E-commerce has opened the doors for entrepreneurs from around the world to turn side hustles into thriving businesses, but standing out from the competition isn’t always easy. I should know. While I’ve launched stores that have achieved hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales in a single day, I’ve also had my fair share of failures.
A lot of this has to do with the intense level of competition you’ll find in the e-commerce space. In other words, it’s quite easy for your store to get overlooked. Fortunately, I’ve found that certain strategies, when paired with sound business planning, will help you stand out from the competition.
1. Narrow Your Niche
Deciding you want to start a clothing or watch e-commerce brand is a start, but it’s not enough. You need to narrow things down further if you want to catch consumers’ interest and turn a profit.
For best results, take your chosen niche and delve into the many subcategories that could fall under it. In clothing alone, your options could range from comic book and video game-themed T-shirts to upscale business clothing for women.
The more specialized your niche, the more narrow your target audience becomes — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The competition also narrows, making it easier for your store to find a unique selling proposition. For best results, check out current search results for keywords related to your subcategory. This will help you avoid oversaturated markets and find areas where a quality store can have a bigger impact.
2. Create Unique Branding
Even if you choose a subcategory with less competition, customers aren’t necessarily going to fully recognize what your brand has to offer after a quick glance at your products. Because of this, you need to create a memorable brand experience that showcases what makes your e-commerce store unique.
As Neil Patel has noted, e-commerce entrepreneurs can’t always compete with chain retailers in price. But providing a superior customer experience, backed by a unique voice or specialized offerings, will go a long way in proving how your products fit into a customer’s lifestyle. Even things like personalized packaging can help differentiate your brand.
The key to all this is consistency and a willingness to invest in marketing. If your website voice is snarky and funny, that needs to carry over to social media and other advertising efforts. Even labeling shipments with your logo can help build a brand identity and help you linger in the mind of your customers.
3. Fix Your Website
Based on what I have seen, a poorly designed website has been the downfall of countless e-commerce stores over the years. Bad design and a lack of security can instantly cause consumer trust in your brand to plummet. As an e-commerce entrepreneur, your website is the face of your company, so it should be one of your top priorities.
Professional-level photography and an easy-to-navigate design will provide a more streamlined customer experience. However, a secure site will be the best way to gain customer trust. Fraud loss in e-commerce exceeded $57 billion in 2017, according to the “Global Fraud Index” and reported on by Security Magazine. Secure web hosting and payment processing tools will protect both you and your customers.
Of course, you can further personalize your website as part of your branding efforts to expand your reach. Even simple additions like how-to videos, social media integration or a blog that highlights product tips and news can create a more vibrant experience to help your store stand out.
4. Generate Social Proof
A secure, professional-looking site is a great start, but most online customers want to see some form of social proof before buying. In fact, a whopping 97% of customers check product reviews before making an online purchase.
You can encourage current customers to build social proof by allowing for on-site reviews or giving them the ability to “like” products. You can also encourage social media sharing by offering special promotional codes when customers post about your brand on social media.
When you’re still trying to build an audience, it might be difficult to obtain these word-of-mouth recommendations. You might not be able to get an endorsement from a big-time celebrity, but you can still partner with a social media influencer to spread the word. Even users with followers numbering in the tens of thousands could provide helpful brand-building partnerships. You may also wish to consider sending out sample products in exchange for honest reviews that can be posted to your site to generate social proof.
Though e-commerce will only account for 10% of retail sales this year, there is no denying the rapid growth this market sector is experiencing. At the same time, the availability of drop shipping and other tools have made it easier than ever for entrepreneurs to launch their own stores. Use these tips to stand out in a crowded field and work towards e-commerce success.