Nearly 1.8 billion people will shop online in 2018. That’s a huge opportunity for hardworking entrepreneurs. Why? Because the diversity of this massive market means that it’s virtually impossible for any one retailer to meet the unique needs of every individual online shopper. Amazon, the most popular ecommerce company in the United States controls less than 50% of the US market. If you can identify the value propositions that online shoppers are looking for, you can win a slice of this very big pie.
So that we’re all on the same page, let’s get some quick definitions out of the way:
Ecommerce encompasses all of the transactions taking place online. If you’re shopping online, you’re participating in ecommerce.
Value Propositions are the reasons that a customer will want to shop at your online store, instead of the competition. Free shipping, or a better selection of a niche product could be the value propositions that keep customers coming back.
If you put both of those terms together, you’ve got ecommerce value propositions. So, let’s take a closer look at 12 ecommerce value propositions that will help you win over online shoppers.
1. Your Products Are Easy to Find Online
Yes, I know. You’ve had terms like
If you’re looking for an easy way to list your products on both Amazon and your own online store, Shopify is hard to ignore. In this Shopify review, Darren DeMatas highlights all of the ways that Shopify works to empower both first time online business owners and Fortune 500 ecommerce giants. It isn’t a perfect platform, but the ability to synchronize product listings between your own site (the stuff you should send Google users to) and Amazon’s platform is a great tool for ensuring that your products are easy to find, no matter where shoppers start their search.
2. Free, Fast Shipping is Now an Expectation
Unless you’re offering an unbelievable deal, slow shipping is a deal breaker. Amazon dominated the market by finding a way to make 2 day shipping virtually free. Walmart is aggressively trying to follow-suit. The battle lines have been drawn. If a shopper ends up on your site, or finds your product on a popular ecommerce platform, slow or expensive shipping is a great way to lose them.
3. The Ability to Browse, Compare and Buy from Anywhere
2015 was the year when smartphones caught up to desktops in terms of online traffic. Small, mobile screens continue to dominate online traffic. And in 2018, online shoppers are following suit. This year more than 80% of shoppers will use a smartphone to compare products while browsing at a brick and mortar retail location. In the past year, more than 60% of smartphone users have made at least one ecommerce purchase using their phone. (Source)
If online shoppers have a hard time interacting with your online store from their smartphone, you’re in trouble. Phenomenal user experience (UX) across platforms is beyond important.
4. Sharing Your Customer’s Values and Passions
This ecommerce value proposition is really important for niche brands. In other words, if you’re trying to serve a relatively small market with unique needs, you’re a niche brand. And niche brands live and die on their ability to get inside of their target customer’s head. Yes, large companies care about what their customers like / dislike, but niche brands have to take this to an extreme.
Tony DiCostanzo wrote a piece on Forbes called Niche Brands Are the New Kings of Retail. He highlights the role niche brands are taking in the ecommerce revolution. You don’t need a massive sales team. All you need is the ability to identify an under-served, growing market and dedicate yourself to serving their unique need. These are the slices of the pie that are being ignored by larger brands – meaning you have a real shot at breaking through.
5. Help is Easy to Find and Communicate With
How many times have you wanted to throw your phone across the room after dealing with a customer service agent that barely speaks the same language as you? As Bill Burr says in the sketch below, “…Nobody can help, but everybody understands.”
I am willing to pay more for an easy customer experience. And I’m not alone. Think about how Apple gets away with charging 30% more than manufacturers of windows PCs. Their customer service is on-point. No, they aren’t perfect. That’s not my point. But the customer experience is leaps and bounds better. Don’t believe me? Call AppleCare and then call HP customer service. I’ll wait…
For online retailers, customer experience starts with the design and layout of the website. Then, if something goes wrong, how quickly can I get an answer? Are the self-help options easy to interact with? If I need to chat with someone, how much to I have to dig to find that option? You aren’t really going to make me fill out an email support ticket, are you?
