2011 Record Online Sales

Niche Brands Make Successful Etailers

Online shoppers, we have found, are generally a discerning bunch. They shop online to find those items they can’t simply pick up conveniently at their local store. Most people still enjoy getting out and shopping, but the wider selections found online, the increasingly bad service delivered by large retail stores, and the convenience of 24/7 shopping is all working to keep online commerce growing at an amazing pace. Small and emerging online retailers are better shopping destinations when they create niche brands.

Creating Niche Brands

While as a niche retailer you most likely are offering products not sold by the big boys – they are either unique or require additional selling expertise, or both – you still need to convince your online audience that you’re more than just a selling outlet. The impression you make to online consumers must be quick and demonstrate that you know your products and how they will benefit the consumer.

For that reason, we spend extra time with our clients mapping out a specific branding strategy. The brand must answer two important questions: who are you and what makes you special? If you can answer both of these in the first fifteen seconds after your home page loads, you are more likely to win the customer.

Nothing frustrates me more as an online shopper than to search in Google for a product, click on what appears to be a relevant search result, and land on a page that is confusing, overly crowded with screaming banners and requires that I scan the entire page to figure out where I am. And it happens more times than not.

The other kind of sites I avoid are those that look like they’re either 10 years old or built by someone’s nephew in Junior High. If the retailer sells a product that people want, then they are successful. And if they are successful, then their site should reflect that. That doesn’t mean looking like Amazon.com (I dislike their designs a lot); it simply means looking professional. If the retailer wants my hard-earned cash, they need to show me they care.

What does this all have to do with niche brands?

Your brand is much, much more than just a neat logo. It’s how you communicate to your online consumers. It’s the impression you make when they first arrive at your online store. And it continues through all aspects of their shopping experience.

If you’re an online retailer, step back and take an unbiased look at your online store (email me and I’ll do it for you, as well). Evaluate your e-commerce site by asking these questions:

  • Do I convey what we sell and what makes us special on the Home page?
  • Are my product images large and professional looking? Can a customer see all they need to see about this product in order to make a purchasing decision?
  • Do I have in-depth product descriptions? Do I provide my own reviews of products to give customers confidence that I know what I sell?
  • Does my site have a link on every page to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions?
  • Do shoppers know what payment methods we accept before shopping?
  • Is my shipping policy clear and unambiguous?
  • Do I have a return policy that gives my customers confidence in their purchase?

If you struggle to answer these, then your brand is struggling, too.

Focusing Niche Brands

As important as creating a positive shopping experience is, your ability to grab shoppers from Google searches, pay-per-click ads or other promotional venues is equally as important. You have to get them to your store before you can sell them.

Take a look at your site domain and the name of your online store: does it instantly reflect what you sell?

For example, if your domain is bretcorp.com, I don’t know what you sell. But I can certainly bet that bretscameras.com sells cameras and accessories.

What if you sell a diverse selection of products? Un-diversify. It may be more powerful to split up your online offerings into more discrete, focused sub-stores. One of the reasons we use the e-commerce technologies we do is because they allow our clients to create multiple stores all selling from one administrative backend.

For example, one of our clients, American Dictation, sells – wait for it – dictation equipment. But, they also sell speech recognition products and dictation accessories, such as transcription headsets. Therefore, we created two online stores in addition to AmericanDictation.com: AmericanSpeechSolutions.com and Transcription-Headsets.com. Both of these sub-stores offer products also offered at AmericanDictation.com, but only within their niche focus. By creating these niche sites, this retailer can demonstrate a strong niche brand to consumers for these two popular markets. Yet, because of how we engineer e-commerce sites, all the products, orders, etc. are managed by the retailer in one administrative backend.

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Crafting a productive niche brand takes a bit of planning, but the most important thing to think about is: what is my core passion? That is, what will customers understand best about your online store: that you sell a lot of products (yawn) or that you’re the expert in ____________?

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