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Amazon fulfills customer needs like no other. It's not for nothing that almost half of the German population buys from the online giant. Over 40% of German Amazon customers order at least once a month (Statista, 2020). Do online store operators even stand a chance against the American giant?

Yes, because 76% of Germans start their product search on Google (IntelliAd, 2018). Over 80% of online shoppers search first in online stores they have already visited (Statista, 2017). These figures give us hope. If you cleverly optimize your own online store, you can reach customers even without Amazon. We show you which tips you can use to optimize your own online store.

Tip 1: Improve product search

What sounds logical is often neglected. Many online stores do not utilize the potential of product search. On the one hand, customers want to be able to search for specific products. The product search can be improved by a good filter function with many criteria (e.g. price, color, size, delivery date). On the other hand, customers need support when selecting products. The Internet confronts us with an incredible variety of goods. Psychology studies prove this: A large selection leads to less willingness to buy (Iyen & Lepper, 2000). The provider Westwing is a good example of how products can be grouped into entire theme worlds. This makes it easier to put together purchases and provides orientation. Use the filter function, group your articles and suggest other suitable products for your customers to buy. Store visitors will thank you for it.

Try product search

Figure 1: Westwing "Shop the Look" categories, source: www.westwing.de

Tip 2: Talk to customers

Answering personal questions from customers on social media? Amazon can't do that! This is your opportunity. Answer your customers directly on Facebook or Instagram. Many customers have questions about their delivery or want more details about the product. Currently, 85% of all fashion stores and 71% of all furniture and household stores are represented on Instagram (Statista, 2021).
Offer a Whatsapp chat function on your online store. 37% of Germans would rather send a text message than make a phone call (Statista, 2020).
Personal letters are also perceived positively by customers. Let your regular customers know in personal letters how much you appreciate their loyalty. Thank them with discount campaigns and vouchers. Personal customer contact can become your unique selling point. Make it easier for your customers to contact you and be available on various channels. Those who communicate intensively with their customers are more successful.

Tip 3: Show ratings

Buyers trust the judgment of others. How often have you yourself read reviews in an online store before buying something? Every third store does without reviews and seals of approval. Over half of all customers in Germany use product reviews before buying an electronic item (Statista, 2016). 15% of Germans have left reviews themselves for items purchased online. Reviews also help you as a store operator to continuously improve your offering. Negative reviews can also be an opportunity to adapt your product portfolio or optimize internal processes. Respond to reviews as quickly as possible. This shows your customers that their opinion is important and is being listened to. 

Tip 4: Optimize checkout

Easy entry of personal data, pre-filled fields, an overview of the order steps, simple navigation - that's what customers love at checkout. Pop-up windows, on the other hand, tend to lead to customers abandoning the purchase process. It is worth checking and optimizing the order process in the online store. For example, you can invite users to give you direct feedback on the ordering process. Or you can observe a user directly as they navigate through the checkout. Possible delays and problem areas become apparent. This is also known as "user shadowing". Costs little and brings a lot. The most popular payment methods should also be integrated with new players in mind. Applepay, Alipay, Googlepay and Amazonpay are on the rise internationally.

Tip 5: Inspire with content

Amazon offers a large product catalog and lots of user-generated content such as reviews and comments. Beyond that, however, Amazon is not a place to go for inspiration. Do it differently with your online store! You can compete with Amazon with valuable blog posts, informative newsletters and visually appealing social content. Content also connects the online and offline experience. If you have a physical store or organize events, post about them on social channels. This makes your brand authentic and tangible. Content is also a unique opportunity to be perceived as an expert in a niche. The more content you write on a topic, the higher your credibility will be. In Germany, 33% of (online) retailers stated that content marketing plays a central role for them (Statista, 2017). Take advantage of the enormous potential of content relating to your store and your subject area.

Tip 6: Personalize experiences

Even without a login, website visitors can be guided to personalized experiences based on their online search behavior, general trends and visitor numbers. Why not start your online store with current trends, for example? List products matching a current trend topic on the homepage. 60% of all Germans say they prefer sustainable products (Idealo, 2021). Meet this awareness of sustainable online shopping and make your store more successful. Today, there are many tools to help you personalize your online store. 20% of all online stores in Germany personalize content and offers (Statista, 2021). With the right provider, you can easily create personalized home and product pages and increase the purchase completion rate.

successful online stores

Figure 2: Survey on the personalization of online stores, source: ECC Cologne; IntelliShop, Statista 2021

Tip 7: Courage to find a niche

Today you can buy almost anything on Amazon. But not every buyer benefits from this enormous selection. Large retailers are often unable to cater to the needs of specific customers. Those who focus on a niche can position themselves as experts. Online shoppers are prepared to pay a higher price for products in their niche. If you don't offer pet supplies in your online store, for example, but specialize in dogs, you will be perceived as an expert. Customers receive a larger selection of articles. Instead of having to choose between 30 types of pet food for cats, dogs, horses and rodents, they will find 30 types of dog food. If the dog store also regularly uses its marketing channels with exciting articles on the subject of "dogs", it achieves authority as a "dog professional". This leads to trust and long-term customer loyalty.

Tip 8: Investigate the competition

Are you a niche player or are there some competitors in your field? Dare to take a close look at your competitors. Many online stores work together with usability experts. Your online store is optimized for improved user guidance. Why not take a leaf out of their book for your own store? In a so-called "benchmarking" you can examine the competition and derive optimizations for your own store. Think about categories in advance according to which you want to check the competition (e.g. product search, checkout, navigation, social media presence). Summarize your findings in a table. Take notes and screenshots of things that you particularly like. Derive actions for your own store. 

 

Tobias Dziuba

My name is Tobias and I am the founder and managing director of the Amazon agency Adsmasters GmbH based in Düsseldorf.

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