And you can talk about new initiatives and revamping offerings all you want, but in the end, customers need a reason to choose your company over everyone else. That reason comes down to your differentiator.
What makes you unique? What gives you that competitive edge? Without this understanding, you’re shooting in the dark.
For the most part, these differentiators can be boiled down to one of four factors: price, experience, selection, and products. You may heavily favor one of these key points, or be balanced in multiple. However, it’s important to be conscious of exactly where you do stand, and curate a digital experience that centers on your strengths. Being mediocre at a lot of things is a losing proposition in today’s global digital marketplace—so focus on what makes your brand unique.
Not sure what your differentiators are? Here’s what each of these four elements looks like:
- Price – More than six out of 10 shoppers compare prices in-store and online and choose whichever is least expensive. Price is still the main determining factor for many online consumers—so if you have an advantage here, flaunt it. Many companies try to push the benefits of their brand experience or a wide product catalogue onto customers who are simply there because they want the lowest prices. Walmart is an excellent example of a company that took this differentiator and ran with it. Its “everyday low prices” promise is the foundation of the company’s success.
With Walmart’s low price credibility, it can be difficult for companies—especially smaller ones—to truly compete on price. But if it’s a key differentiator, it must drive your digital strategy. Tactics like “double the difference if you find a product for less” can highlight your focus on competing on price, so make sure to employ these across platforms. Additional tactics can include offering annual rebates on total purchases—for loyal customers, the total savings can outweigh occasionally higher prices.
A dream scenario here is to combine low price credibility with product depth in a certain category – offering the largest selection and lowest prices is a recipe for success.
- Experience – Most shoppers know they can get the same (or similar) products easily, in store or online—but for some customers, it’s about the experience.
Nordstrom is a clear example of a brand that has capitalized on a unique and rewarding experience for its shoppers. It may not be the least expensive place to shop, but factors like an unconditional returns policy, knowledgeable sales associates and a luxury shopping experience set the company apart.
If your differentiator is your excellent customer experience, prioritize personalized communication with each shopper—in marketing messages like emails, and even in store via individual sales associates. Consider an integrated loyalty program that offers rewards, additional perks (like birthday bonuses) and ensures that your shoppers feel like VIPs. Make sure that your customers receive the consistent experiences they’d get in-store on your website and mobile app.
- Selection – Amazon’s success partly relies on its enormous catalogue that just keeps growing (even long-time holdouts like Nike are now selling on the site).
A wide product spread that dwarfs those of your competitors sets you apart, but not everyone can be the “everything store.” It’s key to note here that you do not need to be Amazon or Walmart to play the selection differentiator, but can compete in a specific category. Brands that compete on selection need to remind customers that their product array is best in that given category.
If selection is your differentiator, make sure that customers are easily able to navigate a your products, whether on their phones or on a computer. Highlight your selection across your digital offerings to make it clear that your brand is a one-stop shop for customers who don’t have unlimited time to search for the products they need. Choose your battleground (specific category) here carefully, and reap the benefits.
- Products – Certain brands will only ever sell their products themselves—it’s unlikely you’ll ever see a pair of Warby Parkers at a Target Optical, for example. Exclusivity and brand control is the name of the game for companies with this differentiator.
If you offer a highly exclusive product, think twice before selling on third-party retailers (like Amazon) and make your products the center of your digital experience. Warby Parker not only maintains control of its products, but creates a unique experience for customers that only they can offer—with options to try glasses on at home and personalized recommendations that elevate the exclusive nature of the products. This creates a strong brand identity that is unmistakably Warby Parker, and sets it apart from competitors.
So, can you offer the best experience to your customers? The widest product selection? Take a stance and go for it. Let your brand’s strengths determine the direction of your digital experience.
No matter what trends dominate the market or new channels emerge, understanding your brand at its core will give you a leg up when strategizing for your digital customer journey. The brands that stay competitive and prosper through the next years of ecommerce will focus what makes them unique and use that differentiator to drive them forward.
Astound Commerce provides a range of digital commerce services, including design, custom development, technology implementation and maintenance.