Competing in the online retail space is a tough experience, especially when you're using drop shipping as your fulfillment method. Most drop shippers have access to the same suppliers and product lines, and have to compete while sharing similar profit margins. With limitations like these, how can drop shippers ever become successful? What can you do, as a store owner, to separate your store from all the others?
In fact, there are ways to make your store stand out and to attract more customers, as many successful drop shippers will attest. Here are three of the best.
Tip 1: Clearly define a unique value proposition.
When anything and everything can be bought from either Amazon.com or Wal-Mart, why would shoppers ever turn to another store? What makes your store so unique that shoppers want to visit you, maybe even pay higher prices, for a product they can get elsewhere?
As the Forbes article linked above says,
"Once you have gone through the defining, evaluating and measuring steps, you are ready to BUILD your value proposition [using] the following kind of framework...
One great way to find your unique value is to survey others in your niche. What are they doing that makes them successful? What makes them special enough that they're able to steal business from Amazon and Wal-Mart?
Some of these things might be incredibly simple. For example, look at what Bedford Camera and Video does for their customers:
They offer free USPS shipping, a good value when it comes to cameras and camera equipment. Note the asterisk—they even limit their offer in sensible ways while enabling customers to assume that they're going to get a great deal on shipping when shopping at Bedford.
What kinds of things can you do to differentiate your store for your shoppers?
Tip 2: Focus on delivering relevant, compelling content.
Content is king in marketing. The right content, delivered at the right time, to the right person, results in a motivated and loyal customer. This is a truism that just about everyone who's successful in e-commerce embraces.
Here's the thing, though. Your content can't be average. It has to offer relevant, obvious, and unique value to your customer base. Otherwise, it's going to get lost in the rabble of all the other "5 Best Grilling Tips" articles published by any online store that sells cookware.
This is where understanding your target customer comes into play. The content you create has to resonate with your audience.
Ideally, your should deliver your content using a blog. Enable customers to subscribe to your blog to receive future updates by email. This way, you'll build a loyal base of readers who act as promoters for your brand. If they get value from the content you're publishing, they'll share it on social media—and just like that, you're getting "free"—and authentic— marketing.
HubSpot, a leader in content marketing, uses the mantra "Wow ‘em, and then convert ‘em." That's exactly what your content should aim to do, and there are lots of great resources out there to help you to refine your content and turn it into spectacular, conversion-oriented posts.
Your expertise in your given niche is what will help you create unique, valuable content. Find a way to channel the passion you feel for products into content that shows off your knowledge. Customers will buy from people who are knowledgeable, even if they have to pay a bit more for it—because they're happy to pay extra for your expertise and guidance. Think of content as a way to create the kind of brand experience that inspires buying.
Tip 3: Support the presumption that you offer great customer service.
Selling items in a niche is different from running a store that sells everything. Shopping at a speciality brick-and-mortar store is appealing not just because of the products being sold, but because of the atmosphere as well. Close interaction between knowledgeable sales staff and customers is compelling—and translates directly into sales.
So how do you recreate this experience online? It's deceptively simple to do. Make yourself available to your customers. By every means possible. For example, do all of the following:
Integrate live chat. Give customers the ability to chat live on your site with a customer service rep.
Offer email support. Give your customers a way to email you quickly and conveniently for help.
Use social media. Field questions cheerfully and professionally on Facebook and Twitter.
Respond as quickly as possible. Don't leave your customers hanging. Get back to them as quickly as you possibly can.
These aren't novel ideas, but they're worth reiterating because so many sellers think of them as overhead, rather than as the added value that brings customers to a business. Dedication to customer service will win more high-quality buyers than low prices ever will, and it does a good job of bridging the gap between the brick-and-mortar experience and the online world.
Stand Out from the Crowd
Standing out from the crowd isn't free, and it isn't always easy—especially when you're competing against other retailers that use the same drop ship suppliers or product lines you do. By applying these tips with thought and effort, however, you can make your store a special enough place that customers will prefer to buy from you rather than from your competitors.
And in the end, that's the key difference between merely hoping for success and actually achieving it in e-commerce.
Spencer Durrant is a marketing manager for Doba. Located in Lehi, Utah, Doba is the largest online drop shipping marketplace in the United States, connecting retailers with over 2.4 million products from wholesale suppliers on one platform.