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Dare to Differentiate: The Key Online Retail Success
Jeff McRitchie, VP of e-Commerce, MyBinding.com
Tip 1: Do something better.
What do you do better than anyone else? What makes your business different and exceptional? These questions are not easy to answer. However, they should be some of the first questions you answer when starting an online business. Do you have a unique product, meet a different type of need, or have exclusive access to a supplier? Perhaps you have access to an audience or solve a problem that is difficult to solve.
Although it is possible to differentiate on almost any aspect of your business, it is best to choose an aspect tied to customer demand.
If you cannot figure out what will make you substantially better than your competitors, chances your customers won’t be able to figure it out either. Experts sometimes refer to this as your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). What do you offer that your competitors do not?
Tip 2: Differentiate on demand.
Although it is possible to differentiate on almost any aspect of your business, it is best to choose an aspect tied to customer demand. It is far easier to find an unmet need that you can fill than it is to convince a customer that they need something new. Aligning your differentiator with consumer demand will allow you to scale faster with a lot less work and marketing. Do yourself a favor. Choose something other than customer service, shipping time, or price as your primary differentiator. These can certainly enhance your unique selling proposition but should be secondary to your USP.
Tip 3: Build barriers to entry.
As if finding a differentiator is not hard enough, you also need to look for ways for preventing competitors from copying you. In today’s competitive world, if you find success, it won’t be long before someone tries to imitate it. It is up to you to make your USP challenging for duplicating and building sustainable competitive advantage. Just remember, if it was easy for you to enter the market, it would likely be easy for your competitors to come as well. Strong supplier contracts, patents, a strong brand, and unique product specifications are all strategies that can be used to help build barriers to entry.
Are you looking to start an e-commerce business? It has never been easier. Just do yourself a favor, and before you begin, take a moment and consider what will make you different. Identify that thing and build your business around it. Your long term success likely depends on it.