At the start, it can feel like a long hard battle when you’re an emerging eCommerce entrepreneur up against major corporations. When you’re faced with a mega-conglomerate’s product selection, competitive pricing, and fast shipping strengths, it may seem hopeless to even exist. However, small businesses are anything but small. There are about 28 million small businesses in the U.S. Over 50% of the working population are working for a small business and small businesses generate over 65% of the net new jobs since 1995. There are several angles and trends that an independent and small business can capitalize on that larger brands can not. We take a look at a few of these tiny companies who hold their own against the goliaths:
Diamond Candles is an online store for high-quality soy candles, a seemingly standard e-commerce site and service. However, the independently owned company can boast over 10,000 orders a month in their first year alone and has made $20 million in sales in 2013. How did this small company from North Carolina achieve such success? By including an incredibly juicy ingredient to their mix: gamification.
The innovative company turned their product into a jackpot game. Within each full-sized candle is a ring ranging in worth from $10, $100, $1,000 to $5,000. Most of the candles are inexpensive to start, the average candle cost at $30 or less.
The added reward was just the niche to differentiate the company from its neighbors and competitors. Finding an exclusive characteristic or offer with your service can pull you apart from the masses. Look into what your product or service can offer that others may not. Is your store located in a bustling local community? Offer specific community-only benefits.
Furthermore, Diamond Candles builds product buzz by sharing fan-submitted photos of their rings and products on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Customers are encouraged to post the rings they find, and an active community of fans help others identify the value of their candle rings.
Typically, when someone buys from a reseller, the interest is geared more toward the product than the brand. Manpacks flipped the attention toward their brand over the product. Noted in several press outlets including NPR, New York Times, and ESPN, Manpacks was one of the leading innovators in subscription-based commerce (goods delivered by subscription).
The five-year old company offers regular shipments every 3 months of various necessities most males use on a regular basis, but may not be inclined to shop for often. Their products range from socks to toiletries to condoms from top brands including Calvin Klein, Champion, and Raw Material. One can modify their pack items to accommodate their specific needs and interests.
Manpacks succeeds in instant branding and customer loyalty because they target exactly toward their demographic, angling their service strengths on convenience and product necessity. The greatest advantage with subscription-based commerce is that each customer provides more lifetime value than just a one-time purchase. As thus, it’s important to build a trust with the consumer to ensure brand loyalty. Manpacks offers free returns for any pack or item and easy cancellation any time, which assures a customer they come first. That dedicated customer service is what best differentiates a small company from a faceless large one. Hone in on the needs and characteristics of your target demographic, and cater accordingly.
Beardbrand started out as a blog for the urban beardsman. The lifestyle blog and Youtube channel grew steadily and became a forefront tastemaker for the bearded community, garnering attention from establishments such as the New York Times. The founder capitalized on its growing namesake by bringing high-quality, natural beard grooming products to its already attentive followers and fans. Beardbrand made $75,000 in sales last November alone. The significant spike in sales was due in large part to the company riding on the popularity of trend No-Shave November, which they used as an opportune time to launch a contest for one of their goods, bringing brand awareness to an audience beyond their usual grasp.
Most newcomers to eCommerce find a product, build a website, then chase an audience, but with their unique upbringing, Beardbrand were able to take off fast, as they established their expertise and were ahead of the trend. Much like Diamond Candles, Beardbrand found their niche, and expanded by recognizing a bourgeoning market between the fads. Business owners should look into emerging trends and the new, overlapping demographics to market toward.
Despite existing in an Amazon-dominated landscape, it’s clear small and innovative companies have plenty of room to thrive. By finding new angles to play the field, one can open up unknown avenues in establishing your market.
For further inspiration, pick up Malcolm Gladwell’s insightful "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” for encouraging tales of risks and rises to success.
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