There’s nothing like competition to motivate you to improve your business - but how do you stay on your customers’ minds when they have a sea of options to choose from?
Gaining a Competitive Edge in E-Commerce
There are so many benefits to opening an e-commerce store when you’re choosing what kind of retailer you want to be. They’re flexible, scalable, and you can sell anything anywhere. Your potential market is a whole lot bigger - which also means a whole lot more overwhelming.
Competition for e-commerce retailers is very, very real. And it’s very transparent. When people walk around a traditional shopping mall, they might not necessarily get the best deal as it's impossible to have all competing products lined up next to one another with their price tags. If someone pops onto the Amazon website instead, they know they’re getting a good price on something because they can see everyone’s products right there.
Not only are you competing with other online retailers, in e-commerce, you have to work extra hard to prove you’re worth it for possible customers, compared to running down to the shops down the road. You don’t have the advantage of having a real human salesperson guiding someone through your store. Customers can’t test out or try on your products the same way. They have to wait for it to be shipped and delivered before having it on-hand.
Finding your competitive edge
So how do you stay afloat when it seems like everyone else has something going for them? Many retailers start a “race to the bottom”, where the second they see someone undercutting their prices, they start dropping them, too. This is great for the customer, but not necessarily your business. Here are a few ways you can stay competitive in a constantly moving market.
First and foremost, having a good product can get you pretty far. If you’re selling something novel, you’re already competitive. If you’re selling something similar to others, what makes your product function better? This is what’s called a “unique selling proposition”, and it’s crucial to know what yours is.
Location and Availability
The old business adage location, location, location isn’t dead. Maybe you’re not selling the most unique thing, but maybe yours is the easiest one to get. Putting your products right in front of large crowds is a great way to get more exposure. For online retailers, getting the good real estate often means selling on multiple channels, and getting your products where your customers are already shopping. Shopify makes it dead easy to integrate sales channels like Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and eBay, and you can even develop your own sales channel or use Shopify Buy Buttons to get your shop on any website on the internet.
Ease of Use
One of the biggest conversion drop-offs for potential customers when they’re shopping online is getting stuck with a clunky website that’s confusing and takes too long. Optimising your site for mobile and desktop, and making sure it’s simple and straightforward are important steps in becoming a more competitive site.
Price is of course one of the most important determining factors for purchasing decisions. If you see your competitors dropping their prices, be weary of underselling yourself - but look for ways you can stay in the same general area. You can also consider keeping your prices higher, and offering discounts for those willing to put in the work to get them. Getting creative by offering instalment plans or lines of credit can also be a great way to stay competitive with your pricing.
Because people can’t try on things straight away, you have to prove your products are as good as you say they are. Focusing on strategies like getting customer reviews, user-generated content and affiliate partnerships with existing companies can boost your credibility and make newcomers trust your brand.
Staying competitive also means getting your customers to come back again and again, and tell their friends about you. One way to get this momentum going is through loyalty programmes and memberships. These give rewards for customers that actively engage your customers, and encourage them to stay with you. Another is to focus on personalising the shopping experience for your customer, or working towards becoming an omni-channel retailer.
Aesthetics and Design
Website design is so, so important for staying competitive. When all you get to make a first impression is a brief glance, having a website optimised for conversion can be the make or break.
The Niche-Mass Spectrum
Why is it that a company that exclusively sells quirky dog collars can stay in business? They’re going small and thinking big. What are we talking about? Product-market fit. You can go a long way in staying competitive by going niche, and finding the right buyers who are interested. There’s also plenty of room to cater to the masses, but it will be much more resource-intensive.
Being the company that actually solves customer problems right away, and leaves people with a feeling of “oh wow, those people are actually looking out for me” - it’s invaluable in developing brand loyalty. Here’s how to stay on top of handling customer service from behind your desktop.
While your end product is a place for competition, so are your ingredients. Customers are increasingly looking for companies that offer products with transparent sourcing, and often with a promise that source materials and labour are fair and ethical. See some great examples here.
We’re on your team
We love competition at Elkfox. Hell we even compete for who gets to put the office playlist on. Get in touch with us for help on developing your competitive edge with a custom Shopify website that outshines everyone else on the block.
If you're interested in learning more about competition in eCommerce, we've got a great article on how to conduct a competitive analysis for your ecommerce business. Check it out!