How to Stand Out From the Crowd in a Marketplace Environment

Feb 20, 2013 12:10 PM  By

More consumers are shopping online than ever before, and not just for Christmas. According to figures from eMarketer, U.S. shoppers spent $343.43 billion in 2012 alone. Therefore, in this fast growing retail ecosystem it’s more important than ever for retailers, big or small, to stand out from the crowd.

Creating a brand personality online
It’s safe to say that ecommerce is the future for retail, not just for the major household names, but also for the host of smaller stores that are cropping up every day and offering an alternative to mass-market retailers. Real-world shops have traditionally differentiated themselves on more than simply price, while products and price are obviously a central element to ecommerce success, personality is just as important in differentiating one shop from another.

As such, how a website or storefront looks is a key to helping smaller retailers establish brand awareness, drive sales, and build customer loyalty. With competitors just a few clicks away, the look of a retailers online shop front can be the deciding factor between clicking on check-out or navigating away from the website altogether. So, for smaller online retailers to evolve and prosper, it is essential that they are empowered to make the very most of their presence online and offline.

Standing out from the crowd Whether the retailer has its own standalone website or is part of an online marketplace, it shouldn’t be confined to standard templates for its online storefront. Consumers buy into brands, and first impressions count, so retailers should be able to personalize the look and feel of its site and brand image, to build lasting customer relationships. Retailers should consider these three factors when customizing a storefront:

Product placement: Just as many retailers would do in-store, if there is a particularly popular product, think a Furby around Christmas time, position them prominently throughout the online shop, to help drive additional sales.

Knowing the seasons: Using the Furby example again, if a third of the businesses’ annual sales come around Christmas, then its storefront should have a completely different look and feel during the holiday season, in order to capitalize on that important trend.

Beauty isn’t everything: The most effective ecommerce pages have both detailed product information and a host of high-res images, as the look and information on a page are not mutually exclusive. To sell successfully online, retailers must strike a balance between looking beautiful and effectiveness as an easy sales tool.

Giving a little more
Marketplaces are there to support their merchants. The rigid set of templates that many merchants are offered restrict the look and feel of their website, and this is something all retailers should address. Templates should allow retailers to customize the entire look and feel of their storefronts, including colors, fonts, font size, photo video size and position and layout.

With thousands, if not millions, of retailers across the globe, many of whom will be selling the same or similar products at competitive prices, how merchandise is presented is a critical point for the success of a business.

Let’s consider two competing retailers selling jewelry for Valentine’s Day. Pricing is identical, and both retailers have attractive and informative pages.

The question is who, gets the sale? The key is in the customization, and pages that flag external reviews, contain more information, better photos, and maybe even an embedded video on how to style the jewelry, could make the difference.

Bernard Luthi is CMO & COO for Rakuten.com Shopping.