Amazon Casts a Big Shadow Over Everyone's E-Commerce Strategy

NEWS ANALYSIS: Managers of e-commerce sites need to think and act like if they want to survive under the online retailing giant's shadow.

The current state of e-commerce is about three things: creating content that adds to your brand without sounding like a shrill sales pitch, making sure your e-commerce sites are tuned to all media platforms and planning how to grow within the Amazon jungle without getting stomped by the elephant of e-commerce.

I spent a couple of hours at the MITX e-commerce summit last week. It was a good time to have a conference as Amazon was due to report its yearly results later in the week. At the same time, there were still a lot of rumblings from the supposed breakdown of freight shipping services to meet demand at the end of the holiday season along with renewed interest in Facebook as an advertising medium following the company's strong financial results in part propelled by mobile ad sales.

First up was Faisal Masud, the recently (last spring) named executive vice president of global e-commerce at Staples. Masud has made all the right stops, including Amazon, eBay and Groupon, to make him an authority on e-commerce and the right selection to help Staples, which according to several rankings, is now the number two Internet retailer after Amazon, transition from a brick-and-mortar store to a mobile e-commerce market leader.

Here's my summary of Masud's advice for developing a successful e-commerce strategy. Don't focus on Amazon; focus on the experience of your current and potential customers. Approach e-commerce from the perspective of the device being used; think about how you are using the real estate of the device. Realize that customers now carry a kiosk (whether smartphone or tablet) as they move throughout the physical store and pay attention to what is being purchased via e-commerce rather than what you think is happening.

Masud found Staples' e-commerce customers, especially those shopping via mobile devices, were more interested in buying electronics than simply refilling office supplies. "Customers only care about four things: do you have the selection; do you have the lowest price; can I get it quickly; and if I don't want it, can I pick up the phone and you will take care of the return," said Masud.

Make sure your mobile site allows easy answers to those four questions, and you are on your way to e-commerce success. Tuning your e-commerce site to answer those questions in the mobile experience sounds easy. But take a look at the sites out there, and you will find yourself lost in the click swamp if you want to figure out a return policy.