How can you stand out from the crowd in the world of eCommerce when Amazon can always undercut you?
Price is a key factor for consumers choosing where to shop. That’s why Tesco and Amazon dominate. But it’s not the only factor.
Even in a difficult economic climate, the tide is turning in favour of small businesses. In 2011, there was a net increase of 2,500 independent shops on British high streets.
What magical touch do small businesses have that allow them to complete against the giants? And how can you transfer some of this magic to your online business?
In the race to the bottom, it’s small businesses who get squeezed out first. To have any chance of surviving, you’ve got to stop competing on price and another way to draw people in and make them loyal to your brand.
People choose small businesses to feel special. They want personal service, a story to tell about their shopping experience, and a friendly business owner they can trust.
All these factors add value, and mean small businesses can charge a premium for their products. That way, they get to survive and thrive.
However, online, there’s no human connection. You rarely, if ever, meet your customers in person. And how can customers tell a story about their experience? “I clicked a linked and added it to my basket” isn’t the best line for a dinner party.
What can you do online to show that you’re different, and to give your service a personal touch?
1. Tell your customers what makes you different. If you’re a family business, share that on your About Page. If you’re an industry specialist with 20 years experience and you can offer customers free consultations on which product is best for them, say so. Explain your business philosophy and values. Make sure your website – and your About Page in particular – exudes passion for what you do.
2. Tell your story. How did you set up your business? What challenges did you overcome? What is your business up to day-to-day. A blog is perfect for giving your customers a sneak peek into what you’re up to, so they feel part of what you’re doing. By telling your story, you give your customers a story to tell.
3. Give advice. Explain to your customers how your products will help them. Demonstrate different ways of using your product. Again, a blog is ideal for this. Blogging builds a relationship with your current customer base. What’s more, by creating blog content, potential customers are more likely to find you when they’re searching Google.
4. Be available. Consumers love to ask questions about what they’re buying, especially if they’re making a big-ticket purchase. In a real-world store, you’d have sales assistants on hand to help them out. You can do the equivalent online by making your phone number and email address easy to find. Always answer the phone and respond promptly to email queries. To give your customers the best possible experience, consider offering live chat support.
5. Treat your customers as individuals. Every one of your customers is unique. They all have their own needs, wants and desires. On a website, you can make their shopping experience even more personalized that it would be in a real world store. An excellent example here is Amazon’s recommendations engine. You don’t need big bucks to do recommendations, however. Shopify offers a range of apps that allow eCommerce businesses of any size to offer personalized recommendations.
Even if you can’t target individual customers, you can segment them into different categories to improve their experience of your online store, and help them find the products they need.
6. Segment your email lists. Don’t send out every email to all your subscribers. Have a list of your most engaged customers, who you know open every email, and write to them regularly. Create another list of customers who respond well to offers, and let them know when you’re having a sale. The better you segment your subscribers, the more clicks and sales you’ll get when you drop them an email.
7. Show that you care. Get to know your customers. For example, if a customer buys a big-ticket item as a gift, find out who it’s for and what the occasion is. Afterwards, drop them an email to find out how it went.
8. Offer personalized products. If your products lend themselves to personalization, such as crafts or jewellery, then offer this to your customers as part of your service.
What do you do to add a personal touch to your eCommerce store?
Written by David Masters
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