Can Brick and Mortar Stores Compete with Amazon?

Lauren Krause
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As Amazon grows into an increasingly powerful online retailer, owners of brick and mortar stores are left wondering if they can keep up. After all, most businesses cannot match the online giant in terms of price or selection. Rather than trying to compete with Amazon, business owners can focus on creating a different shopping experience that co-exists peacefully with the online giant.

In recent years, Amazon has expanded its range of services, branching out into streaming video and e-books. With its popular Prime program, customers are entitled to free two-day shipping on a number of items. Prime Pantry lets customers ship large boxes of household staples for a reduced flat rate.

In comparison with brick and mortar stores, the Amazon shopping experience has numerous advantages. Because of the volume Amazon ships, it can offer lower prices and a wider selection. What's more, customers do not need to leave their homes to purchase items or worry about store hours; Amazon is always open. For these reasons, it is almost impossible for store owners to compete with Amazon in the traditional sense.

Fortunately, all is not lost, even for store owners who cannot compete with Amazon on price or selection. According to a recent study by WD Partners, consumers still value aspects of the shopping experience that Amazon cannot deliver. Approximately 79 percent of respondents prefer the instant gratification of taking an item home immediately as opposed to waiting for it to ship. The study also found that customers want to touch and feel objects and take advantage of the bargains that are exclusive to traditional stores.

In order to compete with Amazon, retail outlets must capitalize on their innate advantages and create a more personal shopping experience. The most obvious option is to emphasize the instant gratification aspect of in-person shopping. Amazon offers same-day shipping to a limited number of cities, leaving out a large number of customers. Local retail outlets with online shopping systems can provide courier service or in-store pickup on the same day of the order. They can also offer special discounts that encourage customers to come into the store — Black Friday deals are an excellent example.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages traditional stores has is the social shopping experience. While ordering online is quick and utilitarian, it takes away the pure joy of shopping. Stores that want to compete with Amazon should focus on building brands and a welcoming atmosphere. After all, when a store is fun and beautiful, it is more likely to entice customers off the couch and into the building. Stores that offer late hours, in-store events, special appearances or exclusive sales may be more likely to keep profits up.

Finding ways to compete with Amazon is a challenge, even for established stores. By focusing on what your business can offer that Amazon cannot, you can create a one-of-a-kind shopping experience that brings customers in the door.


Image courtesy of Naypong at



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