If everyone gets onto the same bus, it gets crowded. Crowded buses are no idea of fun, are they? As eCommerce builds up to where it’s expected to be, it’s getting harder to stand out, be unique, and have any sort of unique selling proposition.

According to eMarketer.com, eCommerce sales grew by 21.1% to top US $1 trillion in 2012 for the first time in history.


There’s only so much creativity that goes into eCommerce retailing. Or is it, really? Every business can reinvent itself. eCommerce stores can find new ways to sell, engage with customers, and ramp up their profits. It’s all about a decision, an attitude to front that decision, and the guts to see to the end of it.

Here’s how you can build an eCommerce store where you’d do retail, but with a difference:

-It’s not about the products, it’s about you

Let’s assume that you sell clothes online. Your product range could stretch from T-shirts to accessories. You’d typically have a storefront: you’d have your t-shirts showing up in line one row after the other across your pages. Most eCommerce stores that sell t-shirts are like that. How would you stand out?

Most entrepreneurs do the mistake of thinking that it’s the products that have to be unique. I agree that your t-shirt designs need to reflect a bold new attitude, and this will go a long way to help you stand out from the competition’s products, but it’s not really about the products.

It’s about you. It’s your approach to business that’ll help customers relate to you.

For instance, if you put up a declaration that 1% of all the sales go towards saving whales, you are making a statement there. If you declare that your t-shirt production processes are as “green” as they can get, you are already way better than most other stores.

The idea is to stand up for something bigger than your business.

-Copy makes all the difference

So, a customer visits your eCommerce store, checks out a few t-shirt designs, and settles down to read the copy. Here’s what she’ll find (fictitious copy for explanation purposes only):

“Our new range of New Age t-shirts is best suited to the modern generation of young, ambitious professionals sporting the casual look on Fridays. These tees go best with jeans. Available for both men and women, our t-shirts have been made with hand-picked cotton and the best of printing processes for printing… blah blah blah”

Then there’s this other store (hopefully yours), which goes like this:

“What you wear is who you are likely to become. Be yourself. Let your t-shirt speak reflect your personality while you look as cool as strawberry on ice. Pick your design. Get your slogans custom-printed, if you like. If nothing, you’ll at least impress your girl. If you still manage to scare her off, you’ve got only yourself to blame…”

Which of these product descriptions can you relate to? The first is boring. It’s on almost every other store you see on Planet Bore. The second one might not win copywriting or creative awards but it’s at least readable.

The copy talks to you. It relates. It brings customers closer.

-A professional photo speaks a million words

Amateur photographs to depict your products will make sure that your profit-loss statements also look amateurish. You get what you put in, right?

The eCommerce industry already suffers from lack of any personalized touch to the retailing process. Don’t ruin it further by using stock photos or any of the results from your first photography sessions. We are all visual when it comes to learning, buying, and making decisions. We even visualize the outcome before we do anything, don’t we?

Invest in professional photography and have good-looking models wear the range of apparel and accessories that you have in your store.

Using fun JavaScript, CSS and other advanced programming, you can even have graphics pointing to each piece of clothing and name it. Such cool tricks can rapidly prove to be extension of your Buy Now button.

-Customer service is still in

Consider this: your store and your immediate competition are set up for a comparison test. Unfortunately, almost everything about the two stores is identical (including the product range and designs). So what gives?

Customer service can set the difference between the two stores. How do you serve your customers? What lengths do you go to? What have you done to take care of complaints?

We’d say you could go crazy here. Going overboard for customers can’t hurt. Launch online communities for your brand. Set up ticketing system and support desks for post-sales, and setup procedures for returns and exchanges. Further, offer an unconditional money-back guarantee.

Do what you have to. Just don’t ever let your customers feel let down. It’s simple. Yet, it’s surprising how many companies don’t give a little thought while they keep harping about how important customers are.

 -Technology for eCommerce rocks

Online retail stores these days have everything going for them: flash-enabled product displays, great looking stores, easy checkout and persuasive copy.

The one thing most retailers don’t have, and are grappling with, is to avoid the return rate of purchased merchandise. Going forward with our apparel store analogy, the return rate for clothes is at a scary 20-40% according to Wall Street Journal.

This is a pressing problem because of the difference in sizes (which differ with every brand) and inaccurate tape measures. The entire trade based on guesswork and hunches. It’s always been clear that a solution for this was much in demand.

A group of mathematicians developed a computer program that makes your “fitting issue” a thing of the past. Enter True Fit: based on the brands and sizes you already have in your closet, True Fit determines – and suggests – the best possible fit for you, across at least 350 brands (for women’s clothes only, for now; a solution for men might be expected soon).

UPcload, a German startup, now adds to this string of innovations by using webcams to take snapshots in order to determine the closest possible fit for customers shopping for apparel online. This technology shows promise too, if this feature on Businessweek is anything to go by.

Bleeding edge technology is paving the way for delivering bespoke products and services to customers that suit them, satisfy them, and delight them. What kind of technology are you planning to use for making the shopping experience better?

How are you doing with your store?

About the author: Rohan advises premium clients in the capacity of a search strategy specialist at E2M Solutions.  Catch him on Twitter for a chat.

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