Expert’s Tips on Remaining Competitive Vs. E-Commerce Giants

e-Commerce and brick-and-mortar stores are constantly fighting for consumers' attention. While most sales are still taking place in stores (Around 94% of all sales). e-Commerce is expected to increase annually by 17% reaching at total of around $414 billion by 2018. With basically all businesses going online, it's hard for small businesses to compete against giants like Amazon and eBay.

So, we asked some of the biggest names in the e-commerce industry: "What tip would you give to small e-commerce business owners in order to remain competitive?" and here's how they responded.


 

"What tip would you give to small e-commerce business owners in order to remain competitive?"


 


Tristan Pollock

Tristan Pollock

"Remember to always bring your brand to where your customers are, even if it's offline."

Nathan Resnick

Nathan Resnick

"Understand your supply chain. A lot of companies focus solely on lowering their cost per acquisition. What if you could increase your unit margin and then have more cash flow to spend elsewhere? To stay competitive, companies need to continue to drive costs down on both sides of the table."

Susan Bradley

Susan Bradley

"I own weesqueak.com, so I understand the challenge of competing in this crazy competitive market.

In the last few years, I’ve worked with hundreds of e-commerce Entrepreneurs who come to The Social Sales Girls for help. Most have great products, but they’re struggling to get traffic and conversions. The reality is there’s so much noise, that those of us without massive ad budgets have trouble finding their perfect audience.

Here’s the thing: It’s next to impossible to stand out from the crowd as a Generalist. Let Amazon be for everybody. The simple way to get and keep a competitive advantage is to be a Specialist. You’ll be ahead of the competition if you figure out early on “who” your product or concept is “for”. What do you want to be known for?  Stop trying to get 10 messages out. Focus on one.

Craft a clear, tight message that tells “your person” the benefit of the product. Use that message in every place that you’re looking for leads. Your Social Media, your advertising, and in your branding. Avoid the temptation to add in a laundry list of features and benefits. Stick with one clear message, and you’re more likely to be heard.

When you identify “who you are for”, and speak only to them with your message, people self-identify. They’ll want to visit your website, and once they’re there, you’ll have the chance to tell them more and develop an affinity with them.  

Competitive pricing and delivery times become less important because your audience knows your site was built just for them."

Catherine Howell

Catherine Howell

"Facebook’s algorithm is geared to help protect small advertisers just as much as the big spenders - it’s why start ups and bootstrapped online businesses are able to compete with the likes of Coca-Cola. The algorithm in it’s most basic form is made up of three elements (bid, expected actions, and relevance). Understanding the algorithm and the auction process should be the number one focus for new advertisers - if you get this, then you can leverage results to your heart’s content.

For example, some ways to improve campaigns are; Make sure your targeting and creative are suited to your objectives to protect your relevance and run social proof on your ads to increase this even more.

If you’re not getting great results from your campaigns and your relevance is great, this is a sign you are losing the auction against an advertiser with a bigger budget (and good relevance). Adjust your bidding strategy here in order to be shown to better quality subsets of your audience and - in turn- improve conversion rates."

Anthony Vincent Mastellone

Anthony Vincent Mastellone

"I would say that in order to stay competitive a strong focus on consistent, high quality social media content will separate you from the pack. A compelling content strategy will help build rapport and brand awareness, giving prospects a greater sense of trust and comfort to purchase from your store. Mixing that with placing your products in the hands of social media influencers is key to getting the ball rolling! Sending out free samples and engaging with influencers is a great way to get your foot in the door and begin gaining massive exposure without a large budget.

One last (very important) piece - make sure that you are utilizing customer/abandon cart emails. An email list is a huge asset to any eCom store and can generate a huge chunk of your revenue if properly utilized. With my upcoming app, MailFunnels you can automate the commitments people take on your store and put them through automated email funnels to market to them in accordance with their actions - setting you up for huge conversions via email."

Steve Chou

Steve Chou

"In order to stay competitive, make sure that your unique value proposition is clearly expressed whenever a customer is exposed to your product. If there's nothing special about your goods or your brand, it will be hard to stand the test of time. In the long run, remaining competitive is all about establishing yourself as an authority in your niche. Once you have a strong presence, people will buy from you based on your brand alone."

