Many small business owners are enticed by getting customers from across the country through Ecommerce web sites. Although the Internet reaches around the globe, many owners are not aware of the difficulty in competing with this large market. When the Internet became accessible in the 1990s, small businesses jumped into the scene before large retailers. Early adopters were able to create a web and search engine presence. However, since then large retailers have entered the online marketplace with larger name recognition and marketing budgets.
So, how does a small business owner compete? First of all, you need a niche and easy to navigate website. The website should be inviting and identify your key advantages. If you are trying to market a product that is not niche, meaning it is something that directly competes with a large retailer such as a name-brand product, then it is very difficult. You need to find another way to distinguish yourself. Product will not do it, so it needs to be a unique customer service process or have a following for another reason. Otherwise, you are going to struggle since it is easy to jump off a site and go with another company due to price, convenience, or better name-recognition. One of my clients connects with their customers through a niche product and common values. They also provide a phone number and the owner herself answers the phone. She creates relationships…not just takes orders. This goes a long way today to distinguish yourself compared to large retailers.
Secondly, you need to have an easy check out process and website navigation. Branding, photos and uncluttered design will cause your site to stand out against large retailers. Work on loyalty programs and make sure you are competitive with shipping and payment processes. If it takes more than a few minutes, people will jump off. Most importantly, make sure your website combines social media, search engine optimization, and Email marketing so you can make the most out of your marketing.
Here is an article from Practical Ecommerce with some other points: