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Yes You Can Compete Against Amazon: Recent Studies Suggest Retail Strategies

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When it comes to ecommerce, retailers — especially small retailers — have long felt that attempting to compete with Amazon is a losing proposition. Recent research from CodeBroker, however, reveals some opportunities for retailers to stand up against Amazon in meaningful ways. The study, Consumer Shopping Habits During the Covid Pandemic, is based on input from more than 1,400 U.S. consumers.

While 65% of respondents indicate that since the pandemic started they are shopping more at Amazon and less with their favorite retailers, 75% said they would shop more at their favorite stores — both in person and online — if they received mobile or digital coupons, or free shipping on returns.

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COVID Fears Still a Concern

It comes as no surprise that shopping, in general, has been down since the pandemic. With many people out of work or on furlough, consumers have been to a large degree limiting their spending to the essentials. In addition, respondents to CodeBroker’s research indicate that they still do not feel safe shopping at physical stores unless it’s for something they absolutely need. Again, necessity is a driver of many purchases these days.

Consumer comments are telling:

  • “I can’t afford to risk my life for shopping in person. I have already lost a friend so this is very real.”
  • “I’m not comfortable yet.”
  • “Not while people aren’t adhering to proper social distancing and mask-wearing protocols.”

However, not all consumers are avoiding in-person shopping; 53% say that, now that their favorite stores have reopened, they’re planning to shop at these stores’ physical locations.

High-value coupons can be a powerful incentive to drive in-person visits and online purchases.

Competing With Amazon: The Power of High-Value Coupons

Whether for in-store or online use, coupons can be an effective way for retailers to compete with Amazon. High-value coupons will get consumers back into stores, representing an opportunity for retailers to leverage their CRM systems to send personalized coupons and offers to customers based on their shopping history.

In fact, 61% of respondents in the study indicate that even if they hadn’t been planning to shop at their favorite stores’ physical locations, a high-value mobile or digital coupon for in-store use would get them to change their minds.

Coupons are as popular as they’ve ever been. Coupon offers are the key for retailers to retain customers and defend against Amazon during the pandemic.

Free shipping is another driver of consumer behavior: 70% say that free shipping on returns would motivate them to buy online from their favorite retailer instead of from Amazon.

With online purchases being at their highest levels for many shoppers, high-value coupons and free shipping can go a long way toward driving purchase decisions.

Additional Competitive Options

In addition to the use of high-value offers, research from McKinsey on how COVID is changing consumer behavior recommends other ways to attract and engage consumers during and after the pandemic:

  • “Ensure first-class customer relationship management system, foster trust through communication and provide incentives for first-time shoppers.”

The bottom line, and an important takeaway for retailers of all sizes — yes, you can compete against Amazon. Consumer spending is down, but even amid a pandemic and related financial impacts, consumers indicate that given the right incentives — like high-value mobile coupons — they would be likely to purchase from trusted retailers, online and off.  


Dan Slavin is CEO and Co-founder of CodeBroker, a provider of mobile marketing solutions. He was CEO of Framework Technologies, VP of Open Market, and CEO of International Testing Services. He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from Yale and an MBA from Harvard.

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