The threat of Amazon has never loomed larger for retailers and ecommerce websites. Amazon’s clout has reached new heights in 2017, with the acquisition of Whole Foods, bigger 2017 SEM budgets, and an ever-growing list of brands allowing their products to be resold on the platform.

This post won’t answer whether or not you should sell products or advertise on Amazon’s platform. Whether or not you sell through Amazon, you’ll need to obsess over your customer experience if you want to avoid ceding online sales to Amazon. Amazon has been relentless in its focus on providing the lowest prices, best selection and easiest returns. Suffice to say, designing a user experience strong enough to tempt shoppers away from Amazon is not an easy task.

So, where do you start? Your very first priority should be to make the purchase process easier and the decision between product choices more well-informed for the shopper. You should also focus on fostering an enhanced sense of community on your site and an all-around more personalized experience. Here are some impactful recommendations that can give you a leg up over Amazon, even if you have less advantageous pricing, selection or shipping.

Offer Reviews to Help Make an Easier Decision

Reviews help drive a sense of security for consumers when they decide on a purchase, especially if you’re a reseller competing with several other sites. You don’t want consumers evaluating products on your site and then going elsewhere because you didn’t guide their decision or offer any proof that you’ll deliver what you promise.

Carmax does a great job of going a step further by summarizing its reviews around common themes that customers liked and didn’t like, saving shoppers the time of reading through each of the individual reviews to get the gist.

If you need help drumming up reviews, offer discount codes to everyone who fills one out. This can even help increase repeat purchase rates. If a 5% to 10% discount is out of the question, consider entering everyone who submits a review into a monthly drawing for site credit or a high value product prize.

Images of the Product in Use, Especially for Retail

I’ve seen way too many sites that have merely one picture of the product that I’m looking to buy. While consumers are less averse to purchasing online than they were when Amazon was founded, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appreciate getting a better idea of how they’d look in a certain shirt or pair of shoes.

By offering multiple high-quality pictures of models – or real customers – wearing your products, you remove a barrier to purchase. You might also want to list out the height and weight of the model, as well as the size being worn, to provide shoppers with even more information.

Even if you’re selling home appliances, seeing a picture of the product on a kitchen counter provides consumers with a better idea of what the product will look like in their homes.

One company that leverages product images well is Levi’s. Levi’s has eight different types of ‘fit’ for their jeans, which could be overwhelming. Which type fits more closely: slim or tapered? Before consumers can get scared away, though, a virtual stylist points them in the right direction based on answers to three simple questions. This allows Levi’s to use detailed product images to guide consumers to a purchase.

Fit Chart & Returns for Purchase of Multiple Sizes

Beyond the images of the product in use or on models, specific fit details also give consumers more confidence in what they’re buying.

Nobody wants to return products because they don’t fit, or have to worry that they’ll have to return that jacket they’re so excited about wearing for the weekend.

Even if you don’t normally offer free returns, consider allowing free returns to individuals who want to buy multiple sizes of the same product and only keep one. While you would be covering that shipping cost for customers who keep one of the sizes, small benefits like this help shoppers associate your brand with convenience and a positive customer experience.

Customization

If you’re a retailer who is able to customize products for your customers, you have a distinct competitive advantage over Amazon – and that customization aspect should be highlighted on your website. Your copy should emphasize the customers’ ability to make the product their own. In addition to bringing extra and distinct value to the consumer, you are further personalizing the experience in contrast to the standardized transaction Amazon provides. I can buy Nike products on Amazon, but I can’t get the Kyrie 3 basketball shoe in my high school colors with my old number embossed on the side. This personalized experience creates a relationship between consumers and your brand that will result in return purchases and brand loyalty.

Build on Community

If your products are geared at a specific niche, embrace and cultivate that community on your site and your social media outlets. If you’re a reseller of coffee and espresso machines, it might be easy for consumers to skip your website and simply buy the same products on Amazon. But will Amazon offer coffee 101 tasting notes? Do they provide videos of how to make the perfect cappuccino? Is there an easily accessible blog to give input on the best lactose free latte milk options?

People, and particularly millennials who represent an increasing fraction of consumer purchases, want to feel a connection to the products they buy and who they buy them from. Millennials are 38% more likely to buy natural and organic products, according to Nielsen, so lifestyle brands that embody the interests and attitudes of that group stand more likely to win a sale.

Your website, Twitter account, Instagram account and other branding platforms need to perpetuate those sentiments in a way that consumers won’t feel on Amazon. While it may be easier for a retail brand to do this, it’s not impossible for a reseller that caters to different groups to build this type of brand identity.

For example, Backcountry.com asks if customers would like to make a voluntary $1 donation to The Nature Conservancy after each purchase. The Nature Conservancy focuses on land conservation and climate issues that the skiers, campers and rock climbers that shop at Backcountry are especially passionate about. Beyond raising money for your charity of choice, this tactic helps you add authenticity to what your brand stands for. You can build a reputation as more than just a profit-driven website, which results in more brand loyalty and sales down the line.

Follow Up on Big Purchases

After I bought a new snowboard from Backcountry in February, I got a call and a follow up email from an ‘expert gearhead’ to see how I liked it. This availability, expertise and alignment with causes that are important to me make me more inclined to buy from Backcountry again. I know I’m never going to have a fellow snowboarder commenting on the powder performance of a prospective new board on Amazon in the same personalized way.

This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t opt for Amazon if the product were 25% cheaper, but I can honestly say I’ll opt for Backcountry every time that the price is the same, or close.

Conclusion

While these tips are a start, they don’t even scratch the surface of all the ways you can provide an awesome purchase experience. What else have you seen work with your customers? Take learnings from your previous initiatives and use them to provide customers with an experience unique to your brand.