Strategies to Compete with Amazon, Walmart, & Target this Holiday Season

This week’s post is Part 2 of a multi part series on the 2017 Holiday Season.  Over the next few weeks, we will feature a range of topics focused on driving sales, strategies, and trends. For Part 1 in the series, click HERE and for Part 3 in the series, click HERE

Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target - the biggest of the big-box and the go to retailers of the masses. All 3 behemoths are notorious during the holidays for their price wars, offering once a year rock bottom retails featuring deep promotions, doorbusters, and free shipping to tempt customers to buy. They offer services like order pickup, subscriptions, and restock and dash buttons to make it even more convenient and easier to buy for their customers. For the rest of the retail world the thought of competing with the Big 3 can seem overwhelming and for a small, independent retailer it can seem straight up impossible.

While as unbelievable as it may seem, there are actually strategies that you can use to compete with these monsters and level out the playing field. Try putting these into action and see how you can stand out and drive more holiday sales.


During the holidays, offering mainstream goods at big-box promotional retails can be a great strategy to entice customers to shop your store but if you want them to spend on more than your low margin promotions, you have to look different and give them a reason to buy.

Offer products that the Big 3 don’t, it’s that simple. You are probably furiously rolling your eyes at that obvious statement and asking yourself, “Amazon offers everything, so how do I do that?” Well it is easier than you think if you focus on the many ways product can be different.  It doesn’t have to be a totally different product, and it could be a new brand, color, or size.

If you absolutely want to find brand new products to set your store apart, look no further than your own neighborhood. Identify local artisans or wholesalers and develop buying partnerships to not only feature their exclusive products, but also support your local economy.   

Looking for more insights on how to differentiate yourself?  Check out Mod. Merchant’s previous blog post on differentiation.


One of the frequent downfalls of big box retailers is the lack of personalized customer service.  We’ve all been there, wondering aimlessly in the endless aisles trying to find a new iron and unable to locate one single human, and you can just forget about finding an actual employee. It’s a really frustrating experience and disappointment as a customer.  I’ve actually walked out of stores because of this exact situation, annoyed that my time was wasted because of such grand expectations.  I kid, but seriously capitalizing on this weakness is a huge opportunity for a small retailer because the Big 3 can’t compete with the amazing personalized, customer service you can offer.

Start considering specialty services and implement them as soon as possible.  Focus on developing services that will appeal to your specific customer and that they will appreciate, enjoy, or find convenient. Here are a few simple ideas that you can implement tomorrow.

  • Open earlier or stay open later, especially during the holidays to give your busy customers a few additional hours to shop

  • Personal shopping to help overwhelmed husbands or clueless mother-in-laws choose gifts for their loved ones

  • Serve a few snacks or infused water during really hectic holiday shopping days to provide your customers the energy they need to keep shopping

  • Car-side service for order pick up or online pick up, have your customers give you a heads up on when they expect to arrive and be ready and waiting to bring their purchases out to them

  • Free gift-wrapping or have popular items already gift wrapped and ready to sell for your time-crunched customers.

There are many different specialty services that you can offer and will set your store apart. What you decide to implement may depend on your budget, staff, and customer needs but there are many simple services you can easily implement and need to if you want to compete with the Big 3.


“So I was at the Target yoga event last week and couldn’t quite get my tree pose right …” Said no one ever.

The Big 3 doesn’t host events and you should.  Hosting a special shopping event for your customers is another great way to make your customers forget about those other guys.  Think about what type of event your customer may enjoy and plan a special evening for your customers. Perhaps it is a holiday fashion show, a stylist showcase, or a special "how to" tutorial but make sure you leave plenty of time at the end for VIP shopping.  Consider offering special discounts to further entice your customers to spend.

Day of, make sure you create a pleasant and brand appropriate shopping ambiance for your customers that they will appreciate.  Get your team amped to bring their customer service A-game. Lastly don’t forget to stay open late to give them a holiday shopping experience that they won’t forget.

Interested in learning more on creating an event? Check out our previous post on engagement marketing.


The retail market is incredibly competitive and sometimes it seems that it is impossible to compete and remain relevant. Offering similar promotions, products, and special offerings as your competitors seems like an obvious but overwhelming strategy and this won’t help you win against the Big 3.  A smaller retailer has other advantages that The Big 3 can’t compete against. Focus on creating special, personalized customer experiences and play to your strengths. Embrace your store and brand to create an authentic shopping environment. During the holidays, showcase your store’s best assets and what makes your store great in your customer’s eyes. 

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