Is it still possible to beat Amazon?
On the surface of things it does not look promising.
By any reckoning Amazon is an immense business. It is estimated that over 90% of UK shoppers use Amazon and a quarter are signed up to Amazon Prime.
Most Amazon customers buy something from the retail giant at least once a month – and most do so much more often.
Dig into the details and it looks even more alarming – 70% of UK shoppers says Amazon is their first choice online shop and around 60% say they are loyal to the brand.
This is depressing stuff if you are an independent retailer fighting to compete – especially after a year like 2020.
But the picture is more complicated than it first appears.
Despite Amazon’s huge popularity it accounts for only half of all online sales and less than 10% of total retail.
The rise of the ecommerce platform Shopify, which powers many independent retailer websites, shows that there is significant demand for alternatives.
According to analyst Benedict Evans, sales on Shopify this year will be around 45% of sales on Amazon marketplace.
The recent launch of a new online book shop called – wait for it – ‘Bookshop’ is further evidence that the game is not over yet.
Founded by writer Andy Hunter, Bookshop enables independent book stores to create their own online shopfront, sell direct, and keep the profits.
“Bookshop hopes to play Rebel Alliance to Amazon’s Empire,” said the Chicago Tribune.
After starting in the US earlier this year with a handful of shops and less than £40,000 in sales in all of February, it is now available in the UK and has surpassed £1m of sales in a single day.
“We were four employees plus me, working at home, trying to make it all work,” Hunter said recently.
“But it was extremely gratifying because the whole time we were getting messages from stores saying, ‘Thank God you came along.’ If you’re going to have to work in insane circumstances and with huge amounts of stress, it’s good to be doing it in something you feel good about.”