Dave Hackabay

Dave Huckabay

"I'd say to combine your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) with your online personality. Are you a family owned cookie store? Trumpet that! Family recipes, pictures of Mom in the kitchen, and quality images of all the little things you do that makes you you - and not Keebler or some other corporate giant.

Maybe you came up with a new way of composting - tell us how, and why the old way didn't work. Give us a look at how you came up with your new gizmo. Where ever possible, tell the story in multiple ways - pictures, text and video. People absorb info differently. Also be genuine. Don't try to sound smart or use industry jargon. Tell the story the way you'd explain it to a new friend.

Define any industry specific terms in plain language and finally - Make sure this info is all out front and center. I should be able to look at your home page and tell instantly what you do and who you are."

Ryan BeMiller

Ryan BeMiller

"Differentiate and specialize.  Big sites like amazon can't be all things to all people.  They have trouble being niche-specific experts who relate to their customers.  That's where small e-commerce businesses can shine.  Differentiate your business by going the extra mile for your customers, with things like helpful content, expert opinions, social interaction.  And specialize on a specific niche so that you can become the expert that customers of that niche will come to know, like and trust."

Zach HEller

Zach Heller

"To remain competitive in a world dominated by giants like Amazon, ecommerce businesses must focus on building relationships with customers. It is not possible to compete directly on price or breadth of inventory, so customers need another reason to continue to choose your brand over theirs. They will do this if you invest in loyalty.

Loyalty is not a given, it must be earned. Three things to focus on to build customer loyalty are user experience, customer service, and personalization. User experience means you focus on creating an online shopping process that is simple and intuitive. Customer service means you are wholly focused on making every single customer happy. And personalization means you give the customer the tools they need to interact with your brand in whatever way they prefer.

If you can successfully build brand loyalty among your existing customers, not only will you keep them from switching, but you will create brand advocates that will help you grow organically."

Tracey Wallace

Tracey Wallace

"My best tip for SMBs looking to stand out is to focus on community. Influencer marketing doesn't mean you have to go after the big guys. Create programs for micro-influencers (folks who have less than 5K followers) where you engage with them and inspire them. Throw meetups. Take their feedback. Encourage social posting. These kinds of programs are the grassroots movements that make brands, that have insanely high customer lifetime value and that ultimately save you money from ads. I've seen these kinds of programs grow small businesses massively, and quickly, even with just two full-time employees working on it (and the rest of the business!). It's doable –– and it's better than ads. And your competitors are probably too lazy to do it. "

Jonny Challenger

Jonny Challenger

"Buy in small quantities and work out what sells. If it sells you can always get more in. Try and keep your supply chain lean and quick. Know your target audience exceptionally well and find out where they hang out online and speak to them in their own language in a non-salesy way. This personal touch is something that Amazon cannot compete with."

Chris Boaz

Chris Boaz

"Many retailers might not be aware but Amazon’s patent on its industry-leading one-click buying checkout experience has just expired. Amazon held the patent for over 18 years, however, now any online retailer, regardless of size, can now implement this into their checkout.

The timing of this patent lifting couldn’t be more ideal for online retailers, especially with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and also the busy holiday shopping season around the corner. With 85% of online shoppers abandoning their order if presented with complicated or lengthy checkout forms, many online retailers who can implement a one-click buying system can ensure they maximise their sales in the run-up to this shopping season and compete with bigger rivals.”

Adam Gore

Adam Gore

"It’s vital you have a unique selling point (USP) when staying competitive against online giants such as Amazon and eBay. This could be the personal way you interact with your customers; your product selection; including quirky images, videos and copy on your website; or your story. Be different and authentic, but you need to really believe in your USP otherwise you are in danger of losing focus, direction and momentum, which is the main thing that differentiates you.”

Lyndan Orvis

Lyndan Orvis

"As a small business we have tried hard to avoid trading on platforms such as eBay and Amazon, due to the high commissions and intense administrative requirements.

Staying competitive against businesses trading through eBay and Amazon can be difficult, especially if they are trading from a living room or garage and only supporting one or two employees. Their overheads are much lower than ours as we have to balance running a retail store and marketing our brand. Even with the commissions given from suppliers, we often find that someone is undercutting our prices, so what can we do about that?

