By being creative and engineering an individual feel, you can create a unique online shop that stands out from your competitors and makes a long-lasting impression with consumers.
Some months ago, a colleague of mine ordered a pair of shoes from an online shop. When they unpacked the eagerly awaited parcel during lunchtime, there was a leaflet inside the box showing pictures of three friendly looking men working in the shipping department of that online shop: John, Toby and David. With a marker, there was a cross below one of them, indicating that Toby was the person who packed the parcel. Did I need to know that? No, not really. Did it turn the anonymous online shop into a likeable business, run by real people? It sure did!
This is just one example of how online shops can make themselves unique. The competition is tough, so it definitely is a good idea to focus on what makes you distinctive and unique. Let’s be honest: often online shoppers do not care much if they buy a product in the webshop “Fashion Empire” or from their competitor “Empire Fashion”. These customers go with the shop who is offering the right product for the right price in the right delivery time.
However, if your shop offers a unique experience, you can become the unicorn in a herd of ordinary horses. Due to this, your customers are more likely to remember you and the chances of them buying again in your shop may increase dramatically. In the best case, the buyer will talk to their friends about your online shop and how it made them feel.
Uniqueness can be achieved in very different ways – some smaller, some larger in scale. You should always keep in mind though, that with all such efforts you should stay within the boundaries of logical convention. Putting your logo in the upper right corner of your shop instead of the upper left or middle is indeed unique, but may confuse your customers. Using unconventional spelling in your shop (“BuY OuR PrOdUcTz”) will definitely raise attention, but probably not in a positive way. Always have this question in mind: If I do this, will it decrease my conversion rate?
But do remember this: be consistent with your brand, your target audience and the products you sell. If you are running an online shop selling hearing aids for the elderly, flashy colours and copy full of hashtags will likely be the wrong way to go.
When you keep these rules in mind, it can be a lot of fun for you to come up with ways to make your shop unique. ePages have collected some ideas for you on how you can stand out from your competitors:
The perfect shop design for you
When thinking about creating a unique online shop, maybe the first thing that comes to your mind is the design. The general look and feel of your shop is also likely to be the first thing your visitors will notice. Being unique in terms of design does not mean that you have to go overboard and create something radically new. As previously suggested, it is important to stick to the fundamentals of web design and usability. But why not use a design which fits to the subject of your shop and the mood you want to create
An important element of the design is typography. By choosing a font that is characteristic for your shop, you can leave a long-lasting impression. Colours also play a big role in how we experience an online shop and are useful for setting a specific mood. That is why online shops that sell heavy metal CDs tend to go with dark background while toy shops are often very colourful. Ensure your shop software allows for freedom of fonts to choose from and that can easily be changed in the administration area of your shop. Nowadays, the layout and details of shop themes offer great opportunities to create a unique design for your shop.
A picture is worth a thousand words
The images in your shop are another huge aspect of how customers will perceive it. By choosing the right images, you can leave a long-lasting impression. Besides making sure that the image quality is always high, do exercise freedom to create something unique with pictures. Why not show off your shop’s categories on the home page with beautiful pictures, and present yourself and your team on the “About us” page? A bold background image that fills the whole screen is an interesting way to use pictures to stand out from other stores.
Maybe the most important pictures on your shop are the product images. These can be the reason a customer will buy something or not. Many merchants use the simplest and safest method by choosing the official product pictures provided to them by the manufacturer. However, by putting some work into it, you can create all of your images yourself and give them a unique style.
Instead of just using boring pack shots of your products, you can show your customers using them in everyday life. For some kinds of products – large TV sets for example – it can be useful to give the customers a sense of their size in the pictures. So when you take a product picture for a TV set, it could be wise to position a person or piece of furniture beside it to give the customer an idea of the actual size of the screen.
Unique content and copy
The catch phrase “content is king” may be a tad over–used, but there is definitely truth in it. The text within your shop is a quick and easy way to make it unique. Before writing the text, it’s a good idea to think about the voice it should have. Do you wish to sound playful or funny? Or do you intend to give the customer the impression that your shop is a serious authority in terms of the products you are selling?
Whatever kind of unique voice you devise, you should stick to it throughout your whole shop. It can be confusing for the customer to read a funny, pun-filled start page and then read a boring, authoritative FAQ page.
Exceptions are the legal pages and also anything more formal such as pages on delivery or withdrawal. Sure, you can keep your shop’s voice on the latter, but do not go overboard with it. Also keep in mind that text should be optimised for search engines. You should always use the right keywords and stick to the conventions of SEO.
Pay special attention to your product descriptions. They should deliver all the information your customers need to know and are a great way of showing off your unique tone. In most cases it is not a good idea to reuse texts found elsewhere. This can not only be problematic in terms of copyright, but is also not great for your search engine rankings. In terms of copy, unique is king!
Show who you are
Do not be shy when it comes to showing off your expert status on a topic or product. If you run a small shop, creating a personal connection to your customers can be an advantage over big players like Amazon. Some merchants go so far as to put a picture of themselves in the sidebar of their shop, so it is visible on every subpage.
You can alternatively limit this self-exposure to the “About us” page. This part of your shop is the perfect place to explain to the customer what differentiates you from all of the other online shops out there. Do show pictures of your staff and your office, tell the story behind your shop and explain why you are the best person for selling the products you offer in your shop.
Small supportive elements
Use small elements to show attention to detail and a high level of care for the customer. One idea is to hide a so-called ‘Easter egg’ within your shop. This can be a hidden message, an inside joke or whatever else is not so obvious but can be found by attentive customers. For example, if you strive for a playful tone in your shop and are ready to give a small discount to special customers, you could add this to your FAQ or T&C page: “Just use our coupon code HELPFORTHEBROKE and save 5 percent on your order.”
Online merchants tend to disregard the footer of their shop and not to put enough attention toward it. However, the footer is another good option to display your attention to detail. For example, if you are running your shop from Cardiff, you can put messages such as “Made with ❤ in Wales.” within your footer.
Finally, yet importantly, you should also take care of the offline elements of your shop’s experience. Why not put a small, inexpensive present into each package or use branded parcels showing your logo? As you can see, there are plenty of possibilities to stand out from the crowd. Have fun with finding your own!
Richard Stevenson is Head of Corporate Communications for cloud-driven online shop software provider ePages.com. He has worked in the web hosting, domain name and Software-as-a-Service industries for over 14 years, many of which working with SMBs and web pros all over the world to drive awareness and adoption of new web technologies.