With a single e-commerce platform grabbing up 44 percent of all online sales (yes, it’s Amazon), it seems obvious that brands need these big platforms to get digital traction. But there is no single path to success, online or at brick-and-mortar stores. While e-commerce growth is outpacing traditional stores, moving product doesn’t mean that brands are tied to the major players. Whether firmly established or just starting out, the opportunity exists outside of the big e-tailers.
Starting Small, Growing Big
For small brands, the cost of doing business with some of the major platforms can be prohibitive. Combine big customer acquisition numbers with massive injections for inventory, and you might have a price tag that is just too high. That is particularly true with all of the other ways to connect with today’s consumer. Brands don’t necessarily need to spend a lot on marketing to bring in plenty of traffic. A solid social media presence, engagement through visual media like Instagram and plenty of direct sales can carry a brand through those tough opening years.
Top Brands Turn Down Amazon
In fashion, some of the leading luxury brands won’t do business with the big e-tailers. Why? Because their values put price far down the list of considerations. For luxury fashion brands, purchasing is all about individuality, high-quality construction, and luxe materials. It’s not about convenience or discount bargains. When you sell a luxury brand, like LVMH Group does under brands Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, etc., you don’t sell at big box stores, online or off. If these fashion icons can stay solvent in a shopping world increasingly consolidated into a few purchasing avenues, so can any brand.
Big E-tailers Absorb Branding
Amazon moves a lot of product, but a surprising amount of it doesn’t come with a brand attached. Consumers are buying the Amazon promise of fast logistics and great customer service, not the brand of many of the products. Your branding message simply gets lost in the larger platform, becoming one of the many products that make similar claims. Plus, Amazon always posts comparable products that may be available at a lower price.
Smaller E-tailers Offer Big Value
When growing a brand, exposure is critical. Smaller and newer brands may not be able to afford the marketing push to become a household name, but the right niche e-tail partner can help. Thrive Market helped the Honest brand and Seventh Generation explode into consumer consciousness by advertising their products. It was a win for both the organic food and home goods marketplaces and these two unique brands. Get popular through a niche market seller and benefit from their advertising. If your products draw traffic to their site, you don’t need to dedicate the advertising dollars to generate the sales. It’s a win for both parties.
Find Your Niche
The digital space is crowded. Every search brings up millions of hits, leaving you struggling to place high enough for visibility. Big e-tailers sometimes offer a shortcut to consumers, but often at the expense of your brand. Niche e-tailers that share the same brand values can give you that sudden growth potential without the massive crowding on generic platforms. When your brand is already a household name, and if you sell to the mass market, big e-tailers might be a necessary part of your business plan. Until then, there are lots of ways to grow with strategic partnerships and direct connections.