Making your small e-commerce website standout is not easy with today’s competition so, how do you compete?
E-commerce is a growing industry but it’s beginning to become apparent that the shift towards online purchasing is feeding big business and beginning to make it hard for the small online store to succeed. With the competition so fierce, it’s important for small online merchants to understand how to make their small e-commerce website standout.
Essentially, the formula for taking on giants with a small e-commerce website is simple: Don’t compete head-on. If you try to match an Amazon-like e-commerce site product for product, functionality for functionality, and marketing dollar for marketing dollar, you will fail. You lack the wherewithal to build it all, let alone maintain it. However, a small e-commerce website that nips at the fringes can carve a very sizable chunk of business without the elephant even knowing it’s been bitten into. Here are four crucial tips for small-business e-commerce success:
Master a Niche
If your website sells books, don’t sell all books; instead, sell history books or world history books or ancient world history books. Make it your business to be the best history book website online: have the best selection, the rare books that can’t be found anywhere else, the most thought-provoking product descriptions and the most scholarly blog posts.
Being the master of a niche is an achievable goal. It enables you to affordably reach a very defined and highly engaged market through social media, SEO and PPC advertising. As you build your reputation, you will earn referrals, enjoy strong customer retention and over time, experience a snowball effect by putting more distance between yourself and more generalized competitors. You may also be able to command higher margins.
- Make User Experience Paramount in Site Design
Your small e-commerce website will never have all the bells and whistles of Amazon. However, if you invest in a website with outstanding user experience features, you will never regret it. If visitors can easily navigate your site, make inquiries, place orders, find information and check order status, they will be very forgiving if your site doesn’t have the bling of the big boys. An easy-to-use site gets used; in contrast, a lousy user experience sends potential customers away, possibly forever.
It is also imperative for your website to deliver a positive mobile experience, especially in light of Google’s very recent “mobile friendly” search algorithm update. You can implement a mobile-friendly site in two ways: either by using responsive Web design techniques or by building a separate mobile website. Determining which option is best goes beyond the scope of this article, but there is plenty of useful information available online to guide you.
- Deliver Unbeatable, Personal Customer Service
A big reason people prefer to buy from small companies is customer service. Most people would rather talk to a human after one ring than wade through a 20-step automated phone-attendant process. Most people would rather communicate with a knowledgeable decision maker than an outsourced third party who barely speaks English and can do no more than quote the company policy manual. Because consistent customer service is often a weakness for large competitors, you can make it a key differentiator that will tip the scales in your favor when prospects make buying decisions.
You’ll get more customers and keep them longer with outstanding, personal customer service. Respond quickly and thoroughly to questions. Tackle product and service problems head-on and fairly. Proactively keep customers informed of order status; and above all, make sure orders are delivered quickly and accurately.
- Optimize Your Website
Having strong organic search visibility on Google is crucial for small e-commerce companies because it enables people who need what you sell but don’t know who you are to find you. Without SEO, your website will not be able to seriously tap into the online demand for your products.
The most important things to keep in mind: use customer language (popular keywords) to describe your products. Make sure every page of your website has unique, original content and distinctive meta title tags.
Excel in these four areas, and you will not only compete against the giants, you will prosper!
Do you have more tips for making a small e-commerce website standout?
Guest blogger Scott Taback is the Managing Vice President of Ecommerce at Highland Solutions. Highland provides collaborative enterprise solutions including e-commerce solutions. Scott is responsible for growing Highland’s e-commerce practice and has a passion for helping companies innovate.