—here's how to make them your customers

people holiday shopping in a crowded store
Optimizing your company's online shopping experience can go a long way to drive sales.
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Of the holiday gifts shoppers will buy online this year, 42% expect to purchase all or most of them from Amazon, according to a new report from web content management firm Episerver.

On the flip side, 47% will buy few or none of their gifts from Amazon, which means nearly half the market is still open to other brands and retailers.

Amazon is an intimidating competitor, to be sure, but it’s not invincible. And by targeting chinks in its proverbial armor, Episerver pointed out some ways other brands can capitalize. Here are its top five recommendations for doing just that:

1. Win shoppers over with content and service

In the survey of 4,500 online shoppers from all over the world, 68% said they often or always compare what they find on other websites to what’s available on Amazon.

This, Episerver said, “[makes] a brand’s digital experience critical to winning mindshare with consumers this holiday season.”

Not only that, Episerver said Amazon comes up short in product education, inspirational content, how-to guides and “fanatical” customer service, which presents other opportunities to win over consumers.

“Content and customer service are key differentiators for online retailers to compete against Amazon, especially for holiday shoppers who don’t know exactly what to buy for their spouse or office co-worker,” the report said. “Make sure your customer service team is dialed-in to serve and content teams are pumping out useful holiday guides for their websites—tactics Amazon won’t invest in.”

2. Optimize on-site search functionality

One-third of online shoppers said searching for a product or service is the No. 1 reason they go to a brand or retailer’s website for the first time. As a result, according to Episerver, retailers should optimize on-site search before the holidays to ensure “relevant search results for a shopper looking for quick finds, despite nuances like misspellings.”

They can do so by adding synonyms to their site search databases, adding redirects for common non-product searches like return policies and store locators, investigating any null-result queries for common search results, and adding product recommendations to 404 error/no result pages.

3. Team up with influencers

Episerver also suggested brands and retailers “tune up” their social content where Amazon isn’t present. That includes tapping into offsite influencer marketing, which not only humanizes product recommendations but also cuts through newsfeed algorithms “designed to limit brands’ organic reach.”

Brands can use influencer marketing platforms to find the right matches or take a more do-it-yourself approach by identifying influencers through their current social media management tool or platforms like BuzzSumo, contacting them directly, working on contract terms and then analyzing performance.

“Amazon uses a more catch-all approach to influencer marketing through its self-service signup process, providing a storefront to influencers who qualify based on their social following,” the report said. “The post-click experience is also critically important. The landing page should be tailored to why the person clicked through the sponsored post, or retailers risk alienating customers who thought they had something in common with them through the mutual relationship with the influencer.”

4. Give customers what they want on mobile devices

Mobile conversions are typically lower than desktop, but not because consumers aren’t interested in buying goods and services on these devices. Instead, it’s because there’s often still a gap between what customers expect from mobile experiences and what they actually get.

To get ahead of the game, Episerver recommends quick mobile fixes like compiling JavaScript and front-end code correctly to improve page load performance; loading images into a content delivery network so mobile pages load faster; reducing clutter on homepages and landing pages for mobile websites; and adding PayPal and Apple Pay to product pages as well as to the cart and checkout.

5. Enable order tracking so customers don’t worry

Consumer expectation for fast and free shipping means there is less fear about waiting until December to shop online. The most popular time to begin holiday shopping is between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15 (21%), followed by Nov. 16 and Nov. 30 (17%), Episerver found. And roughly two-thirds (67%) of online shoppers expect brands and retailers to offer package tracking.

“The holidays amplify everything, and retail capabilities are no exception,” the report said. “Retailers should proactively communicate with customers about their orders.”

That includes reassurances from order to delivery, like: “Yes, we got it;” “Yes, it’s on its way;” “Yes, we have a tracking number;” and, “Yes, it’s been delivered.”

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