4 Strategies for Differentiating Your E-Commerce Business


In the extremely competitive world of e-commerce, differentiation is everything. Your website isn’t just your online storefront – it is your business. If potential customers can’t tell your site apart from competing sites, you’ll never establish a powerful and recognizable brand. You’ll struggle to earn repeat business – perhaps you’ll even struggle to get conversions at all – because people won’t remember the name of your site after they’ve left it. That’s not the way to have a successful and sustainable online business.

If you’re struggling to find success in e-commerce and have tried in vain to establish a significant level of brand awareness, this article is for you. You want people to notice your e-commerce business, and you want visitors – who may not always be ready to buy immediately – to remember your company’s name and return to your site rather than going to a competitor’s site when they’re ready to make a purchase. Differentiation is the key to accomplishing those goals. If you want to be better than the rest, you need to be different from the rest. If you’re different, you’ll be remembered.

Here are four actionable strategies for differentiating your e-commerce business.

Be a Product Creator Rather Than a Reseller

The best way to differentiate your e-commerce business in a truly meaningful way is by selling a product that isn’t available anywhere else. If you’re a reseller, then your website has nothing to offer that your competitors aren’t already offering. Although it’s not impossible to differentiate your company as a reseller, it is extremely difficult – especially if being a reseller means that you’ll be competing with massive online stores like Amazon. 

Creating your own product isn’t just a matter of having a factory in China stamp your logo on a product that’s essentially the same as what a dozen other companies are selling. The product might have your brand name on it, but there won’t be anything fundamentally unique about it. To see an example of what we’re talking about, go to a website such as Amazon and search for a common household product like dishwashers. You’ll see an enormous variety of models with brand names that you’ve never heard of before. They’ll look slightly different on the outside, but they’ll all have exactly the same feature sets. There’s nothing unique about those items; they’re virtually the same apart from their slightly different exteriors and most likely all come from the same factory.

If you want to have a product that truly sets your e-commerce business apart, you need to create something that doesn’t already exist. That’s what the people at ROBO2020 did when they invented their automatic vape coil cleaner. People who vape often spend a great deal of money on replacement atomizer coils, and ROBO2020 solves that problem by making it possible for people to clean their dirty coils and reuse them over and over. 

As an entrepreneur, you know your industry intimately. What’s a common problem that consumers in your industry experience? Could you solve that problem in a way no one else has?

Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition

Although creating your own product is an ideal way to differentiate your e-commerce business, it isn’t the only way. If you don’t have the means to build your own product – or you don’t know what you would build if you did have the means – you can still succeed as a reseller if you identify your unique selling proposition

One of the universal truths of e-commerce is that you’re going to have competition regardless of the industry in which you do business. You’ll be launching a new website in a field that already has well-established websites with existing customer bases. Before you even consider getting started, you need to know the answer to one question: Why should people buy from you rather than going to a competitor’s website?

Once you’ve figured out the answer to that question, distill it down to one simple sentence or tagline – and make it so prominent on your website that people can’t help but see it. 

The e-commerce industry is very mature at this point. You can’t just put products online and expect buyers to flock to you; you need to explain why you’re different from everyone else. You can’t build a brand until you do that.

Don’t Use the Same Website Template as Everyone Else

Steve Jobs once famously said that great design isn’t just about the way that a product looks – it’s also about how the product works. While that statement certainly rings true, it also must be said that Apple wouldn’t be the company it is today if products like the iPod and iPhone didn’t look strikingly unique compared to everything else that was on the market at the time of those products’ releases. Apple’s incredible success in the 21st century has had much to do with the desire of affluent individuals to be seen holding and using the company’s products. 

Almost every small business can learn something from Apple, and one of the most important lessons that you can learn as the owner of an e-commerce website is that there’s no benefit in looking the same as everyone else. If you’re running a Shopify or WooCommerce website with the same free theme that hundreds of other websites are using, you’ll never stand out. It’s worth the investment to hire a website designer who can help to craft a unique look for your brand.

Create a Better Shopping Experience

The final way to differentiate your e-commerce website and truly stand out from your competitors is by finding a way to offer your customers a better shopping experience. There are several ways of doing that. If your website has a large number of different products, for instance, you can organize those products in a way that’s more logical and more effective than what your competitors are doing. Product discovery is often an issue on large e-commerce websites; with some creativity, maybe you can solve that problem.

Another way to offer a better shopping experience is by making your product pages more interesting and informative. Look at what your competitors are doing in this area. Could you write better descriptions that do a better job of explaining the products? Instead of using the same stock photos that your competitors are using, could you take your own larger and more detailed photos?

As you develop your e-commerce website, you should always strive to find ways to surprise and delight your customers. For example, you might include free samples with every order. You could build a streamlined checkout process that allows customers to add products to their carts and check out with only a few clicks. You could develop a loyalty program that makes your customers feel engaged and appreciated. Everything you do that makes the buying process a pleasure will pay great dividends in terms of conversion rates and repeat business.


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