Be selective when selecting the brands you want to sell. What are their policies on trading with Amazon and Ebay. What restrictions do they set to protect your margin. Do they only supply to retailers who have a shop floor to promote their goods? If they sell to every man and his dog, then look at an alternative supplier. Companies know there are conflicts in the market place and the good ones will look to protect retailers who carry and display physical stock. Those who genuinely responsible for building its brand.

Visibility, Flexibility and Service.

Amazon and eBay appear high up in all searches so it's essential that if you want to compete with them that you can be seen. Whilst competing against such strong companies in the organic search, this may never be a viable option, a well managed PPC campaign and affiliate marketing strategy can allow you to be right there next to them. Ensure you offer the same flexible delivery and payment options. Ensure that your trust scores are visible on your website so the customer feels confident in trusting their money to you. This is something that Amazon and eBay do very well.

All that said. It is hugely important that you carve out your own USP in the marketplace and understand where you fit in the grand scheme of things. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but taking market share from your competitors can be very costly if your strategy is not properly thought through."

Remaining Competitive Vs. E-Commerce Giants [Infographic]

All these great tips got us thinking, why should it only be us that benefit? Share this simple infographic and you too can benefit:

Share this Image On Your Site

Complete Beginner’s Guide to Selling on eBay

Complete beginner's guide to selling on eBay Banner

If you have any unwanted items lying around the house or crammed in your attic, you might be surprised to find out they can be resold on eBay and turned into a handsome profit. eBay’s reputation precedes it – the e-commerce mammoth has more than two decades of experience in the field, enabling people from over 30 countries to sell and buy goods online. If you’ve been toying with the idea of selling things you already own or thrifted items on eBay, you must read this ultimate beginner’s guide to selling on eBay before making your first listing.

Content Navigation

Getting a Paypal Account

Signing up for a PayPal account is free and only takes a few minutes. The account will enable you to safely receive money from your eBay customers regardless of their location in the world or preferred payment method. PayPal currently offers users the possibility to open a Personal or a Business account.

- A personal account is the ideal choice for those who are just beginning to sell on eBay as it allows them to receive or send payments without sharing any personal information.
- A PayPal business account is better suited for those who have a registered company name, manage several employees and wish to display their logo or business name on the checkout screen.

To set up a PayPal account users need an email address and a password as well as a bank account, credit card or debit card. After submitting the required information, you have to link your bank account in order to transfer the money you receive on PayPal. After completing this last step, your PayPal will be ready to use for your eBay transactions.

Signing Up on eBay

With over 18 million buyers registered in the UK only, eBay can be a prosperous platform for sellers whether their niche is electronics, sports gear, furniture or vintage jewellery.

Registering on eBay as a seller is an intuitive process that only takes several minutes. Users need only type in the basic required info (email address, password and phone number), accept the User Agreement and, finally, confirm their email address.

eBay also requests all users to choose a user ID. This is the name your clients will see when you sell your things online. If you’re unsure about what to choose, don’t fret about it. eBay allows you to change your ID name every 30 days.

Researching the Niche

There is a reason why almost 90% of new businesses fail in the first year and more than 50% of listing on eBay never get bids: lack of research. Selling on eBay might not seem rocket science, but don’t dismiss researching, otherwise, your items will remain unsold for a long time. Increasing your sales should be your main aim in the long run, but knowing your niche is vital to success.

Writing while browsing mobile

Regardless of the niche you choose, take the time to check out the competition. Look at items that are similar or even identical to what you plan to list and sell. Pay close attention to the listing, the layout, description, photos and, most importantly, the price.

The best way to get a gist of an item’s worth is to search for it on eBay and go to the “Sold Listings” page (on the left side panel, under “Show Only”). If you can’t find the exact item you want to sell, find similar products in its category. This will help you get an idea of the price tag you should attach to your item. In addition, you can also spy on the shipping costs and factor that in when you price your listings.

For items that have never been sold on eBay before, Google the original price tag. This process is going to vary according to the niche. You won’t be able to sell gently used electronic devices for more than their initial cost. However, vintage clothes might now be worth double or even triple than what they cost back in the 60s.

Only by thoroughly researching the niche, checking out the competition and even extending your research to other online selling platforms (like Amazon) you will be able to set the right price for your items and, as a result, turn them into cash.

