5 ways Smaller Retailers Can Compete against Amazon & the Big Brands

Learn 5 actionable ways small to medium AU & NZ retail businesses can compete with Amazon and the big brands. Hint: we talk customer experiences & technology
min read
Retail Express Team
September 30, 2022
Retail Express Team
September 30, 2022

Table of contents

There’s nothing more annoying than admiring your competition. Except perhaps knowing that your competition is a multinational tech company worth $1.23 trillion (and rising) that dominates the global eCommerce system like King Kong in heels.-

Yes, Amazon is rather annoying. And rather gargantuan. 

So, how can the average, hard-working retailer compete with Amazon when they are so ridiculously good? When you can order almost anything, and it’s almost always in stock, and you can get it in two days. For free, if you’re with Prime. 

You may not be able to compete with Amazon or some other big players head on. But you can learn a lot from their principles and apply them to your business — to improve your competitive edge and, importantly, to please the pants off your customers. Because if there’s one thing Amazon does well, it’s outrageously fantastic customer experiences.

So first up, let’s take a brief look at Amazon.

Why is Amazon so good?-

Amazon has become a spectacular success partly due to their clear focus that has been continually refined over the years. Four principles guide Amazon:

  • Customer obsession rather than competitor focus 
  • Passion for invention
  • Commitment to operational excellence
  • Long-term thinking

And here’s another positive worth mentioning: Amazon's exceptional ambition and dedication to ethics. The team “strives to be earth’s most customer-centric company, earth’s best employer and earth’s safest place to work.”

These guys didn’t just strive to outdo their competitors in the next block. They made clear, highly ambitious goals, then committed to them, doggedly refining them year after year.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can apply these principles to your own retail business. But also, let’s look at ways to use your most potent leveller: technology as a competitive tool to punch above your weight in-store and online.

1. Punch above your weight

Businesses can go a long way by pretending they are bigger than they are. We’re not suggesting you should lie but instead be ultra-professional, polished and use the internet and powerful retail software to your advantage. 

Here are a few ways to do this.

(i) Seriously invest in your online presence

Your website is more than just an online shop; it’s a comprehensive representation of your brand. Most of today’s consumers visit websites for information, not transactions. They jump online to learn about your brand, team, products or details like store locations, pricing or trading hours. So, invest in the best designers, photos and copywriters, because it’ll be well worth the expense.

Remember, new websites no longer need to be completely custom built. Platforms such as Magento and Shopify are also excellent levellers for smaller retailers competing with the eCom giants. Instead of starting from scratch, you can now leverage these companies' considerable talent pool and technological prowess by choosing an affordable, customisable template for a monthly fee. You’ll still need a web designer, but it’ll cost far less.

Shopify website for eCommerce

(ii) Get social

Regularly appearing on social media will make you look bigger than you are — providing you adhere to branding and do it well. It will also help you connect with the audience and build trust. But, only set up social media channels appropriate for your brand and follow through with regular posting.

Submit editorial content to the media-

When the media showcase your brand in editorial content — not paid advertisements — it gives your brand kudos. It’s an endorsement (which builds trust) and a symbol of success — the type we expect from large brands. So, approach local and national publications with a good story and excellent images ready for publication and get your media-schmoozing foot in the door.

(iii) Go omnichannel

Again, the biggest leveller for small retail businesses is technology. And the biggest advantage for retailers today is omnichannel retail. So integrate your bricks & clicks with advanced omnichannel software. You’ll have one set of cloud-based data updated in real time, allowing for the vital visibility you need over all your channels. 

Omnichannel retail lets you be wherever your customers are. And it gives you the agility to offer better customer experiences (delighting customers just like Amazon) while increasing your profits and growth.

And there’s more: 

  • Increase sales – by displaying all stock online rather than having separate inventories in different channels
  • Offer more fulfilment options – such as Click & Collect (now that you are displaying all stock online) —statistically shown to boost more sales while pleasing the customer
  • Offer same-day or next-day delivery – by dispatching from the nearest store (decentralised fulfilment), allowing you to save on shipping costs and offer same-day shipping or faster shipping
  • Simplify the returns process – with all data synchronised, an item bought online can be returned or exchanged seamlessly in-store
  • Make payment easier – and contact-free by using advanced point of sale software in-store
  • Increase efficiencies – by automating processes such as stock updates, automated replenishment and even recording a customer's details only once to have them permanently on file. All these things save valuable time — time you can now spend focusing on the customer and growing your business — just like the big players
  • Improve the customer experience – through personalised marketing campaigns. By quickly capturing customer info in-store, you can more efficiently market to them with enticing, customised campaigns later. You can create in-store surveys and build dynamic customer groups based on previous sales, age, demographics, loyalty points and other variables

From the blog: 8 Advantages of An Omnichannel Strategy (& Integration)

Omnichannel retail software integrates all orders and stock

2. Push your local status (support local business)

Although we recommend punching above your weight, it’s also great to push your local status (proving that sometimes you can have two bites of the cherry). 

