Stand Out From The Crowd
The internet has more e-commerce storefronts every year, and the competition in every sector is getting fierce. A large part of what’s fueled this explosion in online retail are e-commerce platforms. The barrier to entry for e-commerce is lower than it used to be thanks to the proliferation of Software-as-a-Service (Saas) full-service e-commerce platforms that provide everything needed to set up and run a store with low costs and minimal technical knowledge.
Before eCommerce platforms, most online sales involved having to find your own hosting and pay someone to build an online store for you that you then had to keep updated and maintained using multiple programs and vendors. It was expensive, time-consuming, and required a certain amount of capital and initial setup. Platforms like Shopify have levelled the playing field; now a single suite of apps can handle everything from hosting to marketing to inventory to design to payment with ease, making it easy for anyone to hang their shingle out and sell.
It’s easier than ever before to jump into the e-commerce game, and the flip side is there’s more competition in the e-commerce game. With everyone and their brother jumping in to make their mark, you have to look for ways to scale u your e-commerce store and stand out.
Make It Personal
80% of buyers are more likely to patronize a company that offers a personalized shopping experience. Organizations that can create a customer experience shaped and customized to the needs and desires of their individual customers are at an enormous advantage in the marketplace. Traditionally, this is a powerful point in favour of small businesses, but in recent years large companies have been able to do this through the large-scale deployment of marketing automation and AI. With automation tools getting cheaper and more easily integrated into the process through e-commerce platforms, automation is now available to just about everyone, and those who implement it thoughtfully and well are at a huge advantage in earning customer loyalty.
Use The Right Tools
Shopify, Magento, and other e-commerce tools offer a vast variety of add-ons, extensions, and apps for their services, and there are plenty of useful tools to bookmark for use outside of those apps. Whether you need an e-newsletter builder, a simple email follow-up tool, or a marketing automation app suite, there’s a huge smorgasbord of available tools for the e-commerce shopkeeper trying to find every advantage they can.
Take, for example, e-mail. It’s a personal way to reach out and touch a customer, but there are tools that can leverage your customer data to provide personalized and relevant emails automatically. These tools can help you get the right message to the right customer at the right time to convert a sale. Some can even continue to follow-up until you get a response, ensuring you don’t miss a chance to follow up and connect. Just write your email and set your timing sequence and forget about it until you get a response. Others deliver content, recommendations, or discounts to customers at the right time to increase sales, either by using customer data or action triggers (for example, an abandoned shopping cart might trigger an email right away with more information about their products, and then might trigger an additional email a couple of weeks later offering a discount.)
By owning an e-commerce shop, you’re generating reams of data about visitors with every interaction they have with your shop. There are many things you can learn, from aggregated data on the people that are visiting and buying from you and from detailed profiles of each individual customer.
Aggregated data helps you construct buyer personas, allowing you to hone your marketing approach and product offerings to your ideal customers. Knowing who your typical customers are can help you decide when to make social media posts, what types of content to produce for content marketing, and how aggressive to be with your marketing efforts. They help you personalize your customer experience on a more general level. This segmentation is super useful; you can ensure everything you do appeals to different segments of your customer base, helping you stay targeted and giving your customers the feeling that you’re in business just to help them and maneuver their worries with advantage for your business.
Customer profiles are where you’re able to hyper-personalized your customer experience. For example, utilizing AI tools, you can look at past purchases or product views to offer recommendations and generate sales. This works well; Amazon generates over 35% of its sales from its recommendation engine. Shopify apps such as Rare.io allow you to automatically provide this functionality. Other apps allow you to do things like automatically send information to potential buyers about products they’ve looked at already or provide social proof through automatically steering them to positive reviews of the products they seek.
Customer engagement is another place for hyper-personalization to help you excel. The right marketing automation tools can automatically identify people who may have stopped shopping with you and offer them a discount code to lure them back into the fold. The right tools can seamlessly follow up with customers to thank them and offer them the chance to leave a review of their experience with you and/or the products they purchased. CRM software integrations, such as HubSpot, can use data to provide smart calls to action to re-activate or activate customer engagement. The possibilities are endless!
A Story Worth Telling
We’ve talked about leveraging automation and data to reach your customers, but one important way to stand out is to have a clear and compelling story on why people should shop with you. Competing on price can only go so far on the internet; the high-volume big businesses will always win the race to the bottom.
People want to build connections. They want to do business with brands that share their values, that matter to them. What made you develop your products, or choose the products you sell? What made you start your own store? What drives you? What drives your staff? Crafting compelling content will not make someone decide to search for a product to purchase, but it can help ensure they decide you’re the one they want to buy it from.
Be The Solution Your Customer Needs
The power of being a focused e-commerce platform as opposed to one of the big guys is the opportunity to be the solution for a specific customer segment. You can’t compete with the big guys on big splashy ad campaigns or rock-bottom prices, but you can understand and engage your customers on levels the big guys can’t. Find your niche, and use data, content, and engagement to be the ideal solution for the customers in your niche, You don’t have to be the best store for everyone. You just have to be the best store for your ideal customer.