Ways to Rise Above the Ocean of Competing Products
Online sales in the age of Amazon can be tough for sellers of common products like candles, chocolates, and coffee.
By devoting some extensive and uninterrupted planning time to your marketing, audience, and product line, you can learn how to make your online store stand out and keep people coming back.
To get you started, here are seven ways to boost your sales and avoid getting drowned out by similar, mass-produced products competing for the same buyers.
Create Niche Products
Anyone can sell sugar cubes. One big box retailer sells a pound, or 126 cubes, for $1.25. That’s less than one penny per cube.
If you try to go up against major retailers for a product like that, you’ll lose.
But what about the horse sugar cube niche? People love their horses. If they want to give a horse a treat to express love, they’re probably not going to a big box store for sugar cubes.
They might, however, shop for specialty sugar cubes designed for horses.
Flavored with ingredients like apples and berries, these products can sell for more than twice the price of your standard sugar cube at a big box retailer. You can bet that people who love their horses are willing to pay a premium.
If you sell a product that faces stiff competition, the best way to stand out is to find a niche audience. Create a brand and messaging that appeals to that audience, and devote your marketing budget to reaching them.
Raise Your Prices
Let’s face it: You won’t be able to compete on price with major retailers, so don’t try. Go the other way, and turn your product into something special that people will pay extra to have.
Let’s go back to the sugar cube example:
Big box retailers sell 126 run-of-the-mill sugar cubes for $1.25. Another retailer sells sugar cubes specially marketed to horse enthusiasts in a $9.99 bag. However, it doesn’t end there. By making fairly standard products like sugar cubes “special” with minor modifications, some retailers sell packs of just 28 sugar cubes for $11.95 or more!
Yes, you read that right. More than two dozen individual cubes, selling for a higher price than a five-pound bag of sugar cubes. That’s 42 times the big box price. What’s the difference?
They have special imagery hand-crafted on each cube. Does it cost 42 times as much money to create these cubes? Not even close. But if someone’s special 6-year old girl wants a princess-themed tea party for her birthday, would her parents pay $11.95 for these? Of course they would.
Raise your prices by developing unique and creative variations on standard products, and you’ll distinguish your products and eCommerce store from the masses. Often this can be done by altering your packaging.
For a different example, consider pens. You can’t get much simpler than a pen, right? National office supply stores currently sell boxes of 60 pens for $6.49 – about 11 cents per pen.
There’s another seller offering 100 pens for $99, nearly 10 times the per-pen price of the box of 60. Who would buy pens at that price?
They’re gel pens, with a stylus surrounding the ink dispenser, and they can be custom printed. Plus, they just look really nice. For a business owner who wants to use pens as part of their client engagement process, which pen would they buy? There’s no contest – the more expensive one wins every time.
When you start thinking about your products differently, and what’s really possible, you’ll come up with creative ideas like this. You’re still selling the same product – you’re just selling a better version of it. This pairs strongly with the niches you choose to focus on. Niching and higher prices make for a powerful eCommerce marketing plan.
Raise Service Quality and Inject It in Your Marketing
In the online world, standing out through quality customer service is easy because most online service leaves much to be desired.
Companies don’t call you back, don’t respond to emails, package the wrong items, list items for sale that are unavailable, fail to make delivery deadlines, create websites that don’t work – there is a near-endless list of service-related frustrations you could come up with if you felt the need to make one. Which you might – read on for some reasons why.
If you want your eCommerce business to stand out, make impeccable customer service a priority. Get specific about what it looks like so you can describe it in your marketing. Use service guarantees to show how serious you are.
The great thing about a service guarantee is that it costs you nothing. If an eCommerce store were to list all the ways they promise superb service or your purchase is free, customers would take notice.
All you need to do is take time to collect stories of terrible online customer service experiences, figure out how you can stay clear of those gaffes, and then guarantee good service to your customers.
An easy one: Don’t require anyone to sign up to buy from your store. Not only is this extra step annoying and cumbersome, it also forces people into a process they may not be ready for. A first-time buyer – the kind you want to turn into a repeat customer – may not want to join your club to buy a single item. When they experience excellent customer service in the purchase and delivery process, however, they’ll be much more likely to return and consider joining.
Another great way to deliver service that shatters people’s expectations – put surprise gifts in their package.
Here are two cases where you could do this:
- A customer spends above a certain amount in your online store.
- They buy more than a certain number of items.
In both cases, you could set that to trigger a free bonus to include with their delivery.
That’s not hard to set up, but it’s guaranteed to surprise them. They will remember you, and more importantly, they’ll probably tell their friends about you.
Bundle Products into Creative or Useful Combinations
WooCommerce offers several extensions that can help you do this – the simplest one is Product Bundles.
This extension allows you to create pre-packaged combinations of items that you can offer at various prices. You can also use it to offer optional bundles where customers can choose the items they want to combine.
The horse sugar cube seller we mentioned earlier could easily create a package of products around the sugar cubes. Examples include a package of other food items, tools like grooming supplies, or a service-oriented product if the company offers one related to horses.
The pen seller could create a package that includes note pads, sticky notes, staplers, and USB drives. Create different bundles that appeal to different sub-niches within your main ones.
One reason this works so well is because it’s a form of customer service – you’re making their life easier. They no longer need to shop for all these items individually – they can get them all at once. People pay for convenience.
Find a way to sell convenience online through product bundles, and you’ll get noticed and be remembered.
Leverage Limited Availability
Not only can you create special product bundles, but you can include an item that’s so unique you’ll never sell it again as part of the bundle. When they’re gone, they’re gone. And you can do this repeatedly.
Some brick-and-mortar stores thrive on the concept of offering an ever-shifting line of products. A large part of their success is due to the clearly-stated reality that you may never find a particular product there again.
This appeals to the treasure hunters and deal seekers among us. It’s a form of limited availability.
You can do the same thing in your eCommerce business, using this strategy in combination with many others on this list. Create a special line of products, limit the production, and then close it down to drive up demand. One way to do this is to relate the product to a national or local event, like a sports team winning a title or a local competition.
Limited availability also increases the power of your upsell offers.
In an eCommerce store using limited availability and closeout deadlines, you just need to make sure you have a continuous line of new products to replace the expiring ones.
Tell a Story Around Your Products
The horse sugar cube example could take their niche market status much further.
Where did this product originate, and why? Why do horses prefer it over regular sugar? Who created it, and what motivated that person?
You can develop a story around many products if you use your imagination and dig for them. Even pens.
This increases the perceived value for the buyer. It makes them feel something. It’s special. Again, by altering the packaging, you can accomplish quite a lot toward this objective.
Develop Specialized Versions of the Same Product
Suppose you sell candles – a very commoditized product.
What would happen if you changed the names of the scents? Use pop culture references instead of the usual descriptions. Restaurants do this; sometimes you’ll hear about a burger or a drink named after a cultural phenomenon.
What’s to stop the candle-maker from doing the same thing?
Even better, choose a name that won’t go out of style in two years. Avoid flash-in-the-pan fads and events that no one will remember. How about the “George Washington Cherry” scent? Sounds exciting!
The candle-selling eCommerce store could have a whole line of products related to historical figures. – and that’s just one idea. There are endless ways you can get creative by repackaging existing products.
Creativity breeds attention, and attention makes sales.
In the online and eCommerce world especially, it’s all about getting attention. Now you have new ways to go after it.