Few of us remember Amazon’s origins as a niche online book retailer. They’ve been crushing the ecommerce industry singlehandedly for so long that we forgot that they were once a small startup with a dream just like the rest of us. In the last 20 years, Amazon has literally invented modern ecommerce. Newcomers to the ecommerce field acknowledge Amazon as their main competitor and build their business model and target audience accordingly. However, when a competitor has such a tight grip on a multibillion dollar industry, it’s important not to overlook the obvious and ask yourself: what can I learn from them.

1.  Make It Personal

One of my favorite parts of my Amazon account is how well it knows me. That’s not by accident. When I login, I’m greeted by my first name and I’m presented with offers related to my previous purchases and items I’ve searched for.  Their email marketing campaign is even more personalized offering non-intrusive ways to remind you of your abandoned shopping cart items or other items you overlooked, but have been meaning to buy.

While you may not have the technological wherewithal to match Amazon’s, you can certainly take advantage the accelerating SaaS marketplace of complimentary personalization tools. When you scrape all of the bells and whistles, ecommerce is just sales. Plain and simple. Make the effort to improve your customers’ shopping experience and help them find what they’re looking for faster. Personalization software let’s you travel back to the steadfast brick and mortar tradition of smiling at your customers, shaking their hand and calling them by their first name. With that attitude, you’ll have a chance to make them your customer for life.

Pay Attention To The Competition

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel everytime.

2.  Own The Product Review Section

Take a page from the TripAdvisor playbook and take ownership of the product reviews on your site. One of the most disruptive aspects of online shopping is the speed of product research and price comparison. In five minutes you can get key data and real customer feedback on a purchase that used to take a whole Saturday of driving around to different stores or flipping through the latest edition of Consumer Research. Even if the purchase is being made offline, people are still conducting their research online. According to Interactions, 88% of consumers are researching their products online prior to making a purchase. With the proliferation of the Smartphone, sometimes their doing it while their still in the store.

Online shoppers today have the attention span of gnat. In fact, you’re not even reading this sentence right now. I could write anything I want and you’d never know, you’re just skimming 3 main points. But if you are still reading, you should realize that if they leave your ecommerce site to go find a product review, they are not coming back. Not now, not later, not ever. You lost that sale forever. Furthermore, if you’re building you’re community, as you ought to be, the review section will become it’s own sales funnel. People will leave your competitors’ sites to read the product reviews on your site and you’ll be the one closing the sale. Not the other guys.

3.  Give The People What They Want: Free Shipping

Last summer, UPS and comScore got together to run a test on shopping cart abandonment. It turns out a whopping 58% of shoppers are leaving the checkout process the moment they realize the total purchase price went up due to shipping costs. In other words, if you’re currently charging for shipping and adding that cost at the end of the transaction, you could literally see a 58% jump in sales simply by NOT doing that anymore.

Can’t afford free shipping? Yeah, I figured as much. No one can. Instead, find out your average order value and your average shipping costs. These will vary based on your industry, location and product inventory. Then, set a minimum purchase amount that gives you enough profit margin to cover the cost of shipping or offer other incentives that encourage repeat buying behavior. This is what Amazon does. Another option is to just do it the lazy way and build the shipping costs into the price of the product. Whatever you do, just don’t add a shipping fee to the shopping cart at the end the buying process.

Wrapping It Up

There’s good news and bad news, I’ll start with the bad. The bad news is the ecommerce industry is arguably the most competitive industry to have ever existed and everyone’s playing second fiddle to Amazon. (Insert shameless plug for the importance of Kompyte’s competitive tracking software here.)  The good news is a few billion more consumers are about to flood the market in the next 5-10 years so the opportunity is ripe for the taking. While we don’t want a world where everyone’s just copying Amazon, there are certainly some key best practices that you should adopt to be successful. I just laid out my top 3, what else can we steal from the retail giant?