In today’s digital world, almost every business needs a strong internet presence, if not, it’s as if your business doesn’t exist. Building a website and social media profiles are one of the first steps of starting a small business.
However, simply “existing” on the world wide web isn’t enough.
With millions of websites, competition for attention on the internet can be intense, especially in industries such as e-commerce. Even if they focus on a specific industry, customers can easily become overwhelmed with options. For them, switching between you and your competitor is as easy as tapping a screen or clicking a mouse button.
Your business needs to apply the right strategies to thrive online. Old marketing techniques will not always work on the internet, but these 10 strategies can help you get ahead of your competitors and attract more customers online.
Your business needs to have a unique selling point (USP) to stand out from your competitors. A USP is a simple trait that sets your company apart. It could be the quality of your products, favorable pricing, better customer service, or even a dedication to environmentally-friendly practices.
A USP is also an integral part of building your brand and defining your values. Here are some questions you can use to help identify your USP.
As soon as you identify your USP, be sure to repeat it everywhere you can, including on your social media, website, and any interactions with customers.
Your competition is perhaps your greatest resource when figuring out how to grow your online audience.
Your main focus should be on primary competitors, who are the businesses with the same type of product or service as you. You can look at their pricing, social media presence, and online promotions. You can also assess their customer service offerings and see how they respond to negative reviews online.
In some cases, you can define what your competitors are not doing well and focus on providing the product, service, quality, or interaction that their customers seem to be missing.
You should also research secondary and tertiary competitors. These companies sell different products in the same niche or have offerings that target a different demographic. Though they are not direct competitors, you can still learn from their online successes and mistakes.
Another important step to stand out in a (very) crowded space is to develop a unique identity through branding. Branding covers logos and marketing messages, but it also includes the values that guide your business decisions.
Your company image is influenced by every customer-facing interaction. Therefore, you need to include customer service, social media interactions, and public relations messaging in your brand-building efforts.
Visuals and design will help you build brand recognition, and a good USP can differentiate you from others in your space. A good brand strategy will also include items that help you build customer loyalty. Quality products and positive customer service interactions can help with this aspect of brand building.
Finally, well-defined values can help attract people who share your views. For example, creating an eco-friendly business model can inspire loyalty from customers who value the environment.
Even if you’re offering the same product as your competitors, you can still make yourself stand out by offering more quality. Better products will automatically become a USP and an integral part of your brand image.
One particularly effective strategy is to market your product as an improvement on your competitors’ products. You may mention that you use the latest technologies, rely on superior materials or manufacturing techniques, or offer a longer warranty than your competitors.
Use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) applications to stay one step ahead of your competitors. For example, you may use an AI logo maker to help you develop a unique insignia when defining your brand. You can use these AI tools by entering the necessary information and then letting the algorithms create your company’s logo and visual identity. Pretty cool, right?
Alternatively, you can improve customer service response times by using AI chatbots on your site. The field of chatbots has grown in recent years, and it’s now possible for AI customer support agents to use past conversations as a way to learn about customer intent and provide the right assistance to customers.
Customer experience is essential (you already know that). With so many other choices a click away, online businesses cannot afford to make a mistake in this area. If a customer is confused by your website or has a bad experience while ordering or interacting on social media or with a customer service rep, they’ll leave and never come back.
On the other hand, an easy-to-navigate site with clear information and a user-friendly tone can convert visitors into customers right away. Customer support is also important. A site should have clear contact details and readily-available customer support tools, such as chatbots.
You also want to make sure that most of the questions and issues get resolved at first contact so that the customer doesn’t spend too long waiting.
You can take care of some tasks, such as choosing a domain name, when you first design your site. However, maintaining your website requires an ongoing effort. To create positive customer experiences, you will need to regularly update your website with the latest information on your products and business. Visitors should be able to see the latest products, services, or promotions right when they get to the site.
It’s also worthwhile to update visuals, such as replacing the header once in a while. You know, keep things fresh. This will keep the website fresh for repeat visitors.
Even if you use a third-party e-commerce site or social media platform to sell your products, you should still refresh your listings with new product pictures and promo graphics.
Search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on steps needed to increase your ranking on search engines like Google. Google and search engines use algorithms to find the best results for specific search terms. In addition to using the correct keywords for your site, you need to consider page load speed, site quality, mobile-friendliness, and other factors.
Since 40% of all online shoppers find products via search, SEO is vitally important. You can hire a professional to ensure that you rank highly for relevant search terms.
Building authentic relationships with your customers may inspire them to buy more of your products and recommend them to others. Social media platforms are a good way to build online communities around a brand or product.
The first step in this engagement process is to target the social media platforms frequented most by your target audience. When growing your community, concentrate on providing more value than you extract.
A blog with helpful and valuable content mixed with product updates and announcements is a good way to do this. You can also rely on how-to videos on YouTube or other streaming platforms.
You can include your brand message and philosophy in your social media interactions to help people become familiar with your company’s image.
The world of e-commerce changes daily, and what works today is not guaranteed to work in the future. There are many different variables at play in SEO, brand building, and customer engagement. The only way to know what performs best for your specific business is to experiment and see what works.
For example, you can compare two ideas by using an A/B testing method. Or, you can simply experiment with one marketing idea and a small ad budget.
By experimenting on a small scale, you can test your ideas and find the best ones without risking your entire budget on major changes until you are sure your idea will work.
Natasha Ivanovic is a Vancouver-born creative writer that started her writing career as a freelancer while studying for her Master’s in Investigative Psychology. On the weekends, she writes short stories for her blog, TheLonelySerb, and cuddles with her bulldog, Bob.