The rise of the internet and the boom of digital technology that defines our modern market era has given the aspiring entrepreneur more tools and opportunity than ever before. Bedroom business builders are now able to leverage enough resources and expertise to compete with heavy-hitters in the mid-level marketplace.
Technology has fanned the flame of possibility for everyone, but it’s a double-edged sword for business owners. Opportunity has increased dramatically, but so has the level of competition in your market.
There’s a lot of products out there.
One thing hasn’t changed though; the smartest eCommerce products and the savviest marketers will always rise to the top of the pile.
Let’s take a look at three common challenges facing eCommerce businesses.
Problem #1: Your product is just too similar to your competitors’
Solution: I know, I know. You’ve already spent thousands of pounds buying and transporting stock down to your drop-shipper; it’s a little late to talk about changing the product! Well sometimes it’s not about the product itself, but how you describe it that counts.
Try this little guerilla marketing hack. Head over to Amazon.com and do a quick search for your competitors’ products. Once you’ve found a few, check out the reviews sections to see comments left by existing customers.
What we’re interested in here is the negative reviews. Each comment will reveal a different ‘pain point’ that detracts from the customer’s experience of your product. Maybe it’s poor construction, bad delivery and customer service, or that the product simply doesn’t work. Whatever the reason for the bad review, you can use them to raise expectations in your own product descriptions.
“I bought this product and it just doesn’t work!”
“Tried and tested in every conceivable context – guaranteed functionality or your money back!”
Remember, every mistake is an opportunity (especially when it’s your competitor that’s making them!). Your product doesn’t have to be a million times better than the others out there, it just has to hit enough of your customer’s potential pain points to stand out over the competition.
There is one caveat to this however; if you make a claim on your website or Amazon page make sure that it’s backed up! Not only is it dishonest to make false claims in your web copy, you’re likely to enrage customers by making promises you can’t keep.
Use this trick to make your product, not just your marketing, the best in the business.
Problem #2: People don’t get excited about your product
Solution: This often happens when your product wasn’t conceived with the end user in mind. Many eCommerce startups are built around products that seem exciting and revolutionary, but don’t actually solve problems or help others in the real world.
The solution is to take a step back and have a hard think about how customers are going to use your product. As an exercise, try writing your answers to the questions below in the comment box. Better still, use them as a basis to form focus group questions and get real world answers from your customers.
What problem does your product solve?
What led your customers to meet this challenge?
With their problem solved, what will your customer go on to do next?
What will be their next challenge after this one?
What is their ‘end game’? What’s the final objective that your customer has in mind? When will they consider this journey finished?
How does their end goal serve their fundamental human needs?
For that last question you can refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for inspiration. Use it to find out not just what your customers want, but what they crave.
Once you feel like you’ve got a really strong grasp on your customer’s goals, ambitions and aspirations, take another look at your product branding and sales copy. Are you addressing the reader’s main problem? Does it capture and reflect the deep-seated needs of your customer base? Is it an exhilarating sentiment for someone with this particular end goal in mind?
Use what you’ve learned to engineer brighter, more practical and more effective copy. Here’s an example:
TeamEx: Innovative project management software solutions for tech startups
One team. One vision. One platform. Make waves in the digital landscape with superb team management tools from TeamEx.
Problem #3: People like the product when they hear about it, but nobody seems to know who we are.
Solution: The question of how to get people to listen in the digital space has many possible answers, but here’s one powerful concept that can dramatically effect your results if executed well.
Good eCommerce products are far more than just commodities. The successful ones either represent, or become a fundamental part of, entire communities of people that share some common passion, goal or aspirational vision of themselves.
Most companies recognise the value of such communities. They may even understand the critical role of content and social media marketing in forging such communities.
The mistake they make however is thinking that the product, the brand or even sometimes the platform itself is the key to driving engagement with a product or idea.
In truth, communities are formed around what we call social objects – the real currency of the internet.
Social objects are essentially the talking points around which we start conversations. Let’s take a look at properties common to good social objects:
– They are symbolically discrete, identifiable objects, concepts, actions or processes. They’re often considered to be unique in their class.
– The contexts in which they can exist are broad, but the object remains the same throughout.
– The object is linked to some value, experience or goal that is appealing to the user.
– They evoke emotional responses – the more divergent the emotional responses, the better the object will perform.
The best social objects are complex ideas with a vast amount of facets and histories, though they are still easily labelled and identified. It helps if they are things that can be seen and touched, but they don’t have to be.
For some eCommerce retailers, the product itself functions as a good social object. In these cases a vast array of blog, video, social media and event content can be created all based on the central theme i.e. the product.
A good example of this would be the incredible Inspiralized blog – an entire community based around a single kitchen appliance. This community thrives because the social object represents an entire spectrum of values and goals; namely the appreciation of simple, healthy and delicious food.
Some products however don’t work well as social objects in themselves. They could be too broad, too unspecific or just too uninteresting for customers to focus on. In these cases marketers must employ external social objects in order to create communities around them.
The email testing and build tool ‘Litmus’ is a fantastic example of this style of marketing. They use a team of experts to run a community that helps to solve customers’ email and coding problems. Using a specific problem or tool as their social object, Litmus creates conversations which positions the brand as a major authority in their industry, bringing back customers time and again.
Have a careful think about how you can use social objects to stimulate conversation around your product, then use them in your social media and content channels. It helps if the object itself is connected to the problems, goals or aspirations that we listed in the exercise above.
To help you, here’s some examples of highly effective social objects:
Game of Thrones
The Conservative Party
The iPhone 7
A good exercise for identifying social objects is to simply keep a short list of interesting conversation topics that you encounter throughout your day. Today for example, my own list looks like this: henna tattoos, spam mail subject lines, puffins, beach holidays.
That’s everything for now! What social objects have you been talking about today? How many could you relate to your business? Drop back next month for more interesting growth hacks for your eCommerce site.