Search Engine Optimization Guide
Why Would Someone Want to Buy From Your Website?
How to identify your unique selling proposition:
11 ways to set your new e-commerce business apart from the competition
As a team of SEO and web design professionals, we are often the starting point for a client’s marketing initiative.
When a new client is looking to create an e-commerce website to complement their local store, one of the first things we do is learn everything we can about their company. Usually, they’ll point us towards a few websites they like.
But when we ask what’s different about their company, too often the answer is, “Well, nothing really.”
“So why would anyone want to buy anything from you?” is our next question.
In other words, if there are already plenty of other companies operating online in your industry, what makes your company an attractive alternative?
Before you start pondering different features and colors for your website, find what you do (or can do) differently from the websites you’ll be competing against. This will be your unique selling proposition (USP). It’s the basis for your differentiation, and it can be translated into your competitive advantage online.
To help you get started thinking about how you can set your e-commerce site apart, see if any of these aspects are particularly important for your industry and if your company does any of these things really well already.
What’s Your Unique Selling Proposition?
If you carry a wide selection of products, you can make a customer’s complete purchase easier. For example, a mattress retailer that also offers sheets and comforters may find an advantage in promoting the complete package. This advantage meets the demands of consumers who are looking to save time and money with convenient shopping.
Or perhaps you offer more brands than your online competitors. Hard-to-find brands, imported brands…all available at your store. Do you offer fewer brands? If you cater to a specific audience, your advantage may be that of a specialist. Is your store the place to buy mountain bikes (versus any type of bike)? Why?
If you sell a better-made product, be sure to specify exactly how your product is higher quality. This is where it’s important to meet the need of the online shopper for information. The claim of quality has to be backed up with hard facts when you’re talking about items that will be purchased without even seeing or touching them.
Maybe you cater to an exclusive set of customers, such as senior citizens who are first-time computer buyers. In this case, you’ll have an easier job figuring out the needs of your main audience, in contrast to those who serve a wide variety of people since they’ll need to consider the needs of each segment.
Rarely is serving everyone a competitive advantage in your marketing message. The reason? It’s individuals who make purchases, and that individual has specific needs and desires. If a new graduate is looking for a dining room table, they have different concerns than a third-time home buyer looking to furnish a 3,000 square foot house.
Now, that’s not to say there aren’t business advantages in appealing to a wide range of audience segments. It’s just that it will not likely provide you with a strong USP.
Have you ever found a product online that you really, really wanted to buy, but it was “temporarily out of stock”? If your inventory systems can ensure that never happens, you can achieve an advantage over other online stores that run out of stock.
Even if you don’t have that kind of control, think about ways to make that “out of stock” frustration a little less painful for your customers, potentially creating a competitive advantage. For example, offer to notify them when you get more of the product in stock, and give a discount or throw in a free item if they sign up to be notified. You’ll make your customer happy that you’ve acknowledged the inconvenience and lessened the effort required to make the purchase when the item is back in stock.
Offering the lowest price can provide a clear incentive for customers to buy from you. Shopping online gives the consumer the opportunity to quickly compare prices without having to visit multiple retail locations. If they’re primarily shopping based on price, then they aren’t going to pay much attention to anything else like a fantastic web design and fancy logo. Make your low prices easy to find.
Including pricing information is important for most consumer industries, even if the decision is not price-driven. This is due to the great amount of research consumers conduct online before making a purchase. Online shoppers expect full information, and not including prices with your product descriptions is letting them down.
Shipping is typically required if you sell products online. So how can you make it easier and faster for your customers to receive their purchases? You could, for instance, offer faster shipping, free shipping, auto-ship, or local in-store pick-up options. You can also allow customers to save their shipping information to make it easier to order from you the next time.
Keep in mind that shipping is one of those things that has to be executed properly or it can lose you future sales. At a minimum, ensure that your products are properly packed to withstand breakage during shipping. In fact, if damage en route is a concern that plagues your industry, returning buyers will see value in any extra care you take during shipping.
