Making your online shop stand out in a competitive market

Making your online shop stand out in a competitive market

Retail competition is heating up. With more competition than ever in the online marketplace, what can you do to make your site stand out?

Competing online is like having a little stall at a market. There are lots of other sellers and many people around. The key is making your online website with shopping cart visible to the right people at the time when they are looking, and when you have their attention turning them into paying customers. There are a number of key factors that are crucial in the mix to making this happen:
  • Gaining the visibility of potential buyers
  • Establishing trust
  • Making your products and offer appealing and relevant to buyers
  • Creating a smooth and easy purchase experience
  • Having a point of difference with competitors
A well designed and thought out store that is clean and professional is a big part of this process. It’s not just about having a good basic layout, it’s about all of the factors together – how your products look, whether your customers can find the right products, if all the information has been completed and whether they can understand your offering. It’s also about whether the payment methods and shipping costs are right and even things like making your policies clear about whether you accept returns.
Even two businesses selling exactly the same products at the same prices can get completely different results by understanding who will be buying their products, what they are searching for, and why they are buying them – and targeting their offerings directly to those people. Without the trust of your potential buyers you will sell very little online so this is a big part of the mix as well.

What can you do in your online store?

Getting the right shopping cart with the right design, quality online security and the right prices and payment methods can play a big part in this process. The information you enter into the shopping cart can be just as crucial.

Writing Descriptions

The descriptions you write about your products can help you differentiate your products from your competitors. This helps you in terms of convincing customers to buy from you, and also makes your products unique to the search engines. Unique content is becoming an ever-more important part of success in the search engines, so listing products using the same description as your competitors could relegate the pages in your site to the “duplicates” bin in the eyes of search engines, which can mean that your potential customers never see them.
Here are some tips for good description writing:
  • Highlight important points with bold, but use bold sparingly
  • Do not overuse capital letters or bold text
  • Break up text by using a combination of both bullet points and sentences
  • Accompany your descriptions with great product photos. Use the best ones you can get, and if you have the skills take your own additional photos to make sure that you can show the products from different angles. The more you can tell your customers about the products before they buy the more satisfied they will be with the products when they get them – as they’ll know exactly what they are getting in advance
  • Look at your competitor’s websites and the descriptions they use for the same products. Include facts they do not – fill in the gaps for your customers like sizes, colours etc.
  • Get your facts right – don’t make claims that are not verified or that you are guessing. As a merchant you are responsible for the statements that you make about a product, and if you don’t describe an item correctly, you could potentially be receiving the product back as a faulty item for a replacement or refund

Quality Imagery

The images you have do matter so if you don’t have the skills to put up great product photos, and you don’t have great photos from your manufacturer or supplier then you will need to either pay someone to take new photos or hire a graphic designer to present the photos you do have in the best possible way. You should put your logo over the top of good photos that you have (in an un-obtrusive way) so that your competitors can’t just download them. Don’t try to use software to protect competitors from grabbing your images because images download to a browser when they are viewed, and a clever competitor will get around those types of protections very easily.

Build Trust

Establish trust with your target buyers – use a secure hosted shopping cart solution, publish information about why your site is secure, secure the checkout with SSL encryption technology to keep your shopper’s information private and your bank happy, use well known and well trusted shipping and payment providers, and make your terms and conditions easy to find. People want to know how much items will cost to ship, they want to know how long you’ve been in business, they want to know where your products come from and that they’re good quality. They want to know what you’ll do about a product if it’s broken when they get it, or breaks when they try to use it. They want to know that they are buying off an honest, competent, professional store that cares about establishing an ongoing sales relationship with them. If they just want to buy on price, they’ll go to an auction site and get the cheapest item they can.

Know your competition

One of the best ways to know what your competition is doing is to buy from them. Buy something that you also stock, so you can compare it to what you have in stock.
Ask yourself:
  • Is the product from the same stock batch as you? Is it a newer/older product than the one you stock? Is this to your advantage or disadvantage?
  • How is the item packaged? Is it from better or poorer quality material than what you are using? Could you match or better this? Do you need to make changes to the way you package items?
  • By what postage company did the package arrive? Did it come directly from the manufacturer or supplier (drop shipped) or was it sent from the competitor’s office/dispatch location? What form of postage did they use? How much are they allowing for handling and packaging in their published postage costs? What can you learn for yourself?
  • What would you think if you received this in the mail?
  • How good is your competitor’s overall customer service? Do you need to lift your game? Is this a competitor you want to compete against or are they in a higher/lower/different market from you?
Repeat this process with a number of competitors and you’ll be able to establish whether your perceived competitors really are your competitors or whether they are targeting a slightly different market from you. You might find that even though someone is selling the same product as you, that they are not targeting or marketing products directly to the same types of people that you are, they might be solving a different consumer problem. In that case, you might want to focus less on them and more on other competitors who are more directly matched to what you are offering.

You don’t have to compete on price

A common misconception of retail marketing is that if two competitors are offering the same product that the only way you can compete is on price. But that’s not true, and to get in to a price war may end up costing all competitors in the market unnecessary profits. Think about your source of competitive advantage and whether price is the real way you want to compete:
  • If you are the lowest cost provider in the market then by all means compete on price, but make sure that you stay the lowest cost, or else your whole market could be swept out from under you. For example, what if Target or Big W started selling your products? Could you compete on price with their warehouse and distribution networks?
  • If you have an advantage in packaging or design you might want to focus on that
  • If you have better customer service, then you might want to focus on encouraging your customers to spread the word. This could be a good approach to take if you have superior service skills and a good social profile through Twitter and Facebook.
  • Think about is there another way you can compete – can you have superior marketing by targeting a particular type of person that your competitors do not? Can you be faster to market or get post/dispatch things faster? Are there policies that you have that your competitors do not that you can use as a selling point? How can you turn their negatives into your strengths without looking like a whinging competitor? That’s your online challenge.

Online Shopping Competitive Advantage

You can compete in a highly competitive online market, but you need to be smart about the way you go about it. Think about your whole marketing mix from end to end: who your customers are, why they buy those products, what they are looking for, what objections they might have, how you can structure an offer that will appeal to them (taking into account your relative strengths over your competitors). For your website, make sure you have the shopping cart that will give you the head-start that you need – with the right features, that is suited to Australian business conditions and gives you the right promotional tools for your business needs and is easy for both you and your customers to use.

Ozcart can help you. To find out how Ozcart shopping carts can help you compete in a market with intense competition, take our shopping cart feature tour today.
Ozcart Ecommerce

Ozcart has been in business since 2006 and is an online, hosted shopping cart that you can use for your current or new online store. We offer so many features for the same low price. In fact, we are addicted to adding new ones to ensure that we remain one of the best choices for a shopping cart.

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