Why would a shopper buy from your online store? Do you offer unique products? Are your prices lower than Amazon and other competitors? Is your store more fun to shop in?
Certainly entrepreneurs typically think of those questions when they first launch their business. But, too frequently they evolve to business as usual. They should, instead, be asking the questions every six months or so.
I’ve worked with many ecommerce startups. They often believe their product concept is unique. As their business matures, they generally realize that there are competitors with similar products and they need to differentiate their products or services to become successful.
Tech mentors challenge them to articulate their value proposition in a so-called elevator statement — something you can tell someone in 10-15 seconds to entice her to continue the conversation or purchase the product or service.
In most cases, merchants are selling products that can be purchased elsewhere, often at lower prices. To grow a sustainable and profitable business, merchants should continually ask what they could do to differentiate their online store, products, and service.
6 Ways to Differentiate Your Online Store
Unless your company is a manufacturer, it’s unlikely that you sell products that are completely unique. Find other avenues to change the game so that your online store is easily differentiated from others.
Here are six ways to separate your business from your competitors.
Sell solutions, not just products. Retailers are embracing the concept of adding more value to the products they sell. There are many options to do this.
- Bundle similar products. Sell accessories or related items with the primary products as a single, bundled product. You can discount the price to make the bundle more attractive, but discounting may not be necessary if you can demonstrate the value simply by researching and assembling the bundle.
- Provide deep, rich content. Whether your business sells camping gear, coffee machines, bikes, or other specialty items, turn your online store into the place to go for information and instruction. Set up your online store to guide shoppers to the content that is applicable to their persona or market segment. Include videos, user generated content, expert generated content, and product reviews. Consider relevant social feeds. Create the go-to place to engage with other like-minded buyers.
- Offer interactive chat. Make it easy for shoppers to ask questions and receive personalized, instantaneous answers.
Build a unique brand. Your brand is different than your unique value proposition. Your brand should carry forward your voice, culture, values, and, to some degree, positioning. You may have a serious brand, whimsical brand, intellectual brand, or something else — there is no right or wrong. Use your brand to help customers remember your company.
Focus on personalization. A key trend in B2B and B2C commerce is personalization. Sellers should learn as much as they can about their buyers, such as their market segments, personas, and their buying journey. Rather than offer a one-to-many shopping experience, online sellers should present unique content, products, promotions, and even browsing and buying experiences that is unique to each shopper. Consider solutions based on machine learning and artificial intelligence to power the buying experience, to deliver personalization.
Content. Content is paramount. Online retailers must enrich their own product content. It is simply not good enough to serve up the standard product descriptions, images, and specifications provided by manufacturers and distributors. Write your own long and short descriptions. Bring your brand voice into the conversation. Add your own images and videos. Create compelling content for your category pages or vertical landing pages. Repurpose the content across other digital channels to differentiate your company and products.
Pricing and promotions. Pricing pressures in retail markets can make differentiating on price a scary thought. But, this can work in two directions. Consumers are willing to pay more for products if they have a superior experience. Charging list prices may be acceptable, especially if you carry unique products and utilize other tactics in this article. Conversely, if you choose to offer lower prices, make sure shoppers can see the value. A compromise approach is well-timed promotional offers at specific times in the buyer’s journey, to create a buying event at that point.
Customer service. This should be a no-brainer, but it can be greatly benefit your business in certain markets. Be responsive to your customers and prospects — answer questions, keep them informed on order status, offer no-questions-asked refunds, provide pricing and product transparency. Quickly answer pre-sale and post-sale questions. Solicit feedback from customers and use that feedback for continuous improvements to your business.
Why should shoppers buy from your online store? It could be single reason or a combination of many. Whatever your answer, create it through experimentation and purpose. Write it down so others in your organization know it, too.