Internet retail continues to up the competition factor among similar brands.
An increase in competition is forcing both E-commerce and brick-and-mortar retailers to quickly adapt to the ever-changing landscape — as it changes, they must find a way to differentiate themselves.
As an Internet retailer, one of the best ways to stand out among the competition is to establish your own unique brand.
This can be especially tricky if you retail other brands, as most consumers will comparison shop and make a final decision that’s largely based on price. If you’re not competitively priced, then you better have something truly different to offer that keeps them from “bouncing” away to find what they need somewhere else. That difference is defined in your brand.
Here are 5 ways to establish your brand as an E-commerce retailer.
Engaging your customers is key in a competitive landscape. The easiest way to engage people these days is through social media. We will just go ahead and assume that your brand has a Facebook page (but if you don’t, then stop reading now and go create one!)
Over-promotion is one of the biggest mistakes I see among brands on social networks today. Don’t talk about yourself too much. Yes, it’s okay to promote special offers and deals as they occur, but true social engagement is about relationship building.
Talk to your fans and followers. Ask them questions that encourage responses. The more specific you get, the better. According to an article on Mashable, questions, famous quotes, photos and tips are all types of posts that tend to get more responses/likes/comments.
Here are some other examples of posts may that elicit responses from followers:
- “Like / Share this post if…”
- “What’s your favorite…?”
- “Fill in the blank: _____…”
Try this strategy for a few months and you’ll probably see more customer engagement than you’ve seen previously.
Some brands are finding other creative ways to engage customers outside the social networking space.
Threadless has an engaging experience built right into its brand.
Everything the site sells is made by ordinary people. Artists submit designs to one of the company’s design challenges. The community then gets to rate and critique the submissions for inclusion in the Threadless store. The more votes a particular design receives, the more likely it is that you’ll see it on Threadless apparel, accessories or home goods for purchase.
2: Do Something Different
TOMS Shoes did something different when they pioneered the “one-to-one” charity concept.
This concept is built right into the essence of their brand. For every pair of shoes you purchase on the TOMS Shoes website, the company donates another pair to a child in need. This idea was so unique that many other brands have since decided to jump on board. (In fact, Skechers created a carbon copy of the concept in their BOBS shoe brand!)
Warby Parker embraced the one-to-one concept with eyeglasses. But they didn’t stop there. They went a step further to establish their brand in a unique way by giving consumers a new way to shop for eyewear.
Realizing that most people would not feel comfortable buying glasses online, the company developed several different try-on systems that would enable customers to try before buying. The first is a virtual try-on software built into every product page that lets website visitors upload a picture of themselves and see what any pair of glasses will look like on their face. The customer can then choose to do a home try-on: Warby Parker will ship up to 5 pairs of glasses to them at no cost and allow them to try each pair for 5 days. They even include a pre-paid return shipping label so that you can send back the pairs you don’t like and keep the pairs you love.
This creates an especially unique and reassuring experience for buyers who may be hesitant to shop for eyewear online.
3: Have A Unique Voice
Your voice is established largely in your copywriting. Develop a brand “persona” and keep that persona in mind when you communicate with your visitors.
One great place to do that is in your company product descriptions. Once you know your brand persona, write from that persona’s point of view. You can also approach it from an audience mindset. If your target market is mostly women in a certain demographic, write to that target market.
A great example of a company that uses creative copy to establish a unique brand voice and tell a story is The J. Peterman Company. Every one of their product descriptions tells an entertaining story that gives the product a history and unique personality. If you can relate to the story, then you’re more likely to buy the product.
4: Become an Authority
Consumers need to be educated. They shop online, not just for competitive prices, but to find information about the goods they are buying. Integrate that information into your customer’s user experience. One of the easiest ways to do this is through a company blog. You can also create buying guides, or — as in the case of the men’s fashion retailer, Mr. Porter — a “stylepedia” of product terms.
5: Offer Something Exclusive
According to an article in The New York Times, many retailers are choosing to carry exclusive lines to stand out. As a brick-and-mortar store, carrying exclusive brands puts you ahead of your competitors, especially for those brands you carry. As an ecommerce retailer, the offer becomes even more exclusive: “not only can you not buy this item in another store; because it is only sold online, you must shop our site to get it.” In addition to offering exclusive brands, you may choose to offer online-only coupons. This works especially well if you have brick-and-mortar locations, because it forces customers to shop your online inventory in order to get the deal.
Some online retailers also use an exclusive members-only shopping model. Sites like Gilt Groupe, Rue La La and Fab.com offer exceptional deals on luxury brands. The catch? You must first be a member to shop. Gilt Groupe even requires that to become a member, you must be invited by someone who is already a member, making the experience even more exclusive.
As we’ve demonstrated, there are several ways to make yourself stand out above the competition as an ecommerce retailer:
- Be different
- Have a unique voice
- Be an authority in your niche, and
- Offer something exclusive to online customers
The first step in all of this is to figure out who you are. Define your brand, and then decide what makes you different. Once you embrace those differences, come up with innovative ways to engage your customers by creating a truly unique online experience.