Just like a physical store, your online location can impact sales. That’s where SEO comes in, helping you achieve that highly competitive “real estate” on page 1 or 2 of the search results. Since consumers rarely look beyond the second page, ranking in those top few spots can help drastically improve your sales and conversions just because you’re there at the exact moment when someone is looking for something you offer.
Every retail store owner likes to think they offer the best customer service. But it’s not enough to say it - you have to show it.
Great service starts with understanding your customers’ needs. What are the most important considerations of your audience? This may depend on their age, occupation, how they use your product, and much more. However, there are a few things you can do to provide great service to all of your customers through your website.
For starters, make your website so easy to use that you can’t lose potential customers to frustration. While this sounds like a basic tenet of any site, you’d be surprised how many site owners unintentionally forego ease of use in favor of fancy design. Continue reading >
Take a look at competing sites. Is this an area where you can achieve an advantage, or are operators in your industry already following best practices for usability?
A few tips for providing top-notch service online include:
- Installing a site search function that makes it super easy to find any content on your site.
- Create logical grouping of products according to how customers search for them (not necessarily how you think they should be grouped).
- Add plenty of information about your products (i.e. how to use them, how they fit into the lives of your customers, care and cleaning, maintenance, comparison information, customer reviews, etc.)
- Simplify your order system by making fewer steps.
- Offer options for storing payment and shipping information so customers don’t have to type it in again for later purchases.
- Offer multiple payment and order options.
- Provide regular, personalized newsletters with useful information.
- Include multiple ways for a customer to contact you.
Other factors that can contribute to your overall level of service online include guarantees and product selection. In fact, everything you say and offer on your site should be a testament to your focus on customer service.
Though your online customers don’t interact with your staff they way they would at a physical retail location, you can still carve an advantage for yourself by employing staff that is knowledgeable, friendly, and prompt at responding to questions.
Keep in mind that merely stating you employ experts or that everyone on your staff has at least 15 years’ experience will get you nowhere. You have to let the customer see it for themselves. Think of ways you can convey this online:
- Prompt, friendly, well-thought-out email responses to inquiries.
- A toll-free number that gives customers direct access to your staff’s expertise.
- An interactive device that lets customers ask questions and receive immediate responses.
- Question and answer sections, product guides and expert articles that demonstrate your staff’s expertise and are easily accessible to customers.
Is there anything unique about the progression of your store’s history or development? Being the first to introduce an idea or serve a market can help boost credibility and reputation. Maybe your background in a related industry gives you an advantage. Sometimes a little-known fact or contribution your company has made can give you an advantage when it’s brought to light, establishing your brand as an authority and industry leader.
Let’s face it – we don’t all have the brand equity of Nike or Lego. But does your store have a distinct image that existing customers are passionate about? Sometimes a company has a very strong personality driven by the vision and opinions of top management. You’ll want to foster that passion online with interactive tools that let your customers talk about you in forums, reviews, and blogs. Harness the power of word-of-mouth and viral marketing to let your customers make your brand even better known.
What types of guarantees are your competitors offering? Are you able to offer terms that can give a customer more peace of mind? You can secure an advantage online by establishing trust through customer-oriented return policies, low-price guarantees, on-time shipping guarantees, guaranteed service results, etc.
Identify Your USP & Optimize Your E-Commerce Site Today
By now, you’re probably thinking of a few things your offline retail store already does well. The aspects you choose to focus on conveying through your website will depend on your industry and what’s important to your customers.
Maybe there are several factors that, when combined, will help make you the more attractive choice to consumers searching for the products you offer online. Start incorporating your USP into your e-commerce website today for an advantage over your online competitors.
Contact us if you want help
About SEO Advantage®
Led by Stone Reuning, SEO Advantage®, Inc. is an online marketing and search engine optimization firm that helps businesses turn their web presence into a powerful revenue generation medium. Our clients enjoy dominance on Google, Yahoo and Bing through a suite of unique pay-for-performance search engine optimization and online marketing services implemented by a multidisciplinary team of SEO engineers, copywriters and web designers. You'll find us referenced in books such as "Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale" and the BusinessWeek bestseller "The New Rules of Marketing & PR," as well as the popular ebook "The Small Business Blogging Blueprint." Find out more today by calling us at 1-800-366-1639 or email us here.