Jeff Pickle

How Ecommerce Sites Can Beat Amazon

Est. Reading Time: 5 minutes

Recently, I had a conversation with Heather Showstead about ecommerce websites.


Hey, I need a female opinion on this blog quote. I need more insight into whether this is true or not:

Amazon is great when you know what you are looking for. But women go shopping to see what’s new, to be inspired, to fall in love with something. No one goes to Amazon to be inspired. And I defy you to find anyone who says they love browsing Amazon.”


I completely agree. This is why women love Pinterest so much. haha


The online store at looks very similar to Pinterest.

At Gilt we seduce, just like a great store. Amazon was designed to be functional and reliable and has a great loyalty program. But at Gilt we aim to surprise and delight by making the storefront new every day. Women make over 60 percent of all online purchases. Amazon still looks like it was designed for guys.


The way ( it’s laid out is definitely trying to appeal to the Pinterest audience. It’s why Bassett redesigned their product listing pages to look like Pinterest as well.


Good point. But the next quote about Amazon belies the visual appeal in favor of the law of one price:

“We’ve seen a number of instances where companies try and differentiate themselves on service,” he says. “At the end of the day, consumers always tend to find the lowest-price outlet, and in this case it generally is Amazon—and until [Best Buy] can narrow the gap, or at least the perception of the gap, the company does face a pretty big uphill battle.

The conversation raised further questions that I will attempt to answer myself along with some insights.

Question: Why is their so much interest in Pinterest?

Answer: According to cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, “Women are better at visual memory”. In my opinion, Pinterest does one thing really well. Pinterest aids the organization of the web’s flood of visual information in a way that appeals to the individual.

Takeaway:  The visual cortex is the largest system in the human brain. Associating online purchasing with lots of  positive imagery requires a site that has a unique look and feel for the products that are being sold. Grouping together products around common threads further enforces a “visual memory” that leads to return visits. has a niche and fills that niche with great images. Amazon, on the other hand, follows the same template across many different product categories.

Question:  How can an ecommerce site compete with Amazon on price?

Answer: A tried and true method is directing visitors to the fact that there is a  limited duration of sales. You can see this on the Bassett website and the website which feature sales predominantly. More importantly, getting ahead of Amazon in the search results with well optimized keyphrases helps put you out in front and a better chance of receiving a higher quantity of search visitors that are looking to buy.

Takeaway: The law of price states that “In an efficient market, all identical goods must have only one price.” Visitors come to your site either informed or uninformed about competitor prices. However, it is very easy to check competing prices with just a few clicks.

This is where search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and social media come into play. Many search visitors don’t go very deep into the search results to find what they are looking for. If your store doesn’t have the lowest price, you stand a chance of losing the customer that is very well informed. But still,  there is a nice share of potential customers that don’t take that extra click. According to one study, websites that have top Google results receive 36.4% of clicks. But you will need to optimize, market, and get the word of mouth out about your site to build up branding and capture the lion’s share of clicks.

In summary:

It is difficult to run an ecommerce store when we live in an age of same-day delivery and applications that can check on competitor prices instantly. Product selections at lower prices can be checked on with a smartphone or tablet. As some online retailers lose their edge as states begin forcing sales tax, price gaps are narrowing even further.

Online retailers need to set themselves apart by offering shopping experiences that put ease, selection, and visual impact at the forefront.  There needs to be a “hook”.  For example, that hook may be speed of service or customer reviews that signify trust and dependability. Combined with social media, optimization, and pay-per-click advertising, that is a winning combination in the unwinnable price wars.