5 Ways to Make Your Ecommerce Business Stand Out How can you foster customer loyalty in an increasingly brand-agnostic world?

By Thomas Smale

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Standing out as an ecommerce business can be tough. Today, online retailers abound in practically every niche, and many have gotten their distribution and shipping down to a science.

Related: Ecommerce Wars on Social Media -- What Are They Aiming At?

What's more, your competitive edge has to be a sharp one: Competing on "shipping times," for example, is hardly going to be a value proposition, since customers already expect their orders to arrive at their door in a timely fashion.

So, how else can you foster customer loyalty in an increasingly brand-agnostic world? How do you get people to buy from you when there are so many other options?

Here are several ways in which to get your business noticed.

1. New and improved products

One way to stand out from the crowd is by offering cutting-edge products. If you have the same products as everyone else, you're going to find it challenging to differentiate yourself. In a scenario like that, price is about the only way you can compete, and that can quickly turn into a race to the bottom.

But, if you stay on top of ecommerce trends and keep an eye on emerging technology and developments, you can be the first to market with a particular product. Alternatively, you can also innovate and develop your own products, or make improvements to existing ones.

New products help to create buzz and excitement for your business. When you're the only one selling a product, you can easily corner the market. But if you're relying on manufacturers to furnish your business with new opportunities, know that your competitors are going to jump on those same trends just as soon as they can. When that happens, you need to adapt constantly. But if you can develop your own custom products, you can dominate a market for longer.

Related: 4 Fundamental Strategies for Launching a Successful Ecommerce Startup

2. Branding

Your ecommerce store may not be able to compete on product, price or shipping. If that's the case, then recognize that your voice is something others can't duplicate. Even if they can copy your business in every other regard, your branding remains your own.

Look for ways to highlight unique aspects of your business. Do you sell handmade products? Is your business environmentally friendly? Do you offer a better-quality product than your competitors? Is your persona quirky or unique in some way? Could you bring humor to a market that's fraught with seriousness, or vice versa? Could you use custom packaging as a selling point?

Some of these strategies can be imitated, but there are also those that can't be easily emulated. Be aware of the difference, and be willing to adapt when your unique selling proposition is no longer unique.

3. Third-party channels

If you're in the ecommerce business, it stands to reason that you have your own site, which is a valuable marketing tool unto itself. But you can't forget the value of showing up on other people's platforms, too. Getting links from authority sites will help not only with your SEO, but with your credibility.

One way to take advantage of third-party channels is by guest-posting for them. When you deliver value-adding content to their audiences, you can boost your online profile and gain new customers in the process.

If your business is particularly successful or outstanding in some way, also try responding to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) queries to get featured on news sites and industry blogs.

And, don't forget: When you get featured on another site, you can use badges on your site to showcase the notable publishers that have mentioned your business.

4. Social proof

Social proof is a credibility indicator. It can encourage new website visitors to place an order with you. And if they've been scanning your site for a while without coming to a buying decision, a little social proof can be the tipping point they need.

There are many different ways to leverage social proof on your website. Here are a few examples:

  • Celebrity endorsement. If celebrities enjoy using or wearing your product, you can highlight them in your imagery.

  • Customer reviews. Both good and bad reviews have their place, as long as they offer a balanced perspective for future customers.

  • User-generated content. Encourage your customers to submit pictures of themselves using or wearing your product, if applicable.

  • Implement "likes." Allow visitors to "like" or "favorite" products without buying them. Then, display the total "like" count in product listings

5. A charitable cause

People like to feel that they are doing good for the world, even when they're shopping online. From the user's perspective, seeing that you, the brand owner, have donated a portion of your revenue will seem a selfless act. And it will help the user feel good about doing business with you.

Creating a standout customer experience is all about how you make your customers feel, so a charitable partnership can be powerful.

When you're looking for a charity or organization to partner up with, find a good fit. Your new partner should be a cause you personally believe in and can get behind. It should also be a cause your leads and customers can support.

Just be careful with your choice: If you're selling grass-fed organic beef, then giving a part of your proceeds to an animal rights organization might seem strange and even dissonant. So, choose carefully.

Partnering with a charitable cause can also help from a marketing and PR standpoint, earning you more media exposure. Finally, donating isn't the tax-accounting nightmare that it used to be, assuming that you use the right cash-flow management systems.

Final thoughts

In the artistic community, it has often been said that you should be an exaggerated version of yourself, especially when you're in front of your audience. What this means is that you already have certain personal quirks, tendencies and eccentricities, and these should be emphasized rather than hidden.

When an artist works to highlight his or her standout traits through art, the audience has an easier time identifying and connecting.

The same principle can apply to ecommerce business. Unless you're Amazon, and you sell every product under the sun, you should work on showcasing your unique personality instead of toning it down. Consider the example of Cards Against Humanity (a self-styled "party game for horrible people"). One of the reasons this company is so successful is because it is unapologetically offensive. Offense is baked into its product.

Related: Why Bundling Is the Future for Savvy Ecommerce Entrepreneurs

So, who are you, exactly? Discover what makes you fascinating to others, and use it in your marketing and messaging.
Wavy Line
Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

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