Many entrepreneurs see a highly competitive marketplace as a deal breaker for startups, but a saturated market also means there is high demand. People like having choices—this is true for both B2C and B2B SaaS. While a large number of competitors in your marketplace shouldn’t end your startup dreams, entering a competitive market isn’t easy. Many people prefer the convenience of shopping online over braving the stores in person to get what they want. More and more eCommerce websites are popping up because of this. From makeup, to furniture, to basic needs like food and clothes, shoppers can basically get whatever they want online. This means that you are going to have to work extra hard to make sure your website stands out from the rest.
Industries such as technology, medicine and food are getting crowded as more startups emerge. In order to stand out as a startup in an already booming industry, you have to set your business apart from the others. Something about your business has to drive consumers to you instead of your competitors. Mobile ecommerce poses another set of challenges to success which leaves online merchants little choice but to continue adapting. Merchants must be able to leverage the new developments in ecommerce technologies in order to secure an advantage.
Ecommerce startups may find themselves in quite an interesting position. On one hand, they can readily implement cutting edge or mobile-first strategies since they don’t have any legacy issues to deal with. On the other, they also need to enhance their infrastructure with these new technologies. Barebones shopping cart sites and apps just don’t quite cut it anymore. Here are the five ways startups can make their stores stand out:
Often when a SaaS startup founder is asked what will differentiate their product from competitors, the answer is “a better product.” This usually refers to creating a product with features or capabilities the competition’s product lacks. While it is true that creating a better product is key, offering unique product features isn’t the only way to stand out in a competitive market. Other ways to differentiate yourself from competitors include – targeting a different audience segment, offering better customer service or support, offering a more seamless experience, providing a signup or purchase flow with less friction than the competitors offer, making the upsell path easy and convenient. You have features that no other solution has. Customers love being flattered and one way to do this is by offering a personalized experience.
You might have a business model, a set of supply chain relationships, a proprietary process or other intellectual property that you and you alone can deliver. This is what you want to capture. Forget boring templates and standardized themes. Don’t limit yourself to a website that looks exactly like ten other websites out there, down to the colors and layout. You owe your brand more than that. The colors of your website are very important. If you have a logo, use a variation of that color scheme. Pick a simple but strong font to go with it, and make sure to use only the best and most striking photos in your online storefront. All these elements come together to create a unique experience for your customer as soon as they get to your landing page. You want an eCommerce website that speaks to the style of your brand so it can speak to your potential customers as well.
People nowadays are always on the go. Having an eCommerce website that they can access at home is a good start. But you need to step it up even more and make sure your online store is accessible via mobile devices as well. Your website may look great on a laptop screen, but what happens when someone tries to access your site on their phone during a moment of shopping impulse? Nowadays, everyone is purchasing from their mobile devices. If your website looks askew or is hard to read on a phone, you could lose half of your potential customers. So cater not only to customers accessing from their computers but also to those who are on their phones for most of the day. Make sure to have a mobile friendly website that will look good on all screens. Create a strong, reliable and interactive mobile app for your startup.
Provide access to a mobile-friendly version of your company’s website and unique features providing convenience and value to your consumer base. This can also be a platform to market unique promotions exclusively for mobile app users and attract more consumers. It is important, however, to fully test every function of your mobile app to make sure it is secure, fast and efficient prior to launching it for public download. Much of the world accesses company information, searches for reviews and accesses the Internet on a mobile device. To maintain a successful startup, you have to stay updated and understand trends. Knowing what customers are going to expect in advance helps your new company get off to a stronger start upon official launch.
Offer opportunities for customers to give feedback about areas that may need improvement. Not only will you remedy an existing problem, it makes your business look customer centric, which is important in the saturated startup marketplace. When you go out of your way to engage with your first customers, you not only get great feedback to improve the product but also can end up creating product champions. Almost every successful SaaS business has customers who vouch for it. They will stick with the company and defend it. They are also the cheerleaders and promoters of the product. It’s not always enough to give customers a great shopping experience.
Even if you’ve set your website up with all the necessary information, there will still be customers who have questions along the way. Include a “Contact Us” form, or have a live chat feature that your visitors can easily access. Set your store apart by giving your customers a chance to easily communicate with you. When current and potential customers know they can reach you for any questions about the products or services you offer, it adds a sense of security, trust, and credibility. A major mistake that startup founders make is not building an online reputation right from the start. Before even launching the startup, start building an online presence and audience. The way that you deliver information about your new company, why it was started and what sets it apart from the competition helps build that reputation. The way that you interact with consumers in transparent and private situations also builds rapport with consumers and the competition.
Including a blog on your eCommerce website is a great way to add more depth to your store. You can use this blog to periodically highlight products, post about real life community events your store will be participating in, put a spotlight on customer reviews, write about things that are relevant to your products or services, and so much more. A blog with relevant and optimized content is also a great way to help you rank better on Google Search, which will increase traffic to your online store. You’ve given your business the perfect face online, and having a blog integrated with your website will give it a voice too. This can project a well-rounded brand that will no doubt attract potential customers, and keep current customers interested.
Society likes to read success stories from real people. Overwhelming an audience with falsehoods and mistruths leads a startup to disaster. Provide real, honest information and be transparent in doing so. Share the founder’s story and how he/she chose to quit their day job and achieve their own personal dream. Stories like that are inspiring and attract larger audiences. Consider making philanthropy a part of your startup’s business model. Consumers like companies that give back to local communities and organizations. It shows society that the startup is concerned not only with itself but also its local community. Just as important as having a unique business model is hiring unique staff members. Your company culture has to be dynamic and full of creativity and innovative ideas to help the brand maintain its uniqueness.
Even with a good catalog of products, ecommerce startups can’t just expect customers to just turn up and buy. Successful ecommerce efforts are always aided by strong marketing efforts. Ecommerce marketing helps to attract and convert customers, upsell and cross-sell, and generate repeat sales. Due to the volume of customers companies have to reach, doing marketing tasks such as sending newsletters and following up on abandoned carts can be a tedious process. Marketing automation can be used to streamline these tasks. Automation services can be configured to send out customized offers or newsletters via email or as push notifications on mobile.
Moreover, effective timing can lead to increased email response times. Reminders can also be triggered if customers leave items in the online shopping carts. Gone are the days when analytics meant simply tracking a website’s daily visits and how long each visit lasted. For ecommerce, advanced analytics offers means to accurately track each customer’s journey. Trackers can now determine traffic sources and gather data on each click made in the store. These data can be compiled and analyzed in order to generate insights on customer behavior and product and site performance. Analytics tools can be configured to sync data from multiple sources and trigger actions such as notifications. These can even be integrated with automated marketing services as part of rule-based campaigns. Analytics could also be used to track internal team’s performance to see how quickly orders get fulfilled.