As I look through articles on trends and business strategies for 2014, it’s clear that Amazon is driving many online retailers’ business decisions this year. With Amazon’s advantages in fulfillment speed, pricing, inventory, and the sophistication of its e-commerce engine, I imagine the question of how to effectively compete with the behemoth keeps many online retailers up at night.

However, there is a category of savvy online business owners – many of whom we have the pleasure of working with – who are keeping the Amazons, eBays and’s of the world at bay by finding their own niches.

These retailers are discovering that they can maintain dominance on their home turf and draw new shoppers to their sites by showcasing their domain expertise and augmenting their unique assets with services from third-party providers. For example, a merchant can use videos and social media marketing to effectively emphasize its unique specialty.

Additionally, retailers are looking to service providers to handle critical areas of their website like search, shopping cart and check-out, mobile design, personalization, and more. When a service provider has a single best-of-breed offering and leverages it across hundreds of retailers, it’s possible for that service provider to surpass Amazon’s own offered capabilities in these areas.

The key for retailers of any size is to maintain a solid focus on delivering the best overall shopping experience possible – through both technology and easy access to great customer service. In other words, don’t worry so much about what Amazon is doing, just worry about making sure you’re doing the best you can at what you do well, and look to your technology service partners to optimize performance for your website, which is what we do well.

Kidrobot_MUNNY_21Jan14As an example, look at Kidrobot, whose pop art and designer toys are constantly shared over Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites. SLI incorporated social media content into Kidrobot’s on-site search. Now, when you search for MUNNY (see screen shot below), not only can you easily find a MUNNY product, but you can click on the Instagram tab to view photos of MUNNY toys, click on the Video tab to view videos of MUNNYs, and so on. Even though you can buy MUNNY toys and other Kidrobot products on Amazon, many shoppers still want to buy directly from Kidrobot’s site because they enjoy the delightful user experience that Kidrobot has created for shoppers.

So if you’re looking to beat Amazon at its own game, leverage the assets you have that they don’t. It may be your physical stores, unique access to products, a deep knowledge of your niche, or something else. Also ensure they know that your service and responsiveness is the best around. I wrote more about how we do this in the recent blog, A Unique Approach to Customer Service.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what retailers should focus on in the coming year to compete effectively with the online giants. Please comment below to start a conversation.