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3 Smart Ways to Differentiate Your Ecommerce Business and Give Customers What They Really Want It's time for businesses to break up with ecommerce best practices. Here's why — and what to do instead.

By Eric Netsch Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The ecommerce industry has been running on autopilot in recent years, regulated by a set of "best practices" that are supposed to help businesses increase their brand visibility and boost sales. However, these practices are what's stopping businesses from reaching these goals. While these practices might create a frictionless commerce experience through an ecommerce website, they also produce an unoriginal and boring path to purchase for shoppers. Shopper expectations have evolved; therefore, it's time for ecommerce businesses to do the same.

What do shoppers want?

Shoppers want something different and new. Sixty-four percent say it's rare to see a website that feels unique or has unexpected functionality. This means that businesses need to develop a different brand and purchasing experience that helps them stand out from millions of other ecommerce businesses.

So, how can businesses set themselves apart and gain the attention of shoppers? A good starting point for businesses should be to break up with two prevalent best practices to elevate the shopping experience and distinguish themselves from the competition.

Related: Want To Grow Your Ecommerce Brand? Take Advice From This Industry Expert.

Practice #1: Frictionless commerce = the best commerce

The ecommerce industry has long held the practice of creating frictionless customer shopping experiences. Features like streamlined search, website navigation and checkout quickly guide shoppers from the landing page to the checkout screen. However, creating a frictionless experience only benefits infrequent or one-time shoppers. Frictionless commerce might bring in new customers, but it doesn't create brand loyalty.

Loyal customers form a core group that can drive up to 23% of annual sales for businesses, meaning that a key focus should be to build this core group. Sixty-two percent of shoppers say they expect personalization, suggesting that they aren't likely to return to a business if there is no uniqueness to the purchasing experience.

Businesses that want to break away from this practice should focus on creating a new and exciting experience over preserving the frictionless commerce model.

Practice #2: The best way to reach shoppers is through a website

Another long-held practice that the industry has held onto is that the best way to get shoppers and convert sales is through a website. However, more and more shoppers are purchasing through their mobile devices. By 2025, it's projected that around 44% of retail sales in the US will occur on a mobile device.

Many ecommerce websites are not optimized for mobile, meaning that a desktop-optimized website won't be enough to compete with other businesses. Therefore, ecommerce businesses should be prepared to find alternative routes to reach shoppers.

Related: How To Succeed in A Competitive Ecommerce Industry

3 tips for breaking up with industry practices

There are three key tips to keep in mind when breaking up with the industry's best practices. These tips can help an ecommerce business re-evaluate its current strategies and prepare for the start of 2023.

  1. Create a strong visual brand identity: Businesses can create a strong visual brand identity through a highly visual experience, and by incorporating a multi-media approach to brand assets, brands can stand out from the crowd with a compelling brand feel and identity. These aspects, such as images, video, audio and interactive elements, should be highlighted throughout a website to make the brand stand out against the competition.

  2. Change your path to purchase: Businesses should be prepared to change their path to purchase for customers. In addition to running micro-enhancement tests on product images, button colors, element placement, etc., consider running macro-tests that explore unique layouts. For example, trying out new layouts and hierarchy structures can help an ecommerce website feel distinctive and new.

  3. Develop a VIP experience: By developing a VIP experience, shoppers will feel like they are receiving an exclusive experience tailored just to them. Providing VIP experiences has the added benefit of building brand loyalty because shoppers know they won't be able to find the experience elsewhere. Some ways to develop this VIP experience include members-only exclusive content, special sales and perks. Businesses can also run loyalty and referral programs and inject novelty into their marketing and outreach efforts. Another way to develop a VIP experience is through a mobile app. Implementing features like advanced wish lists, product recommendations and customized push notifications within a mobile app can help establish brand loyalty and create an experience that shoppers can't get elsewhere.

Related: 5 Ways to Provide a Positive Customer Experience in Ecommerce

It's time for businesses to break up with the ecommerce industry's best practices. Businesses that are willing to change their current approaches will increase brand visibility and boost sales. It may be easier to follow industry best practices, but it creates a predictable experience that may leave your brand lost in the crowd. Shoppers want a personalized and entertaining experience, and the businesses that provide that have a greater chance of success.

Eric Netsch

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Tapcart

Eric Netsch is the co-founder and CEO of Tapcart, a codeless mobile app builder that helps Shopify’s fastest-growing brands to create an owned marketing channel so that they can reach, engage, convert, and retain their audience. Eric has been featured in TechCrunch, Business Insider, The Verge, etc.

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