Originally posted on LinkedIn here.
As a small business owner whose job it is to ensure the success of other small businesses, I'm witness to many anxiety points for small business owners, including that of Amazon.
I believe in shopping locally and supporting local business. When I use Amazon, it's typically for products that I can't acquire locally and items that I'd otherwise be purchasing from a local Wal-Mart or dollar store, especially those that can be ordered in bulk and shipped quickly and affordably. I will gladly visit a local business for available items—at least once. I'll come back to this in a moment.
If I were a retailer or similar business, would I be concerned?
Yes. Amazon is stealing their customers—robbing them of their livelihood. Anxiety and fear are perfectly reasonable responses to such a threat.
But there's a question here that might not get asked enough: Why are your customers so easily stolen by this faceless entity with super low prices and fast shipping?
In many cases, the answer becomes clear upon a visit to the business in question: Because your customer experience sucks.
If you're a small business owner who is living in fear of this online giant eating your lunch, stop and take a very close look from your customers' perspective. You should already be doing this, but the truth is that few of us follow through with the practice.
When I visit those local businesses I mentioned previously, I know, as do the vast majority of shoppers, that I could be bypassing their stores and buying online instead.
If I'm greeted by an individual who appears to be confused as to why I've stepped in the door; if the shelves are disheveled; if the cashier fails to engage in so much as friendly eye contact; if my experience as a customer is lackluster, I might not go back for a return visit.
Supporting local business is not something done without consideration of the experience within that business.
What about price, right? It's not the experience—we're all great people putting it all on the line to the best of our ability. Saving money at all costs is the motivating factor for all who shop online. It doesn't matter what you do for customers inside your store if they can find the same thing cheaper elsewhere.
I call BS. I don't want to write about examples of higher-priced products and services winning out over less expensive options because enough has already been written—there are too many examples!
You can win customers over and keep them coming back. Even in the face of Amazon.
Because I suppose Amazon does have a face—a simple, straightforward, minimalist smile. A smile that was developed based on a solid understanding of brand, of messaging, and of crafting positive customer experiences.
Don't fight Amazon. Learn from them. What's your smile?