Just as middle market retailers were scrambling to figure out how they would handle the fallout from the coronavirus and maintain their businesses, the industry’s behemoth, Amazon, weighed in with its own plan. Usually, these announcements carry ominous news for small and medium-size retailers.
But this announcement from Amazon was different, and in fact it carried a ray of hope – that is, if the smaller retailers remain nimble and act quickly.
The announcement included three critical components:
- Hire 100,000 additional workers to keep up with increased demand.
- Boost current employee wages by $2 per hour.
- Suspend inbound shipments of non-essential products.
It’s in this third component where middle market retailers might find some opportunity.
That’s because the suspension of non-essential products through at least April 5 will leave the door open for other retailers that have the flexibility to focus on the categories that shoppers will not be able to find on Amazon.
How to do it
If Amazon does not extend the suspension beyond April 5, the time frame to execute it is very short. But this same small window is part of a larger critical time period in which consumers will be sheltered in their homes as the country tries to slow the spread of Covid-19. Retailers that act quickly may be able to capture some additional sales.
Here are two areas to focus on:
- Identify inventory items that are not available on Amazon: Once that is done, consider a marketing campaign that includes targeted discounts and promotions for those items.
- Select the right advertising channel: With the increase in overall internet usage, online advertising and email campaigns are two clear possibilities. There is also a third, and perhaps more powerful, option to consider: social media.
To be sure, the customer demographic of each retailer will dictate the level to which social media can be used, but for many it’s an option that should be considered.
The concept of omni-channel has evolved in the retail ecosystem to include channels beyond just brick and mortar, and online. The use of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram for both shopping as well as purchasing has been growing rapidly.
That trend will most likely accelerate with hundreds of millions of Americans confined to their homes. Those retailers that can reach customers through social media with targeting advertisements for items that aren’t available on Amazon create the opportunity to capture sales.
Going a step further, discounting a complementary household staple with an under-represented item on the Amazon marketplace may help to both expand the basket, as well as to steal a sale from Amazon.
This strategy, if properly executed, will not only generate sales in the short term, but will also strengthen the overall brand loyalty for that customer – and that will deliver value beyond the current crisis. As Alexander Graham Bell once said, when one door closes, another opens.