6. Detailed Online Order Tracking
After I hit buy, I want to know when my item is going to arrive. Maybe I’m worried about the weather, or I’m just impatient. Either way, if I don’t have visibility into when my item is going to arrive, you’re going to get an email after a day or two. And it’s so easy to provide this information. Depending on who you ship through, you can simply provide the customer with a tracking number. If you want to score extra points, include the direct link to the tracking details so the customer doesn’t have to copy and paste a long number. This is not something that requires a ton of expensive coding.
7. Generous Return Policy
You are asking online shoppers to trust you. The information you provide needs to be accurate, and the item needs to arrive as described. The return policy is the only way to back up your promise to the customer on the other end of the screen. This is a value proposition that Athleta, a niche brand owned by GAP and geared towards athletic women, seized on with their “Give it a Workout” guarantee. If your leggings bunch up and feel uncomfortable while working out, you’re covered.
While Athleta is more generous, it’s hard to beat Amazon’s simple return process – even if you are more limited in time. If you can make it easy for customers to go online, report a problem and printout a shipping label, you’ll win the trust of your customers.
8. Customized Recommendations for Repeat Shoppers and Browsers
We hear a lot about privacy being a major issue. It is, until you start talking about customizing someone’s shopping and advertising experience. We let Google crawl through our emails. We let Amazon install listening devices throughout our home, and we reward sites that use tracking cookies with bigger, more frequent orders. The zeitgeist might hate the state of consumer privacy, but shoppers prove with their wallets that they want custom offers powered by AI.
Amazon is the clear winner in the battle to customize the ecommerce shopping experience. When you land on their site, you are presented with a variety of suggestions based on both your shopping and your browsing history. Beating them at this game would be expensive. But you can optimize your online store to show complimentary items and improve the customer buying experience.
9. Subscribe and Save
Online shoppers want all the value they can squeeze out of their hard-earned dollar. Online shoppers also want to belong. They want exclusive deals, special offers and perks. You don’t have to charge someone’s card in order to turn them into a subscriber. Think about how your grocery store uses their membership program to offer discounts and incentivize their shoppers into handing over their purchase history with every swipe.
Find ways to delight your most loyal customers. Give out a discount in return for subscribing to your email marketing. Make them feel special. And help them squeeze more value by subscribing to the products they love – just ask Blockbuster how they feel about Netflix offering a subscription product to their customers.
10. Transparent, Upfront Pricing
The worst thing you can do is hook a shopper with a teaser rate and then ratchet up the price at checkout. One value proposition that makes Amazon Prime so irresistible is that you know how much shipping is going to cost before you add the item to your cart. This is another reason free shipping is so important for online retailers that want to compete. Consumers are used to paying taxes. But unexpected fees at checkout will undermine customer trust and brand loyalty.
11. Automatic Delivery
This could fall under the Subscribe and Save section, but it deserves special attention. Do you know what the most important value proposition is for pet owners when they shop online? Online pet retailers have found ways to deliver heavy, bulky pet supplies to your door. And they’ll keep sending more whenever you get close to running out. There are so many products and services that customers buy over and over again. If customers don’t need to do new research with each purchase, automatic delivery is a compelling value proposition. And if you offer them a discount when they subscribe, you’ll double their joy.
12. Personality Instead of Corporate Drones
Your most loyal customers will come back because you are more than a URL and a logo. The more that you can get out from behind the cubicle and let your personality shine through, the better. Consumers want to do business with people, not faceless corporations. Okay, that’s probably a bit too far reaching. But, niche brands excel when they can showcase an individual or a team that shares that values of their shoppers.
There’s a reason that Allstate spends millions on ads featuring a guy named “Mayhem”, and Progressive has “Flo”. If you like chicken, you’re going to know what Col. Sanders looks like. And fans of the Golden Arches know all about Ronald McDonald.
Massive brands do everything they can to focus consumers on a spokesman or human mascot, instead of the corporate drones that make their companies tick. Niche brands have the ability to take this a step further. Because you aren’t dealing with hundreds of thousands of customers – at least not yet – you can provide a more personal touch to your services.
I promise, there’s gold in them hills. All you have to do is swing your pick-axe in the right places. If you can speak to the value propositions that matter most to online shoppers, you’ll connect and grow your marketshare. For experienced ecommerce operators, I invite you to chime in below with the special sauce that allows you to gain customer buy-in.