Fans of feel-good 90s movies will recall Meg Ryan’s valiant but doomed struggle to save her corner bookstore from Tom Hanks’s big box rival.

Ecommerce niche sites have found themselves in a similar drama, battling to hold their place in the market and the SERPs against mammoth retailers like Amazon, Staples, and Walmart.

While these larger sites certainly have both marketing and SEO advantages: fast delivery, aggressive pricing, enormous SEO budgets, big brand preference from Google, an easier time adding or removing links,  it’s important for niche site marketers to recognize that, in certain aspects, they can have an edge.

Here’s how…

Five marketing tactics for niche sites

1. Out “Amazon” Amazon

Giant online retailers can have literally millions of SKUs, but niche sites often have stronger product layouts within their specialties.

In other words, Amazon can’t offer every product in every size, color, or feature. Additionally, big retailers are often last to the table on new products, since vendors usually wait to see a certain amount of sales traction before they pitch their latest wares. 

Compare the “No Trespassing Signs” result page on Amazon and the “No Trespassing Signs” page on the niche site MySecuritySign. Amazon’s results are displayed as a sparse, narrow column, while MySecuritySign uses a similar amount of space to showcase far more products and information.

You can see here that MySecuritySign offers features that Amazon does not, like sign customizations and free PDF downloads. 

2) Use your URL in ads.

Use your niche URL name in your PPC and PLA campaigns. Since Google cuts marketers off at just 35 characters per line in pay per click ads, having a URL that helps advertise a product can be lucrative.

As you can see in the below lineup of PLA ads, the MyParkingSign URL functions as an extension of the ad. 

3) Emotionally connect with your customer.

Big retailers have to create a sleek, neutral experience for their users. Niche sites, on the other hand, can craft their sites to have product-specific narratives and personalities. Take, for example, two different types of signs: security and recycling.

These niche sites can cultivate unique personas through design and copy: paranoid, tough, and authoritative for MySecuritySign.com, and communal, inclusive, and enthusiastic for RecycleReminders.com.

MSS homepage:

RRR homepage:

4) Remember that people buy from people.

Remember that tagline from the TV show Cheers: “Where everybody knows your name”? Smaller sales departments can foster relationships with customers, send them free samples, spark a dialogue, and make and take suggestions. It’s simply not the experience a customer could have calling the 800 number for a larger retailer.

5) Create focused content and social profiles.

Niche sites provide the opportunity for highly specific content production and social sharing. Take the examples given above: MySecuritySign has its own blog which follows and analyzes surveillance, trespassing, and weapons regulations, while RecycleReminder’s blog can exclusively and thoroughly report on conservation programs, relevant regulatory information, and helpful recycling how-tos. Curate that content to show your company’s unique perspective. What are the “staff picks” that, otherwise, a visitor to a big brand site would never find? 

The same advantage extends to social. Each niche site can have handles and profiles that reflect the primary product and attract followers that are interested specifically in a certain product or industry. These social presences can be edgy and local, too. When was the last time you saw Amazon use humor, righteous indignation, or sponsor the local little league team? Don’t be afraid to engage with your community and even be a little controversial.