If you're a small business owner who buys from wholesalers and sells to consumers, you've most certainly come across competitors selling the same products as you. Although you might be doing just fine (for now), you can't help but ask yourself what you can do to differentiate yourself from those competitors selling the same products as you.
Some of these competitors have the advantage of selling on popular marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. Others may have you beat on design, or price. So how can you make your shop stand out? The key is to look at the specific elements that can potentially separate shops from each other.
Some points where you can really stand out are:
Let’s have a look at some these points in detail...
Though this might seem pretty obvious, it’s worth considering some pricing adjustments here. Lower or discounted prices are always a good way to increase sales, but this strategy may not sustainable in the long run. Let's have a look at some pricing strategies for businesses that sell the same products as their competitors:
Once again, this advice is based on the fact that you are selling the same products as your competitors. Therefore, using the competitive pricing strategy probably makes sense for lots of shops. You won't want to go too high or to low from what your competition is doing, so staying within a certain range definitely makes sense.
However, if you're just opening a new business, you might want to start off with lower prices than your competitors. As we mentioned above, you won't be able to keep this up forever... and that is exactly the point.
If you're the new kid on the block, you'll want to make a strong first impression and leave your mark on the minds of your audience. After they've bought from you once or twice and had a great experience, they might end up heading straight to your shop the next time around instead of using a search engine to find the best seller.
Bundle pricing is the idea of selling multiple products together at a discount. This works well for businesses that sell complementary products or companies that work in a specific niche.
This strategy is very similar to up-selling and more specifically, cross-selling. To read more about that, check out the link below:
Recommended reading: Increase Sales through Upselling and Cross‑selling
We've covered this topic as well in our subscription businesses blog, but the basic idea is similar to bundle pricing in the sense that you're delivering a discount based on a higher purchase value.
By getting the customer to commit to purchases in regular intervals (e.g. monthly), they'll pay less than a one-time purchase, while the shop gets guaranteed income for that period of time. This is also a great way to build customer loyalty with your customer base.
When it comes to quantity, you may want to consider offering discounts on bulk purchases, similarly to what Alibaba (or AliExpress) does. This is similar to subscription pricing except for the fact that all the products are sent at once instead of in regular intervals.
Lots of people sell quality products online. Making your shop more convenient than others is another way to separate yourself. Convenience is such a broad term, it could go in 100 different directions – what does it mean in this context?
Some examples would include offering more payment options. If you sell abroad, figure out what the preferred payment option is for that market and do your best to make it available for those respective domains.
Besides payment options, you can highlight where your warehouse is located in order to emphasize that you have quick delivery times.
Showing off where your warehouse is could also boost sales for local customers who aspire to be more environmentally aware. Being perceived as a green business is generally a good thing, don't you think?
Highlight your return policies if that’s one of your shop’s strong points.
If you offer gift-wrapping, make sure people know that, too.
When it comes to delivery, let your customers know that one-day delivery is an option. Alternatively, if they can take a slower delivery option to save money, make this clear as well. Finally, if you offer service from different carriers, make that known as well. Generally speaking, consumers love to have plenty of options, and shipping options are no exception.
Selling abroad? Make sure to offer the site in multiple languages. Offering your products in local/different currencies is also a way to build trust in new international markets.
There are tons of ways to show your visitors that shopping with you is more convenient than your competition. Make sure that this information is prominent on your homepage and/or your product pages.
By the way, if you're here because you're thinking of starting your own online shop, make sure to read our blog "How to Start an Online Shop: A Beginner's Guide" and then download the checklist version of it as well!
We touched on this topic in the last section, but let's have a closer look. Similarly to convenience, you want your customers to know that if something goes wrong, your customer service team will be there to help them resolve the issue as soon as possible and as smoothly as possible.
Things can break, malfunction, arrive late, etc. Everyone knows that things like this can happen, even to the most famous brands.
So, if you pride yourself on your customer experience, make it known that you are there for your customers. You might want to include a chatbot so that shoppers know they can reach out to "someone" at any point.
Perhaps you can add a note on the sidebar that you will get back to any customer enquiries within 24 hours. If you have a phone number for customer service, make this prominent in your navigation bar. Showing your contact details prominently can a real trust-builder as well.
Recommended reading: 5 Tips for Making Your Website Easier to Navigate
Speaking of trust-builders, there's a lot you can do for your site to build up trust with new customers.
Unfortunately, negative feedback can sometimes show up in your customer reviews. Have no fear! If you handle the situation in the right way, you can actually turn a negative experience into a positive insight for you and, perhaps more importantly, for your potential customers.
If you can manage to resolve the issue in a timely manner, most customers will be really satisfied. Knowing that they are important to you even after you’ve paid for the goods can mean the world to a (potential) customer.
The key is knowing how to respond to negative feedback.
Besides handling negative reviews in the right way, hopefully, you'll have collected plenty of positive reviews as well.
All those positive reviews can really help with your website's search engine ranking as ratings have become part of Google's ranking algorithms. Additionally, all the "new" and relevant keywords that are added to your pages by a constant flow of reviews will benefit your pages from an SEO perspective as well.
Why are Customer Reviews so Important for Your Online Shop?
Personally, I have definitely factored customer service reviews into a purchase decision. It makes customers feel good knowing that others have had a good experience with your company, especially when things didn't go as planned.
Shop reviews are great for your business's reputation, but don't forget product reviews show off the quality of your product line. Having both shop reviews and product reviews are essential in today's e-commerce world.
Besides reviews, you can have other trust indicators directly on your website. The Trusted Shops Trustmark can help form your company’s image as a trustworthy one. Again, you might not necessarily win over your customers with style or pricing. However, when online shopping, trust is always a must.
You might sell the same baseball caps as the next shop, but your brand image can go a long way in convincing your customers that you’re the better shop.
If you sell hip-hop clothing, then your website, your models, and your product descriptions should reflect that.
If you sell high quality cigars, try and touch your customers on an emotional and aesthetic level through your advertisements and in your overall marketing.
Speaking of aesthetics, you should definitely consider the look and feel of your website as well. This includes the fonts, the language/tone, the images, and the general "vibe" of your online shop. Your company logo should also be considered really important when trying to differentiate your online shop.
We've written up an extensive guide on branding and touched on all those important factors. Check out the link below:
Recommended reading: The Trusted Shops Big Branding Guide
Additionally, something as simple as changing your packaging can actually have a huge impact. Considering that unboxing videos have become so popular, there is no doubt that packaging can easily be included as an element of your brand image.
You might want to write up a description of who your typical or ideal customer is (aka customer persona). This should include basic stuff like their age and gender, but go deeper and see what their core values are, along with their shopping habits, their income, their musical tastes, their fears, and their desires.
This will help you connect with them in your advertising and focus in on them when creating your paid and organic social media campaigns.
You might think that product descriptions aren’t very important. You could just copy and paste some text from the manufacturer’s website because people don’t really read it much anyway, right?
Wrong! Even if they don’t really read it, Google essentially "reads" your website during it's "crawls". If you provide your own texts, Google will see it as original content, thus helping you in your search result rankings.
Besides the SEO advantage, some people do take the time to read it. Similarly to branding, this is an opportunity to speak to the core of your customer group. Use the lingo that your customers use and take the opportunity to display your brand's identity.
9 Ways to Differentiate Yourself From Your Competition
If you sell popular products, there’s a chance someone else is selling it, too. Focussing in on the right aspects that can differentiate you from your competition is vital, especially if they sell the same (or similar products). Trusted Shops can really help with some of these elements. For example, if your customer service is something you take pride in, a review system like the one from Trusted Shops can help spread the word.