It is almost impossible to sell something online and not compete with Amazon. But how can you attract more direct buyers to your site?

Through superior service and expertise.

For example, think about small, popular restaurants. These places are busy even as they compete with large, well-known chains. What is it about these smaller establishments that keep them thriving even when competing with larger rivals? It’s their expertise in providing good food and exceptional, personalized service. They honed their skills with years of practice. They’ve acquired insights that are difficult to replicate at the scale, which is required by bigger businesses.

Consider the experience of buying mattresses at Wayfair. Compared to Amazon, Wayfair is a small company. But it has deeper expertise in selling mattresses, with a greater selection and more filtering options than Amazon.

Wayfair has a greater selection of furniture and far more filtering options than Amazon.
Wayfair has a greater selection of furniture and far more filtering options than Amazon.

Click image to enlarge.

Wayfair’s pages are generally more helpful, with complementary information to help buyers make the right choice. Compare this to Amazon’s generic pages, which have limited, category-specific personalization. Amazon has too many products and categories to match Wayfair’s expertise on mattresses.

Amazon cannot provide the same sort of categories for mattresses as Wayfair. <em&gtClick image to enlarge.</em>
Amazon cannot provide the same sort of categories for mattresses as Wayfair.

Click image to enlarge.

In other words, smaller merchants have expertise that Amazon does not. Smaller merchants can provide a superior experience. Shoppers can feel as if the site is built for them.

Improving User Experience

One of my clients, a B2B manufacturer, is embarking on a project to revamp the ecommerce experience for some of its key customer segments. The client sells products for large buildings, such as hospitals, schools, and commercial facilities. It has a large selection of products and wants to organize them so that potential buyers from those groups of customers — hospitals, schools, commercial facilities — can find them quickly.

The most common way to do this is with user experience teams, who attempt to improve the shopping process, roll out the changes, deploy A/B tests, and hope for the best.

But there is a better way.

In addition to brainstorming user-experience ideas, observe the behavior of actual users in Google Analytics. Try…