As an Amazon Prime customer, I'm one of millions of shoppers who has done the majority of their Christmas shopping on that single site this year.


Well, frankly, I like the fact that my payment details and address are stored, Amazon knows what I like and what I've been looking at, I can check out with a single click and the item will be at my door less than 24 hours later. If I lived in a bigger city, I could have it on my doorstep within a couple of hours.

So as a consumer, I'm Amazon's biggest fan. But as a marketer, their dominance is something of a threat. This is a site that sells everything and offers the user a great, personalized and fast experience.

If you're an e-commerce business, there's a good chance you sell your products on Amazon's marketplace and pay them a sizable cut of what you make. Perhaps you even send them your stock and simply have Amazon fulfill your orders for you. And I'm certainly not saying that's a fundamentally bad move.

But what should be a concern for you is having a significant portion of your business revenues running through this one site you have absolutely no control over.

2018 is the year to focus on building sales through your own channels - your own website. I'm not suggesting building a site that competes effectively with Amazon nor about dropping Amazon from your e-commerce strategy altogether. But I caught up with Kevin Jones, CEO of Shopblocks, to find out how you can win back some of your business from the powerhouse of Amazon.

De-risk your offering for first time customers

"Buying from an unknown brand is often deemed riskier for consumers than buying from Amazon," Jones advises.

His point is reiterated by a recent survey that found people trust Amazon almost as much as they trust their banks. Convincing your potential customers to buy from your site (one they have never transacted on before) over the familiar friend of Amazon means giving a little more in the first place to take some of the consideration (or perceived "risk," out of the transaction). So what can you give?

"Free delivery and free returns are two simple things that give the customer less to worry about and cuts the chances of them simply thinking, 'Never mind, I'll just go to Amazon.'"

Make your site stand out

55 percent of Americans start their product searches on Amazon. In other words, more product searches start on Amazon than start on 'traditional' search engines like Google and Bing in the US.

So Amazon is a starting point for products for over half of Americans. In other words, it's a household name when it comes to buying pretty much anything online.

What does this mean for smaller e-commerce businesses trying to win custom through their own site?

"It means your site needs to stand out and be remembered," according to Jones.

"Make 2018 the year in which you ditch your 'soulless template and dull content. No e-commerce website should just look exactly like thousands of others selling all sorts of different products. It makes you harder to recall and very bland."

So, spend time considering your design, your branding and making people want to see your content. Stand out against competitors by creating great product imagery and useful, engaging descriptions and content. Steer clear of duplicating manufacturer descriptions and invest some time in writing your own based on real customer use of your products.

Invest in winning repeat business

For 70 percent of businesses, acquiring a customer is more expensive than retaining one. It's unsurprising when you consider the investment required in marketing to a new audience. And if you then look to incentivize the first time purchase with special promotions and you factor in free delivery and returns, you squeeze your margins even tighter.

So it's vital for most online retail businesses that these hard won customers are coming back and buying time and time again. Set yourself a goal of increasing your customer lifetime value.

It's unrealistic to expect that a standard small to medium online retailer is able to recreate a personalization engine like Amazon's. That has had millions of dollars and years invested into it. But Jones believes there are steps every online retailer can take to improve customer loyalty.

"Firstly, make sure the buying experience is great. Your customer service has to be amazing, your delivery should be fast and on time and the buyer should receive exactly what they think they've ordered."

A customer receiving something late or in poor condition won't be a repeat customer. So no matter how amazing your check out process is, if the product or service is substandard, you won't win loyalty. 

Jones also advocates specific marketing messaging to previous customers, advising,

"Consider offers for customers returning to make a second purchase and encourage the user to register or at least sign up for a newsletter. We want to be able to reach these customers with relevant promotions again later."

Of course, even without email opt in achieved, it's still possible to invest in a solid retargeting strategy.

With customer retention often much more cost effective than customer acquisition, effective retargeting and email marketing can help to keep your hard won customers shopping with you directly rather than buying yours or similar products on Amazon.