For companies that sell products online, it sometimes feels just about impossible to find an industry that isn’t already crowded. Whatever niche you decide to enter, there will already be plenty of companies that are already doing business and are much more established than you. You’ll encounter this problem regardless of whether you’re selling clothing, disposable vape devices, pet supplies or something else.
When you look for advice about how to get a new e-commerce brand off the ground, one of the things you’ll read is that you need to focus on search engine optimization (SEO) – that if you concentrate your efforts on getting as much raw traffic as you can, the rest will work itself out. SEO is certainly important. In practice, though, you’ll find that without differentiating your brand, you’ll have trouble earning repeat business. When it’s difficult to tell one website from the others in the same industry, no one will remember your website after they’ve left. So, as important as SEO may be, it is perhaps even more important to make sure that your brand is memorable and stands out from the rest.
Here’s how to differentiate your e-commerce brand in a crowded industry.
Establish Your Unique Selling Proposition
Before you can start differentiating your brand in customers’ eyes, you need to know what makes your brand different. No one establishes strong, lasting brands by simply putting products online and waiting for customers to pour in. Ask yourself one simple question: Why should people buy from you rather than one of your competitors? The answer to that question is your unique selling proposition. Once you know the answer, your mission is to make sure that your customers know it as well. Within seconds of visiting your website for the first time, customers should know who you are, what makes your brand different and why they should buy from you.
Make Your Website Look Different
Differentiating your e-commerce brand isn’t just a matter of telling people that you’re different – it’s also a matter of looking different. Get on Google and search for some of the keywords for which you would most like to appear on the first page. The websites that currently appear on the first page for those searches are your biggest competitors. Take a good look at them. Do most of your competitors use off-the-shelf Shopify or WooCommerce themes that look virtually the same as one another? Those sites are relying on SEO to generate their business, and they’re ignoring branding. If you can do a better job in that regard, you have a chance to generate more repeat business than those websites even while they’re still outranking you for certain terms. If people visit your site directly instead of searching on Google first, then your search engine positioning doesn’t matter as much.
It’s very worthwhile to invest in a truly unique website design and logo because those are things that can make your website immediately stand out from the competition. There’s no need to go crazy with your website’s design – it does need to be identifiable as an e-commerce site – but an important element of differentiation is making sure that your website doesn’t look like your competitors’ sites.
Make Branding Your Top Priority
You’ve gone through the time and effort necessary to come up with a business name, a domain name and a logo that are catchy, memorable and stand out from the crowd. Once you’ve done those things, the next step is to brand your website and products like crazy. Your business’s name and logo should always be front and center on every page of your website. When visitors stumble upon your site from Google’s search results pages, there should never be any doubt as to what they’re looking at.
In addition, remember that strong branding also extends to your order fulfillment process. If you’re using generic shipping boxes without your logo, you’re missing out on an important branding opportunity. Remember that the way you pack your products is also an opportunity to differentiate your brand. Amazon fills its shipping boxes with generic inflatable bags. Can you think of something that makes the experience of opening your boxes feel more special than that?
Present Your Products in Creative Ways
If your business model is primarily centered around sourcing products from distributors and reselling those products to consumers, you’re a reseller – and in that case, you’re going to have trouble differentiating your business based on product selection alone. After all, every other company in the same industry has essentially the same selection of products as you. In that case, you can differentiate your brand by presenting your products in a new way. For example, you might consider creating a specially curated and packaged bundle that allows people to try a variety of different products by purchasing one package. Even if you offer the bundle at a special price, it could still be a good moneymaking opportunity because creating a bundle is always an excellent way of getting slow-selling products out of your warehouse.
Encourage Active Engagement with Your Brand
One of the best ways to differentiate your e-commerce brand is by thinking about your own experiences as a consumer. You probably receive marketing messages in your inbox every day, and it’s equally likely that you ignore most of those emails. What are the qualities of your favorite brands? What gets your attention and encourages you to engage? You should look for ways to apply those principles to your own business.
People have become increasingly blind to social media marketing in recent years – and while it’s almost always wise for an e-commerce brand to have a social media presence, you shouldn’t invest too much into social media unless you have a strategy in mind that doesn’t involve simply copying what other brands in your industry are doing. Look for different ways to engage directly with your customers.
Spend some time focusing on your customer loyalty and email marketing programs. Look for ways to make engaging with your brand fun and rewarding. Practically every e-commerce company these days has a reward program that allows people to exchange points for discounts – but there’s nothing memorable about that kind of program. People forget that they even have points until they’re already checking out. What can you do to make your loyalty program more exciting?