Supporting ‘local’ is no small fad. According to 2021 research by Commbank Rewards, 85% of Australians intend to buy from local brands and businesses in the future. 

Consumers like shopping ‘local’ as it shows community-minded support, it’s environmentally friendly — and frankly, it’s considered to be the cool thing to do by most trend-conscious folk. So, if you’re a smaller, local player, make a point on your website and social media to thank your customers for shopping locally and supporting your business.

3. Offer exceptional customer support

Always be available to help resolve the customer’s problem — and answer quickly. Consumers demand good support, and by providing it, you’ll strengthen their trust and improve your branding. 

Phone support or live chat are both excellent options. And there’s a bonus. By talking directly to the customer, you can better attend to their needs and be more likely to increase their basket size. 

Also, consider AI-powered chatbots. An offspring of ‘conversational commerce’, chatbots are proving to give consumers a faster, more seamless and convenient purchase experience.

Your chatbot can answer commonly asked questions or guide them to FAQs on your website. 

TIP: Make sure customers can email you via a contact form. And let them know when you will reply. Will it be four hours or six? Don’t let them wait longer than 24 hours.

4. Offer outstanding customer experiences

Customer experiences have always been the bright, shiny jewels in Amazon’s crown. There are endless ways to delight your customers — but ensuring they’re your number one priority is a great place to start. To find out more, take a look at our articles below:

5. If you can’t beat them, join them

Having your business available in as many channels as possible is vital for increasing sales and growing your brand. So why not join the larger players and leverage their colossal customer base? Remember to adhere to your branding guidelines religiously. Additionally, only submit high-quality images and include relevant SEO keywords in your description, so your customers can easily find what they need.

TIP: Joining other marketplaces is a lot easier with the right software. For example, Retail Express POS software integrates seamlessly with marketplaces such as David Jones Online, The Iconic Marketplace, Marketplacer (for franchises and buying groups), Myer, Crossfire EDI and Bike Exchange. Most of the hard work is done for you, making it a brilliant way to get in front of the most customers possible.

Technology is the greatest leveller for smaller retailers competing with the biggest kids on the retail block. Switch to Retail Express advanced omnichannel software and get the competitive edge you need:

  • Be in front of your customers, wherever they are 
  • Streamline efficiencies and automate your processes
  • Offer more fulfilment options that consumers now demand, such as Click & Collect
  • Offer same-day or next-day delivery through decentralised fulfilment
  • Make payments easier — with more options
  • Create outstanding customer experiences at every touch point

Get a free, customised demo from an Australian-based retail expert to learn more.

Get the latest retail content in your inbox

Hot tips on inventory management, omni-channel, scaling store and more.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We hate spam too, we’ll only send you relevant content.

We make switching to cloud POS easy

Our Retail Express onboarding and support team have all had professional experience as retailers and know the challenges you face. That's why it's our priority to ensure switching to our cloud-based POS software is easy.

  • Personal Support Manager: You'll have your own Australian-based Personal Success Manager who'll guide you through the process step-by-step. All costs included. They'll help format and import your data, get you up and running, guide you with your hardware and help with everything associated with set-up.
  • 5-Star ongoing support: Once you're set up, the support doesn't stop. We're renowned for our Australian-based customer support. Each of our experts has professional retail experience and knows the issues you face. Forget being palmed off to a help manual — you'll be individually cared for until we fix your problem, every time.
  • Knowledge Base, Training Academy & webinars: You'll have access to a comprehensive Knowledge Base with all instructions, a video library, Training Academy and more.
Get a Demo
retail pos system

Watch our full free video series at Omni-Channel Leaders Academy

Discover the game-changing practices being used by leading retailers, in our library of short videos.

Highest Impact Marketing & Loyalty Campaigns
In-Store Experience Must-Do's to win more sales
ROI-driven eCommerce Plays to increase revenue
Critical Inventory and Fulfilment Strategies
Watch the FREE videos


Suggested reading