Being competitive in the ecommerce world isn't easy. Unless you're selling high-end, customized waffle irons (a niche that's surprisingly large) you're competing with thousands of other suppliers for consumer attention.
When you take into account the fact that mobile ecommerce sales are expected to pass $31 billion in 2016 (that's just on mobile!) it's easy to see why so many ecommerce stores exist. It's also easy to see why some companies spend thousands in marketing every month - even a small slice of a $31 billion pie is a good chunk of change.
The golden question is, how do you, as an SMB owner, position your store to compete and take home as much of the $327 billion revenue to be generated from ecommerce sales in 2016 as possible?
One answer to that question is to effectively communicate your store's unique value proposition. The online stores that are most successful owe a large part of their success to the fact that they've sold consumers on their company's unique value. They've presented their store as the place to buy whatever it is they're selling. In other words, they've effectively communicated their store's unique value proposition.
How do you communicate that message in a way that connects with customers and non-customers alike? Let's take a look at a few ways you can convey your value without sounding like an overzealous essential oils sales rep.
Review your UVP
Before you start trying to communicate your unique value proposition (UVP) to your customers, it's imperative to take some time to make sure that your UVP is clear, concise, and connects with consumer needs.
If you haven’t developed a formal UVP, you'll need to define one. This way, as you begin to market your store with your UVP in mind, you'll have something tangible to refer to, instead of going off the idea of what you perceive to be your store's benefits.
Forbes contributor Rebecca Bagley wrote the following tips for creating a solid UVP:
- Identify the benefits you offer customers: What does a customer get from shopping at your store instead of a competitor's? Why should they spend their money on your products rather than someone else's? You need to answer this question, and if you don't have an answer? Well, it's time to add more value to your online store.
- Link those benefits to the mechanism for delivering value: In other words, once you have your benefits concretely outlined, they need to be communicated in strategic places in your online store.
- Explore the possibility of change in the future: Nothing in ecommerce is ever a set-in-stone, it is always changing. As your store grows, your UVP will change as well. Make sure you leave your UVP open to growth possibilities.
Once you have your UVP outlined, it's time to move onto the strategic placement of that message.
Don't dump it all at once
A common mistake online store owners make is that they'll try to dump every point of their UVP onto a customer's lap all at once. Whether it's homepage copy, email marketing, or on social media, you absolutely don't want to dump all of your perks onto consumer in one sitting.
The Rain Selling Blog wrote a post about creating and communicating your UVP, and while their advice deals directly to talking in-person with customers, you can use their reasoning for your online communication as well.
"When you introduce yourself and someone asks you, “What do you do?” The best thing to do is start with a few important nuggets that can help you get a conversation flowing.
We started our example with, “We at RAIN Group help companies to improve their sales performance. If you want your salespeople, professionals, and leaders to sell more, we can help.”
We didn’t yet cover the target market, impact, our distinctions, proof of concept, and so on.
When it’s time, we can and we do! But we do it as the conversation unfolds.
We might start here and then ask the other person, “That’s us in a nutshell. What do you do?” and they’ll answer, often following our lead and keeping it short. Then we ask questions to learn more.
In the natural flow of conversation, we’re likely to learn enough to share (and customize!) relevant details that will continue to position our value. As well, ask someone something and they’ll often turn the question right back at you.
For example, you might ask, “Can you share with me any specific examples? And curious to know as well how it panned out.’
Then they’ll tell you the story and say, “What about you? Any examples in my industry?”
And you can hit the rest of the building blocks as you continue along in your great conversation."
Any conversation you have with a customer, either via email or on the phone, should follow a natural pattern. But how do you take this successful formula and apply it to an online store? Customers want to know immediately what your value is, why you're worth buying from, and what you offer that other stores don't.
Here's how to effectively accomplish that communication.
Choose your 3 best value propositions
When you develop your UVP, it's likely that you're going to come up with at least a handful of things that separate your brand from the rest of the online sellers in your niche. If you can't come up with more than three or four, you need to think harder about what you can offer to customers
The question of how to communicate a UVP was posed on Quora, and an awesome answer was given by Rachel Honoway, CEO of FMTC and FreshPress.
"Choose 3 straightforward points (Shop online, Get it Same-Day, Choose from delivery, curb-side pick-up or in-store pickup) - your description to the question here on Quora gives better information about what you do than the whole front page which has a lot of marketing lingo like "shop local"... that's not a value proposition, that's a marketing slogan.
"Place each of these 3 points (one line each) on the right side of the page in bulleted format.
"Make sure that the 3 points are in the largest font on the page."
Honoway also adds the warning that you should shy away from adding more than three main value points on your site's homepage. Three is a perfect number for people to skim through. More than that, and people will begin to lose interest
Look at the home page for Scott Fly Rods as an example.
Underneath their logo, you'll see Scott has placed three main points - "The Truth," "The Craft," and,"The Tech." These are obviously the points of Scott's UVP that they feel resonate best with the target audience, which is of course, fly fishermen.
Scott's biggest UVP is the fact that they're a small, Colorado-based fly rod manufacturer and they create fly rods designed specifically for fishing in the Rocky Mountains. But I only know that because I’ve been intrigued enough by their "Craft" and "Tech" sections to go and read through those sections of their website in depth.
What Scott has done leads us into the next set of major points that you need to consider when communicating your UVP:
- Know your audience: Scott thoroughly knows their target audience - fly fishermen. But, Scott has gone deeper than just that. They cater to anglers who are willing to spend $400-$850 or more on a fly rod. Contrast that with Redington, another big rodmaker, whose most expensive rod clocks in right around $350. When you know your audience, you can identify which three points of your UVP they'll most closely identify with.
- Lead them with with value, not features: According to Honoway, in the above linked Quora post, a common misconception among newer online store owners is confusing features and campaigns with unique values. Honoway says that those features and campaigns should enhance your UVP, not be the focus of it. "Your visitors and customers must first understand the value so that they can further understand the added bonus of the campaign offering or the feature addition," Honoway wrote.
- Be concise: If there's one thing everyone knows, it's that consumers have short attention spans. If your UVP points on your homepage are too long, you're going to lose the interest of consumers who are just browsing your website.
Communicating your UVP is one of the trickiest things an ecommerce store owner is faced with in today's online retail world. You have to show value without being pushy, lure consumers in without a hard sales pitch, and convince customers your shop is the best without actually saying those words. But if you focus on the tips outlined above in this piece, you're going to have a much easier time getting your UVP across.
Remember, as with all things in ecommerce, don't be afraid to change up how you present your UVP, both on your website and through social media and email marketing. Test different approaches and phrasing, find what works best for a particular channel, and keep using it. But set up your UVP and sit back and not consider changing it. Again, as your store grows, so will the unique value you're offering to customers. You'll want to consistently revisit your UVP and make sure it's always reflective of where your store is positioned at any given time.