10 Apr 2017

5 Ways to Make your Online Store Stand Out

from Practical Ecommerce.com 

Why would a shopper buy from your online store? Do you offer unique products? Are your prices lower than Amazon and other competitors? Is your store more fun to shop in?
Certainly entrepreneurs typically think of those questions when they first launch their business. But, too frequently they evolve to business as usual. They should, instead, be asking the questions every six months or so.
Many ecommerce startups often believe their product concept is unique. As their business matures, they generally realise that there are competitors with similar products and they need to differentiate their products or services to become successful.
Tech mentors challenge them to articulate their value proposition in a so-called elevator statement — something you can tell someone in 10-15 seconds to entice them to continue the conversation or purchase the product or service.
In most cases, merchants are selling products that can be purchased elsewhere, often at lower prices. To grow a sustainable and profitable business, merchants should continually ask what they could do to differentiate their online store, products, and service.

5 Ways to Make Your Online Store Stand Out

Unless your company is a manufacturer, it’s unlikely that you sell products that are completely unique. Find other avenues to change the game so that your online store is easily differentiated from others.
Here are five ways to separate your business from your competitors.
Sell solutions, not just products. Retailers are embracing the concept of adding more value to the products they sell. There are many options to do this.
  • Bundle similar products. Sell accessories or related items with the primary products as a single, bundled product. You can discount the price to make the bundle more attractive, but discounting may not be necessary if you can demonstrate the value simply by researching and assembling the bundle.
  • Provide deep, rich content. Whether your business sells camping gear, coffee machines, bikes, or other specialty items, turn your online store into the place to go for information and instruction. Set up your online store to guide shoppers to the content that is applicable to their persona or market segment. Include videos, user generated content, expert generated content, and product reviews. Consider relevant social feeds. Create the go-to place to engage with other like-minded buyers.
  • Offer interactive chat. Make it easy for shoppers to ask questions and receive personalized, instantaneous answers.
Build a unique brand. Your brand is different than your unique value proposition. Your brand should carry forward your voice, culture, values, and, to some degree, positioning. You may have a serious brand, whimsical brand, intellectual brand, or something else — there is no right or wrong. Use your brand to help customers remember your company.
Content. Content is paramount. Online retailers must enrich their own product content. It is simply not good enough to serve up the standard product descriptions, images, and specifications provided by manufacturers and distributors. Write your own long and short descriptions. Bring your brand voice into the conversation. Add your own images and videos. Create compelling content for your category pages or vertical landing pages. Repurpose the content across other digital channels to differentiate your company and products.
Pricing and promotions. Pricing pressures in retail markets can make differentiating on price a scary thought. But, this can work in two directions. Consumers are willing to pay more for products if they have a superior experience. Charging list prices may be acceptable, especially if you carry unique products and utilize other tactics in this article. Conversely, if you choose to offer lower prices, make sure shoppers can see the value. A compromise approach is well-timed promotional offers at specific times in the buyer’s journey, to create a buying event at that point.
Customer service. This should be a no-brainer, but it can greatly benefit your business in certain markets. Be responsive to your customers and prospects — answer questions, keep them informed on order status, offer no-questions-asked refunds, provide pricing and product transparency. Quickly answer pre-sale and post-sale questions. Solicit feedback from customers and use that feedback for continuous improvements to your business.

Wrapping Up

Why should shoppers buy from your online store? It could be single reason or a combination of many. Whatever your answer, create it through experimentation and purpose. Write it down so others in your organisation know it, too.

28 Feb 2017

What is the difference between a domain name, web hosting, email hosting and a website?

A lot of confusion (understandably) exists about how domain, web hosting, and email hosting works and what the difference is between them. It's easy to think a domain name, web hosting, email hosting and a website are all the same. While they are closely connected, they are very different things.

What is a Domain Name

When you’re browsing the Internet, domain names are a convenient way for humans to remember sites and email addresses eg. www.companyname.com. Your domain name is the name of your site or your url (www.companyname.com) and can be purchased by going to a domain name registrar.When you register a domain, it gives you sole ownership, rights and use of the name for your site. No one else in the market has the access to the actual name of that particular domain (including the extension - .co.uk, .com etc) besides you. Domain names usually range from about £15 to £50/year depending on the extension. (eg. .co.uk, .com, .co etc)
The first step in the process of setting up a domain is registration.  This is done through ICANN-accredited registrars, who collectively maintain the shared registration system (SRS). Quite simply, the registrars will let us know whether “companyname.com” is available and, if so, register it in the business/your name.  If it turns out it is available, at this point all we’ve done is reserve the right to use the domain name as a public address. However, just because you have a domain does not mean that you are ready to serve your website to the world. To put up and operate a website, you will need a domain name, and a properly-configured web server (web hosting). A domain name is like your postal address; and, a domain name can be registered only with a domain registrar.

What is Web Hosting

So far, all we’ve done is secured the domain name (www.companyname.com), now we need somewhere for our website to reside, this is web hosting. The web hosting or server is much like the space that you rent out to have your business in. Web hosting normally refers to the web server (a big computer) that stores lots of data files which make up your website. Without the hosting services, you won't have a place for your files to reside, so your domain would then become like a disconnected phone number in the phone directory, and your site files would have nowhere to stay.

Email Hosting

Email hosting enables a user to manage electronic messages via an email server. Put simply, if you own a domain name and want email service on that domain name, you would need to sign up for an email hosting service. Email hosting provides you with addresses and mailboxes connected to your domain name to receive and store/host emails on.  The typical hosted business email address is in the format of person@companyname.com.

Website Platform/Software

This is the software that helps you to build, edit and run a website. Your website is a collection of pages (web-pages) and data files that are located under your domain name. Your website platform or software helps serve your pages and data such as products, makes them attractive and available to browsers and includes certain functionality for your users for example ecommerce functionalities such as being able to purchase from your website and browse your products, product images etc.
Web software or platforms are usually licensed like most software such as anti-virus or microsoft & apple products for example.  
There are however platforms which are known as Open Source meaning you can download for free and use and modify yourself etc, however this requires technical and programming ability as you have to update and maintain this software yourself.