Listing Your Products

Knowing your niche inside out is only half the effort you have to put in when you start selling on eBay. Knowing how to properly list and present your items in the best light possible is the other half.

An awkward phrasing, a poorly lit photo and even the wrong font choice can put off customers and make them turn to other sellers for more information or better quality descriptions. Here are the six most important things to pay attention to when creating an eBay listing.

Selling Format

eBay currently offers its sellers two ways to sell their items: at a fixed price or in an auction.

Beginners don’t really have a choice between the two since the “Buy It Now” fixed price option is available only for sellers with a minimum on ten completed sales.

Auction-style listings can be started at 99p and will run for up to ten days. When setting the duration of your auction, make sure to include at least one weekend, since Saturdays and Sundays are proven to be the buyers’ preferred times for browsing and placing bids.

Keywords

Meet your potential buyers halfway and help them find your items in their results page. Use keywords to your advantage and they will bring you more views, increasing conversions.

The secret to keywords is being straightforward and thinking like a buyer. Use the research you made to figure out the best keywords to use and be as specific as possible. Describe your item’s condition, colour, size, use and anything else you consider relevant with one or two words. Don’t include imperatives or suggestions such as “Buy now!” since it won’t help your ranking. You will just end up wasting precious space that can be put to better use.

Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words, so take your time during the photo session to make sure the lighting is right and that the picture looks crisp and professional.

Even if you don’t own a fancy DSLR, you can still take the best photo of your product by using a point and shoot or even your smartphone’s camera.

Camera Taking Photograph
The most important tip to keep in mind is to shoot your photos in the best available lighting (right next to a window, or outside, if possible). This will make sure the camera picks up all the item’s details, convincing your clients to hit that “Bid” button. Choose a plain, solid colour background for your photos to make your item stand out and look professional. If you don’t have a plain wall or table suitable for pictures, you can improvise and create your own background by using simple kraft paper. This can come in handy especially when shooting smaller items like pieces of jewellery or coins. Take dozens of pictures so you can choose the best handful when you’re retouching them on your laptop. Experiment with different angles and snap as many photos as possible. Make sure to include close-ups with the item’s texture or pattern in your photo gallery. You want to give buyers a clear view of the product. Don’t try to hide any imperfections. In fact, take a clear photo of any defects your item might have and be straightforward about them on your eBay listing. It’s better to be honest upfront rather than receive negative feedback and have to deal with a return.

Category, Title & Description

If you want your young eBay business to thrive, you have to take care of the nitty-gritty of listings: the category, title and description.

These three are as important as the pictures you add to your listing since they have the power to:

- guide your potential buyers towards your product (category);
- entice clients to click on your listing instead of the competitors’ (title);
- convince the user to buy the product you’re selling (description).

The category you list your item under makes sure your listing is in the right grouping, together with other similar products. This helps eBay keep a tidy and organized catalogue of all its listings, and enables clients to quickly find what they are looking for by narrowing down their search.

The title of your listing is crucial to your selling process. You have a limited character space that you must use cleverly – ditch unnecessary phrasings like “don’t miss out” or “rare find, bid now”. Instead, choose a straightforward, all-encompassing short description. Mention size, condition, colour, fabric and anything else that is relevant. Leave out unnecessary adjectives like “gorgeous” or “one of a kind” and keep them for your product description.

The description of the items you are selling has to be honest and appealing. Disclose any defects the product may have, but dwell more on the unique features of your item. You can include info about where the product was first acquired from, how it was used, as well as styling or design suggestions.

Add in all the relevant information that will help clients know the product suits them perfectly. Don’t leave room for misinterpretation, you don’t want to start your eBay on the wrong foot and receive negative feedbacks.

Shipping Costs

Postage costs will play a big role in your eBay online selling business.

Set your shipping costs too low and the difference will have to come out of your pocket, reducing your profit. Set the shipping costs too high and your customers will be inclined to buy from someone else.

Postal Items

The safest way to work out shipping costs is to get familiarized with the post charges and invest in some high-quality postal scales that will save you a lot of hassle. The scales will help you figure out postage prices so you can set the appropriate shipping costs, reducing the risk of underestimating or overestimating.

You can also opt for including the shipping costs in your product’s price, in which case your listing will reflect “Free Shipping”. This might be appealing to some clients, but bear in mind that it will increase the product’s price and the item might end up looking more expensive than the competition’s item.

Another option is to select a flat shipping rate for all your products. For example, you can set your shipping price to £3, which means some clients will pay more for shipping (when they buy a lightweight item that would cost £1.50 to ship), while other will pay less (when they buy a heavier item that would cost £5 to ship). This method can be a little tricky, but it’s easier and more convenient to implement when you have dozens of listings and you prefer not to weigh each parcel individually in order to figure out the shipping costs.

Price

As a beginner seller on eBay, it’s vital to know how to price your products. In the early days of your business, building a reputation and earning positive reviews from happy clients weighs heavier than making a huge profit.

New sellers are undoubtedly at a disadvantage in comparison to older sellers boasting a well-established reputation. Beginners can’t afford to overprice the items they are selling, so you might consider selling a few things at cost price (i.e. not turning a profit). Clients are usually wary about new sellers, which is why positive, five-stars reviews will put even the most cautious customers at ease.

After acquiring several reviews, you can adjust your products’ price tags in sync with your competition. If you want to get an item off your hands quickly, all you have to do is list your product £4-£6 cheaper than your rivals.

On the other hand, if you’re confident your product looks or performs better than the competition’s, go ahead and add a few more pounds to the price tag. If you choose to go down this route, make sure to accompany the heftier price tag with a strong description and professional photos.

If you are considering building a long-term, serious business selling on eBay, price your products in a smart way to build a loyal client base. As more and more eBay users learn about your online shop, selling your inventory will become easier and quicker, and you will afford to steadily increase prices.

Format

One of the surest ways of standing out from the sea of eBay vendors is to come up with a unique, branded format for your product listings. eBay is great in this respect since it allows sellers to use HTML to create unique listings that customers can easily recognize at a glance.

For those who are not particularly tech-savvy, there are countless of free eBay listing templates to download and customize in order to suit your product and your brand.

Together with the photos and description, the format of the listing has the power of making or breaking the sale. The good news is that you can save the template of your choice and reuse it for each individual listing. Taking this into account, it’s worth to invest an hour or two fine tuning your listings’ format, since you will be reaping the benefits of your work indefinitely.

Shipping Your Sold Items

Listing and selling your items on eBay are the hardest parts of the process. But that’s not the end of it. You also have to individually ship your items and make sure they reach the buyer intact. This implies carefully selecting high-quality packaging that is specially designed for the item’s needs.

Postal Boxes

Treat your customers like you would expect to be treated yourself and don’t cut corners trying to save a few pennies. Reusing old shoe boxes to ship your products will only damage your reputation and can come across as rude and disrespectful.

Show your customers you are willing to go the extra mile and invest in proper, superior die cut postal boxes that were specifically created for mailing. The smart closing mechanism will only add to the beautiful experience of receiving a much-wanted product. Your customers’ satisfaction will be reflected in the positive reviews they will leave on your eBay shop.

Bubble Wrap

When shipping delicate items like ceramics, glass, mirrors or other fragile objects, make sure your customers receive it in one piece. Create a protective cushion around your item using bubble wrap with large bubbles and you will sleep soundly, knowing the item didn’t break during shipment or not.

Loose Fill Packaging

Even items that are not prone to breaking should be protected during shipment. The best solution for this is loose fill packaging. This is gentle enough to protect the product in transit, yet sturdy and reliable enough to keep the product secure.

Don’t be tempted to cut up some old newspapers, stuff them in the box and hope for the best. What makes loose fill packaging better than old paper is the unique S shape that makes them interlock when they are tightly packed. This creates an excellent cushion around your product, ensuring it reaches its destination in pristine shape.

Your customers will be particularly thankful since the high-quality chips are reusable, and can easily be put into service time and time again.

Bubble Envelope

Shipping cards, jewellery, books or prints? You can rely on bubble envelopes to protect fragile goods without adding a lot of bulk. Padded envelopes are super easy to use, reliable and professional looking. Their versatility makes them useful for dozens of items and their low price won’t make a dent in your beginner eBay seller budget.

