With Amazon's announcement that it has narrowed down the list of contenders for its HQ2 project to 20 sites, it's clear that the retail giant might be positioning itself for the grand prize: World domination.

What would lead someone to come to that conclusion?

The fact that three of the 20 locations are in the Washington, D.C., region. Slaying Walmart, financing award-winning movies, and building his own space program may not be enough for Jeff Bezos. He may want to rule the world, or at least the United States.

One day that might happen.

Until then it's still possible to thrive in the age of Amazon, with the right strategy:

1. Sell local products.

Research shows that consumers, especially younger buyers, prefer to shop local. Selling products consumers can literally buy anywhere else, including Amazon, places a business at an inherent disadvantage. After all, if I can buy something on my phone without ever leaving my couch (or tell Alexa to get it for me), the incentive to deal with traffic and every other less-than-desirable aspect that comes with getting out of the house and dealing with my fellow humans goes way down.

In other words, offering locally made products that buyers can only get from your business is a good incentive to get people off the couch and into your store.

2. Treat your customers like human beings.

It's not that Amazon is inherently bad

It's just that, like a lot of other humungous corporations that aspire to world domination, it lacks an intrinsic humanity. That sounds like a pretty dark statement, but the good news is that infusing the sense of humanity that Amazon lacks into your business can be a strategic advantage.

"For customers shopping on Amazon, the vast selection and competitive prices are a definite draw. But there are some things that a giant like Amazon can't offer: exemplary service," said Allison McGuire, Director of Marketing at Paper Mart. "This is where smaller businesses like ours can thrive -- by offering a unique experience that puts the customer first. Provide helpful tips to consumers on your company blog or offer access to a monthly newsletter to show off your brand's personality. Long-term customer loyalty is won by companies that treat their customers like humans, not numbers."

3. Compete on something other than price.

If retailers didn't learn they can't compete on price alone in the age of Walmart, they will in the age of Amazon. It's a cliché to say success in 2018 and beyond requires delivering value, but it's true. Amazon owns price, and they own convenience.

What does that leave for you?

Value.

Jeff Bezos may end up ruling the world--and who knows, maybe we will better off for it.

(Though I doubt it.)

Before that happens, though, you as a retailer can still have a fighting chance, as long as you focus on selling locally made products, treating customers like humans, and delivering value.

Published on: Jan 22, 2018