The David Strategy: How Small E-Commerce Stores Can Beat Big Brands

Sometimes it definitely seems like there’s just no competing with the big names in any given industry. They take up most of the advertising space. Their retail stores are massive. And their digital marketing budgets are practically unlimited, providing access to better rankings, more traffic, and a larger share of the customer base.

However, while it may seem so, the truth is that the Davids can actually outdo the Goliaths rather than just try to keep up. This is especially true in the world of e-commerce, provided that you invest in the right kinds of strategies. In this post, we’ll look at five effective tactics small e-commerce stores can use to beat big brands. 

Find a partner in crime

One of the advantages (or so we perceive them) of large brands is that they sell a larger variety of products than smaller stores. While it certainly is an advantage to be able to find everything you need at the same store, there is a way for smaller companies to work around this issue.

Consider partnering with another smaller e-commerce brand – someone who sells items that would complement yours. For example, if your company sells mattresses, look at partnerships with brands that sell sleep accessories, like smart alarm clocks, white noise machines, or any other sleep-related product.

You can direct traffic to each other’s websites; you can do email marketing campaigns together; you can do social media campaigns together — practically any strategy that would work well for you as individuals will work well for the pair of you.

And there is, of course, no rule saying you have to stick to one partnership at a time.

Make sure the brand with which you choose to work is similar to yours in at least some respect: they might have a similar tone of voice, target the same market share, or share the same beliefs.

Take advantage of your size

The mere fact that you only have one (or a few) products to work with can be your best asset, if you choose to look at it that way.

Let’s stick to our mattress example here – think about all the huge brands that sell dozens or hundreds of products that are essentially similar. Their websites are often cluttered, difficult to maintain, and more difficult for the user to navigate. In addition, the sheer volume of their products and pages means it’s harder to attain a sense of uniformity across the site.

As a smaller e-commerce brand, you have the incredible advantage of being able to create a well-designed and user-friendly website. For example, here is a landing page from a mattress company that does a really good job of standing out from the competition. They are able to easily highlight their three main products and likely increase conversions by the sleekness and accessibility of the design. This is something larger brands would have a much harder time doing.

Play the personality card

Large brands can never quite get the kind of personality that smaller brands can harness naturally. They want to appeal to larger audience segments, which means they have to keep a more general tone of voice and are thus much less relatable.

As a smaller e-commerce store, you have the opportunity to craft a unique tone of voice. You’re also at an advantage when it comes to creating a personalized approach to customers and a unique sales pitch, and you can even personalize the marketing funnels for different types of shoppers.

Not to mention, you can become more recognizable as a brand on social media through your blog and all other content distribution channels you utilize.

Invest in marketing your content

While brands large and small can certainly take advantage of content marketing, large brands have a more difficult task ahead of them.

There’s the part about having to appeal to wider audience segments, and the fact that marketing a lot of products will require larger investments and more time.

On the other hand, smaller brands have fewer pages to promote, meaning they have the benefit of more targeted tactics at their disposal. They won’t have to spread their strategies across hundreds of pages — a dozen at most require their attention, and crafting these niche content campaigns is not only a lot of fun, but it can also produce some amazing results. Orizaba Original, for example, sells two products (Baja hoodies and Mexican blankets), allowing them to be very targeted in their marketing, as opposed to larger stores that sell these and more items. 

Niche up, but also down

Finally, small e-commerce stores can home in on niche audiences. Take the baja hoodie example again. A store like this can focus on marketing to festival goers, people who identify as hippies, or older professionals who identified as hippies in the 60s and 70s. By narrowing in on one particular segment and tailoring the product design and content to this audience, they are niching down.

Niching down also means these kinds of brands are able to sell at a higher price point than larger brands, who often seem to be focusing on competing with each other mainly on pricing. Smaller brands have the luxury to offer better quality without having to knock down the price. 

True, this will instantly mean they don’t appeal to everyone, but should they not want to do so. Targeting smaller audiences but converting more visitors is a better strategy than targeting everyone and getting your point lost in all the noise. 

Final thoughts

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing a small e-commerce brand just because it’s small, and don’t get caught up in thinking there are bigger fish out there in the ocean. The bigger fish are tied up in all kinds of activities required to tend to their large websites and juggle a bunch of different tasks. The smaller fish – the Davids in this pool – have the luxury of crafting better, more targeted, and highly personalized strategies, websites, and campaigns. That’s why their efforts often result in solid sales and profit. 

Travis Jamison, the founding director of Smash.vc, invests in bootstrapped, small online businesses. 

Tags: