Everyone's looking for the next best thing. Companies everywhere want better conversion rates, higher quality customers, and more efficient sales processes. Naturally, most start looking around at what the competition's doing. Often, when I'm strategizing with a client about conversion and usability of their site, the client will say, "Let's just copy Amazon." The client's rationale is that Amazon has already spent millions of dollars testing different options and scenarios, so they clearly know what works. This is true -- Amazon has invested millions in gathering data, and they've earned millions back by implementing what they've learned. However, you are not Amazon. Your company has different challenges and demographics than Amazon does. You're comparing apples to oranges. Here are 5 reasons why you should give additional thought to the idea that Amazon's model will be right for your business: 1. Credibility/Brand Visibility Amazon has a huge brand name. While you're probably a force to be reckoned with in your own niche, you don't carry the clout that Amazon does. Amazon can get away with more roadblocks to checkout than you can, and they can dot their website with lots of shiny, distracting items. Their reputation precedes them. Your goal should be getting customers in and out of the process as quickly as possible. A reputation of efficiency can only help your brand -- wearing your customers' patience thin definitely won't. 2. Accurate Product Up selling In all honesty, I am not a fan of product upsales during the checkout process. People get distracted too easily. Amazon has a different relationship with its customers; most likely already have an account with the company. This means that Amazon has a much better chance of matching a customer with good recommendations based on others' orders. Amazon has millions of orders and, therefore, a massive amount of data to refine -- and you don't. There's a strong chance that your last-minute upsale efforts will strike your customers as random or confusing. 3. Customer Service Reassurance Amazon has spent years proving to its clients that each and every problem will be addressed. A simple email takes care of an issue from the customer's standpoint, so Amazon doesn't have to advertise phone numbers. You, however, do not have that luxury. You need to have a phone number listed on every page of your site, including the checkout portion. Encourage customers to call! I've witnessed numerous instances where companies have avoided listing a phone number because they don't want to have to hire staff to answer the phone. Do a cost-benefit analysis on this strategy before you opt against it -- it can be hugely reassuring to your clients. 4. Repeat Customers There is a lot of stuff on Amazon's site, and much of it is targeted. As we've noted, they have more data than anyone else out there, and they have the ability to target well. They don't need to worry about distracting users like you might -- their customers are likely utilizing Amazon to purchase a variety of items in the first place. These people visit on a weekly or monthly basis, in many cases. Because smaller businesses tend to offer a limited number of products or services, it's in your best interest to avoid cross-selling or up selling unless it's the only way you make a profit. Doing lots of cross-selling can hurt your ability to convert a one-time customer into a repeat customer -- remember that. 5. Different Business Models At the end of the day, Amazon is a huge mall; it's a massive shopping complex with several stores tucked within it. If you're a shop owner, it's unlikely that you're anywhere close to being the big engine that Amazon is. Rather than trying to be something you aren't, focus on the strengths of your own model. As a niche provider, you have the unique ability to specialize in very specific facets of your customers' lives. You can become the best company in your arena, and you don't have to diversify your inventory to the point where you're just doing "okay" in lots of things. There are good things to each side of the coin -- maximize yours rather than concentrating on what Amazon has. If you decide to follow another company's lead in your quest to find the next big thing, do your homework. Make sure that the business model, product, demographics, and goals are similar. If they're not, you're simply helping someone else's business grow by using their own tactics. Focus on what you have to offer, and base your conversion strategies on that. Amazon's great, but it's not you. Photo credit: topmarketingsavvy.com Danny Demichele is the chairman of Incubate.com, an eBusiness incubator that offers services to help businesses grow online.