Adding Nice Touches

In the vast sea of eBay vendors, you want to make sure you stand out through the thoughtful touches you add to your items. You might not have the most exclusive deals or the best prices in your niche, but you can over-deliver and beat your competitors by going the extra mile, conquering your category one loyal customer at a time.

Here’s what you should be paying close attention to if you want to make a lasting impression on any client.

Fresh & Neat Products

Whether you’re selling clothes, jewellery, electronic devices, books, furniture or décor items, you must make sure they reach your customer in their best condition. Make sure the surface is smudge free, iron out any creases, dust and clean any nooks and crannies.

Even if the item is second hand, make it look pristine and flawless.

When dealing with clothes, don’t forget to wash and iron them before shipping. Don’t use scented detergents or fabric softeners, since your client might not share your fragrance tastes. You want the clothes to feel clean and fresh, just like you would buy them from a physical store.

Wrapping

You want to make sure your item reaches its destination intact, but don’t sacrifice looks for safety. Wrapping your products in old magazines or newspaper might seem practical, but it can put off pickier clients. As a result, they can choose to leave a negative review and never shop from you again.

Consider investing in acid free tissue paper especially when you are selling and shipping vintage clothes, antique jewellery, handmade jewellery and delicate pieces of clothing with intricate beading or sequins. This special type of paper doesn’t leave any residue and is the best choice for delicate items. The true connoisseurs will take note of this considerate touch and your effort won’t go unnoticed.

Just For You Gift Item

Tags

If you really want to go the extra mile, you can’t fail with handwritten tags. Take the time to write down any special care instructions or a short thank you note on a white paper tag and attach it to the product you are shipping.

A sweet and genuine gesture, it will surely make the customer return to your shop knowing that you are a trustworthy vendor who appreciates their business. Not only will they become loyal clients, but they will also recommend your products to friends and family, spreading the word about your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

As you'd expect, a site like eBay is always going to run into problems, and people are always going to need a hand finding what they're looking, that's why we've compiled some of the most common FAQ's about eBay and answered them for you here.

How much are eBay Seller fees? - Usually you'll only be charged when you make a sale. The amount you are charged is a percentage of your final sale price, and so there is never a fixed price to be deducted.

Do you pay tax on eBay sold items? - This is a great question and the answer is that you should be paying tax on any and all sales made on eBay. You are legally required to pay tax on any income, so should by law pay tax on any items you sell online. However if you only sell one or two items every once in a blue moon,  then you can probably get away with not declaring your few pounds profit. While if eBay has become a business for you, you'll definitely need to announce your income and pay tax! 

How long do you have to pay on eBay? - eBay have a policy stating buyers are allowed up to two days to make payment for an item before the seller is allowed to "UnPaid Item" claim. This then issues the buyer with an additional 96 hours to make payment, if the item isn't paid for in this time the seller can close the UPI claim and re-list the item or even offer it to the next lowest bidder.

How do I get paid on eBay? - PayPal is the most commonly used and recommended payment method as it is secure and easy to use. Set-up a PayPal account and connect it to your eBay account, this will allow you to make and receive payments.

How to ship items? - Shipping items is completely the sellers responsibility, you can arrange courier services like UPS to transport the item or use your standard mail and send by Royal Mail etc.

Who pays for shipping on eBay? - When selling an item, you are given an option to provide a "Shipping" cost, this is added to the sale total of your product and payed to you by the buyer. You will however have to pay for shipping yourself, hence why the buyer pays extra to cover that cost for you.

What can I sell on eBay? - eBay allows you to sell ALMOST anything. They do however have a prohibited list which can be found here and includes items such as drugs, firearms, hazardous materials and more.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

The Science Behind Superb Packaging (Infographic)

Packaging is a huge part of any product. Packaging ultimately serves two main jobs – it’s first job is to effectively market the product being sold and it’s second is to efficiently contain the product inside. The first impression of any product on a consumer is the packaging, they’re likely to base their expectation of the product on the appearance of the packaging, so getting it right is a must! We’d love to be able to say that consumer’s make their purchases based on the quality of a product, but we’d be lying, packaging design is seen to play a huge role in their decision. So we created “The Science Behind Superb Packaging” infographic to show you just how influential your packaging can be!

Continue reading The Science Behind Superb Packaging (Infographic)