Online shopping has become a way of life for many people. While this trend was set to warp speed during the pandemic, it had already been on an upward trajectory since Amazon became a household name.
Due to their unrelenting devotion to customer service, Amazon has since become a retailing giant. However, on the way to becoming an online shopping behemoth, Amazon has been alleged to have taken some actions that have left some people with a sour taste in their mouths.
If the labor controversies circulating in the mainstream media are enough to make you want to take your shopping elsewhere, you may want to consider the following alternatives to Amazon:
Disclosure: Although I receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no additional cost to you that compensation in no way influences my recommendations, which are strictly informed by my years of digital marketing experience working with clients large and small. My aim is to always recommend tools that will offer you the best return on investment.
What Are the Best Alternatives to Amazon?
The following alternatives to Amazon have either replicated Amazon’s eCommerce model (e.g. Walmart), or developed their own (e.g. eBay).
They are safe and reliable for shoppers and have extensive customer support teams to troubleshoot any issues that may arise during your online purchasing journey.
Walmart is an American multinational retail corporation operating a large number of big-box superstores that sell general merchandise and groceries at low prices.
Headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, the company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 and since then went through a massive international expansion.
However, when Amazon started siphoning off market share away from their brick-and-mortar stores, they were forced to scramble to develop an online presence pronto in order to compete.
Several years later, their online portal has become a force to be reckoned with as they now compete head-on with Amazon, with the added option of having your goods shipped to a store for pick up if you don’t want to leave your package unattended outside your front door.
Although Walmart is not really known for top of the line customer service in-store, they’ve done a much better job in their online division, which is on par with the expectations of most online shoppers.
What makes Walmart unique?
Low prices compared to most of their competition. Walmart pioneered a sophisticated inventory-management system early on, allowing them to know with precision what was needed when and where so that they would only order what was guaranteed to sell.
By minimizing excess inventory, they were able to undercut their less efficient competitors by offering much better prices for similar products and brands — hence their popular slogan “everyday low prices.”
Target is Walmart’s largest competitor in the big-box discount store industry.
Target’s parent Dayton Corporation opened its first store in 1962. In 1969, Dayton Corp became the Dayton-Hudson Corp after merging with J.L. Hudson, and in 2000 Dayton-Hudson was renamed the Target Corporation.
Target’s claim to fame was to create a discount chain with a premium shopping experience. Unlike Walmart, Target’s stores are designed with a more “upscale” feel and their in-store staff is known for being very knowledgeable, fast and always ready to help.
While their eCommerce site started out lagging Amazon or Walmart in sophistication, it has definitely caught up over the years and now even offers 2-day delivery to most U.S. customers without having to purchase an annual membership, like Amazon Prime.
What makes Target unique?
Target has always prided itself in their excellent in-store customer service, and they’ve extended this tradition to their online experience.
For example, they started offering curbside pick up for online orders years before the pandemic made it a necessity.
They’ve also integrated their online shopping experience with Google Home devices to provide a similar voice-operated shopping experience as Amazon’s Alexa.
Bonanza is the new kid in the block. It started from humble beginnings in 2007 to become one of the most highly regarded online marketplaces, both for vendors and buyers alike. It’s mission is to help small businesses develop strong bonds with their customers.
Over time, they’ve earned a reputation for excellence and in 2021 they were ranked 1st for customer service two years in a row in the EcommerceBytes Sellers Choice Awards, ahead of Amazon and eBay.
What makes Bonanza unique?
Its dedication to customer service all around. Not only do they strive to provide excellent customer service for shoppers but also for vendors.
To this end, they’ve developed a user-friendly platform that automates a lot of time-consuming vendor tasks so that even mom-and-pop sellers can bring great products to market at scale without being bogged down in technology.
eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995 by pioneering the auction-based marketplace for second-hand products (remember the Beanie Baby craze in the late 90s? It was fueled by eBay!)
Over the years, eBay expanded into a truly multinational marketplace of online stores offering brand new as well as second-hand items, facilitating consumer-consumer and business-consumer transactions.
Due to its massive international adoption by consumers and vendors alike, eBay has one of the largest catalogs of products available, although most are pre-owned.
While eBay is great if you’re looking for a rare find or are bargain hunting and don’t mind if your purchase is second-hand, they do offer a large catalog of new products although not as broad as the above retailers.
What makes eBay unique?
eBay stands out in the number of shopping options they offer, allowing you to:
Buy new products and pay the asked price
Buy new products and make a counter offer to lower the asking price
Place bids for second hand products
The final entry, AliExpress, is a division of the Chinese giant Alibaba Group, founded in 1999 by Jack Ma.
AliExpress is a marketplace that links low-cost vendors (primarily Chinese manufacturers) with international buyers. Unlike Amazon, it doesn't warehouse or sell products directly to consumers but provides the e-Commerce platform (similar to Bonanza).
Their main competitive advantage is super low cost, but the tradeoff is super long delivery times, since virtually everything is shipped from China.
What makes AliExpress unique?
No middle man. Nearly all products ship directly from Chinese manufacturers at a much lower cost per unit than most other options — no hands touch the merchandise en route to you.
The downside is the long delivery times since they consolidate massive amounts or shipments on containers before they release them — there’s no warehousing of inventory held on American shores (contributing to their low prices).
So, if you’re looking to save lots of $$$ on expensive items and don’t mind waiting several weeks to get them, then this is a great choice.
To make sure you don’t get scammed, AliExpress will not release your funds to the local vendor until you tell them you’re satisfied with your purchase.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why is Amazon controversial?
Although Amazon is often lauded by customers for their excellent customer service, generous return policy and rapid resolution of customer complaints, it’s often criticized for its treatment of workers in warehouses and for the use of vendors’ private sales data to gain an advantage.
In addition, it’s often chastised by politicians as being a large corporation that “doesn’t pay taxes.” But in all fairness you may want to take this last criticism with a grain of salt.
Amazon accumulated large business losses for almost a decade and a half before it could turn consistent quarterly profits, in order to build out the large distribution infrastructure it needed to operate profitably.
So now that it’s making money, it’s simply deducting those past losses from their current taxes like any other business large or small would do.
Is it safe to shop using Amazon alternatives?
It depends. The main risk shopping online is getting a damaged item, the wrong item, or no item at all, and not being able to get your money back.
While all of the above recommendations have generous return and refund policies and they’ll do whatever it takes to do right by you, there are many other popular Amazon alternatives (which shall remain nameless) that have a history of customer “horror” stories, so make sure to tread carefully.
Will customer service suffer if I use an alternative?
Although Amazon has set a high bar for online shopping, the above choices either match or come reasonably close to it.
How about shipping costs and delivery times?
When it comes to shipping costs, large retailers like Walmart and Target have a lot of flexibility when it comes to free shipping (provided you spend above a certain amount,) since they have large marketing budgets that can absorb those costs.
But pure marketplaces like Bonanza, eBay and AliExpress, made up of a large number of small vendors, don’t have as much flexibility. Some vendors may offer free shipping for some products to certain locations, but it’ll be more hit and miss and not typically based on a minimum spend.
When it comes to deliveries, marketplaces will take the longest time, based on where vendors are located in relation to their customers. So, for sites like AliExpress, expect very long shipping times even for items that offer free shipping.
Is there a downside to using Amazon’s alternatives?
Not for the above sites, because they are all very customer-centric. But, there are many other alternatives not listed in this article that are downright scary.
So before you venture into the wild side, make sure you check consumer advocacy websites for customer reviews before you pull out your credit card.