5 Ways to Differentiate Your eCommerce Store
You know you want to open a store on WooCommerce. But what makes your eCommerce business special?
How do you differentiate yourself from the many competitors that are out there—your local shopping mall, Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, not to mention the millions of other small and medium-sized eCommerce sellers?
Actually, there are many ways you can differentiate yourself in the eCommerce world. It’s a big, global, market out there, and you only need 1,000 True Fans to build a successful business.
Here are just five of the ways you can differentiate your eCommerce store.
Offer your customers convenience.
They might be busy, lazy, distracted, whatever. If you can save them time (and preferably money), you can differentiate yourself.
There are a number of ways you can do this.
Subscriptions are a great way to offer convenience. Businesses like Dollar Shave Club, Smiles for the People, and Yousli have figured this out. Rather than having to go to the store every time you run out of razors, toothbrushes, or muesli, you can subscribe to these products so that you never run out.
Similarly, by offering online booking services you can make yourself just that bit more convenient. For example, I now only go to hairdressers that allow me to book and change my appointments online (something you can offer with WooCommerce Bookings). For whatever reason, I don’t like making appointments over the phone. But if I can simply visit a site, and book my appointment online, then automatically save it to my Google Calendar, I’m happy.
Another way you offer convenience is through the simple act of offering home delivery. For people without a car (e.g. high density urban dwellers like me) or without a licence (older or visually impaired people, for example), delivery can be a godsend. Sure, shipping costs money, but if the alternative is getting a taxi both ways—or carrying heavy goods on crowded public transport—those shipping costs start looking like a good deal.
You can differentiate your business to your customers by offering curation services. People are often overwhelmed by choice, and appreciate some assistance with decision making.
For example, fitness clothing site Fabletics (which I found on My Subscription Addition) asks you to answer a short quiz before you browse their online store. Fabletics then offers you outfits and clothes to suit your preferences. So if you like yoga and running, you’ll be shown outfits suitable for these sports. If you join Fabletic’s VIP program (a no-obligation subscription model), you will also be recommended a personalised, discounted outfit each month.
Plated is another example. Plated takes a lot of the work out of dreaming up, shopping for and preparing meals, by offering recipes and pre-measured ingredients for cooking, also on a subscription basis.
I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to dream up a week’s worth of recipes, to then buy all the right ingredients, and then to make all of those meals as planned. Businesses like Plated take a lot of the time and difficulty out of cooking for yourself, by offering a combination of curation and convenience.
eCommerce sellers can offer value by virtue of having lower overheads than many bricks-and-mortar businesses.
Probably the most famous for offering customers value is Amazon. Their products are often very cheap—and with a Prime Membership meaning you only have to wait two business days for delivery—Amazon keeps its customers coming back with a tempting combination of convenience and value.
For small sellers, it’s difficult to achieve an Amazonian scale. But you can still offer customers value, particularly if you are selling high-quality items.
Businesses like Gustin, and Everlane offer high quality clothing for much cheaper prices than more well-known brands. Their products aren’t rock bottom cheap, like some of the things you’ll find on Amazon, but they are good value next to products of comparable quality.
Everlane have a lovely website, and are very transparent in explaining how they offer quality, what their markups are, and where your products are coming from.
Gustin uses the pre-order model (something you can do with WooCommerce Pre-Orders) to achieve ultralean manufacturing—they only manufacture products that are already paid for, so there are no waste or inventory costs.
Some people might think that eCommerce customers don’t get to have the kind delightful experience (or not) that bricks-and-mortar shoppers can get.
But there are other ways that eCommerce sellers can offer great experiences. For example, sports nutrition business The Feed has sent our founder Brent a water bottle with his last few orders of sports nutrition, and it has delighted him each time (and kept him hydrated during long runs). They also include a personal note on the inside of each box that makes the whole experience very human.
Similarly, Comic Cartel are offering Lantern rings to some of their customers at the moment. During our recent interview, Dan and Lucas told me they love to surprise and delight customers by throwing in bonuses with their orders whenever possible.
— Comic Cartel (@comiccartel) August 25, 2014
Focus on a Niche
Finally, eCommerce sellers can focus on a niche.
My friend Vanessa and her talented mum Cheryl run a WooCommerce store in Australia called Mischief Monday where they sell gorgeous vintage, retro, pin-up and couture aprons. Mischief Monday might not be able to find enough loyal customers in their local area to sustain a bricks-and-mortar store. But by offering their aprons through an online store (and showing their products in local markets), they are building their following.
I know that I’ve had trouble finding my kind of muesli in the supermarkets of San Francisco. Despite having thousands of products on their shelves, supermarkets still have to stock items that please the masses, rather than the niche.
If you can offer something special—that a niche group of people will simply love—you might just be able to reach find your 1,000 true fans.
How Will You Make Your Store Special?
There you have it, just five of the ways that you can differentiate yourself as an eCommerce seller:
- Focus on a Niche.
These differentiation techniques spring from a combination of factors: imagination; an understanding of customer needs/worries/constraints; and innovations that make new ways of offering things possible.
So go on, grab a sketch pad, do some customer research, and check out the many extensions available for the WooCommerce platform. The possibilities for making your eCommerce store special are practically endless.