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March 18, 2009

7 ecommerce strategies for standing out in a digital world

Even in a dismal economy internet sales are growing. As people become more confident with ecommerce transactions and savvy with search, selling online just makes good business sense. The drawback is that more and more businesses are vying for a piece of the pie.  As your customer reach expands so does the level of competition. The internet is gigantic and your customers are an impatient bunch.

Be unique or go home

That is why it is so important for web marketplaces and ecommerce stores to differentiate themselves from the crowd. It’s no longer sufficient to declare you have the best prices or selection, because the fact is, your visitors can compare these statements faster than you can spell them out on the page. The good news it that technology and creativity now make it easier than ever for small web stores to offer a shopping experience second to none.

Here are 7 ecommerce strategies for standing out in a digital world.

1. Use expanded descriptions, multiple product views to convey the real value of your products. You wouldn’t nail down shirts in a clothing store so why would you only offer one view of your products? This doesn’t have to use elaborate or expensive technology, multiple views, close-ups and live use photos can provide a lot of information other stores don’t bother to share.

2. Invite customer opinion with customer product reviews and real life testimonials. Consider adding customer comments as audio clips. Adding customers audio testimonials can be a simple as taping a phone conversation. (With permission of course) Using audio clips is simple, inexpensive and does not require technical expertise or expensive online tools. By itself an audio testimonial may not make the sale but it is a very effective tipping tool, helping to nudge reticent buyers over their hesitation and into a sale.

3. Offer relevant information that doesn’t sell. You heard me right, give people information for free without trying to sell them anything.  Remember that the main reason people are online is to get information -period. That is the primary goal especially before they buy. Statistics show that the longer people stay on your website the more likely they are to buy from your store (even if they decide to buy at a brick and mortar store) Use an irresistible giveaway to capture emails of people not yet ready to buy and use your content to keep them engaged until they are ready.

You can write articles, give teleclasses, offer whitepapers, provide downloads, share interviews, recipes or helpful hints.  Make sure the information is informative, entertaining and relevant to your customers rather than a veiled attempt to sell.  People can smell hype a mile away and this is the kiss of death online. Always remember your competitors are only a click away.

4. Get into video. A brief welcome message that shares your value proposition can give s a call to action can engage visitors and move them down the buying path. Use videos to educate your visitors on product uses or assembly. Create a short comparing product features or demonstrate the product in use.  Keep your videos short (under 3 minutes) and clear.  Host your videos on public sites like Viddler or Youtube and post them on your website.  Here are a few examples talking about connecting with your website visitors.

It might seem that video clips within product descriptions are a luxury but I foresee video product descriptions as being the norm within 5 years.  According to Internet tracking firm comScore’s Video Metrix, Americans watched about 14.8 billion videos in January 2009, or roughly 101 videos per U.S. Internet user. Todays online shoppers are using alternate avenues like YouTube to research product. Get a jump on the competition by giving your online shoppers a bigger experience, not by lowering your prices.

5. Put a face on your store – people buy form people not computers. Yes they use the computer to do it but they want to know there are real people who will back up their purchases, especially with higher ticket items, or products they are not sure they need. This will become increasingly important in a slow economy because buyers are not as willing to risk a purchase if they feel their concerns will get lost in cyberspace.

Consider adding human pictures to your about us page. Include staff picks or reviews and encourage your employees to write on the blog, social media sites and to contribute articles. After all these are the people your virtual customers will interact with. Don’t hide behind a virtual storefront – don’t be afraid to let your customers get to know the people they are buying from.

6. Make sure your online store has a clear value proposition that speaks to your target market. This value statement must answer the question that is on your best  customers mind; “Why should I buy form you over the other guys?” If your website cannot convey this critical piece of information then your visitors will definitely miss it.  Your ideal customer should immediately recognize that they are in the perfect place when they land on your ecommerce site.

Many online stores resist crafting a clear value proposition that targets a particular type of customer for fear of alienating other visitors. Look at your statistics and you might see that you make most of your money from a niche group or groups. A clear value proposition targets these customers and tells them exactly why you are the best solution to their problem.

7. Use social media to establish relationships and get feedback. Believe it or not your customers are hanging out in communities online. No, you may not visit Facebook or Linked in but social media sites are doubling every year. They aren’t just for teenagers anymore.  The purpose of social media sites is to share opinions and interests. Connect with target market through blogs, twitter, linked in, Facebook, Stumbleupon or any of the dozens of niche social media sites.

Your customers are having conversations with or without you so schedule in an hour a week to schmooze online. This is a way to make connections, not sales – keep it authentic , informative and reap the benefits of worldwide word of mouth referrals.

The way people buy has changed forever with internet ecommerce. The world is literally your marketplace and customers can live just about anywhere. Using just one of these suggestions could immediately increase your ecommerce store profits. Now imagine what implementing all 7 could do!

These simple ecommerce strategies can help your online store stand out in a digital world.

Jan Riley is the CEO and founder of LeadMastersUSA, a website marketing company founded in 2004 and based in Atlanta, Ga. Her entrepreneurial spirit and internet experience along with a talented staff has made LeadMastersUSA synonymous with innovative marketing tactics, increased ecommerce profits and business websites that build relationships. We believe that the true power of the internet is NOT technology – it is communication. People buy from people. Discover how your website can connect, capture and convert visitors into customers with our 3 minute weekly video series at You can contact Jan at or call 678 318 7515.