Mar 21, 2005

Top Ten eCommerce Tips for Your Website #9: Unique Selling Proposition

eLearning Series

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 As a follow-up to tip #1, How Fast Does Your Site Load? we recently upgraded the DiscountDecorating.com site to a newer and faster server. (The older server couldn’t handle the 575,000 pages per day of traffic and was slowing down the browsing process.) The result? 40% increase in orders — just because the site loads faster.

eCommerce Tip #9: Unique Selling Proposition

Customers Are In Control. Photo of Capitol Peak by Jeff FinkelsteinWhy Buy With You (vs. Another Site)? Customers are in control. With the Web, it’s easy to go elsewhere with a few clicks of a mouse. In the pre-Web days, geography dictated customer choice. If you were in the Denver, Colorado region, for example, you were limited by the retail stores in your area. Or, perhaps there was a catalog you could order out of. But with the Web, a company is now competing globally. In order to compete effectively, you need to have a Unique Selling Proposition. Unique Selling Proposition What makes your site different than another? Here’s a short list I’ve compiled over the years: Unique Selling Proposition

Lowest Price. Everyone wants the lowest price. Especially in difficult economic times. Yet it’s best to not solely compete on just the lowest price. Many consumers are happy to pay just a little bit more if you have a trustworthy website, and make it easy to purchase.

Greatest Selection of Products. The DiscountDecorating.com site, for example, has over 30,000 products on their site. Their top selling product accounts for less than 1% of their total revenue. They are thriving because they offer a tremendous selection of products — none of which are top sellers.

Free Shipping. The reason we like to go to retail stores? We don’t have to pay for shipping. Instead we have to pay for gas, time to drive through traffic, and parking. If your product doesn’t weigh that much, free shipping may be a great way to convince people Upgraded / Expedited Shipping. Offer to expedite someone’s order and place them at the start of the line – people will often pay slightly extra for this. Unique Selling Proposition

Ship Products Quickly. Nobody likes when they place an order and it takes the company two weeks to process it. People will often pay slightly more if you are able to guarantee that orders placed before 2:00 pm will ship that same day, for example.

Quick Checkout. We covered this in detail in tip #2 – How Easy Is Your Checkout Process. Keep in mind that most people don’t want to create an account or take 15 minutes to go through your order. Keep it quick.

Coupons. I just placed an order at a store because I had a $5.00 off coupon. The total order was $299, but for $5.00 off I went with one company over another.

Best Customer Service. In an age where a lot of companies want to hide, including your phone number on every page will help reinforce the notion that you care about them. United Airlines, for example, makes it really difficult to find their phone number — I tested it recently and it took more than seven clicks to find a phone number.

Great Return Policy. What happens if the product doesn’t work? A great return policy may be the tipping point for someone to purchase with your company vs. another.

Comprehensive Information About Products. When I want to buy something online, I like sites that help answer all my questions. Instead of wondering, “Will this product work with my system?” a site that has detailed information will alleviate the tension and allow someone to make an informed decision quickly. The more information you have about a product, the more you and your organization are perceived as experts in the field. The site that has the most amount of information about a product often wins. It’s perceived as more relevant to search engines (search engines love content).

Easy to Navigate Site. If you’re like me, you’ve left a site and gone to another one, because the navigation of the site was simply too confusing. If your site makes it easy for a customer to find what they’re looking for, that site will often do much better than one that’s not well designed.

Great Search Engine Optimization. The #1 search engine result gets about 42% of the clickthroughs. The #2 search result receives about 11% of the traffic. If your site is at the top of the search engines, you’re perceived as more relevant by your customers.

Autographed by the Author. If your site is selling books, you can often charge more (or make the sale) if you have books that are autographed by the author. There’s something tangible about having the author of a book sign it — it increases the perception of value. Authors are usually happy to sign books, especially if you pay for the shipping.

Blessed by a Priest or Rabbi. Okay, this is a pretty unusual unique selling proposition. But if you have a gift shop for your local congregation, having a spiritual leader bless the objects is a nice added touch that a big box retailer can’t compete with.

Summary: It’s tough to have an eCommerce website that hits all of these points. But make sure that you have at least one or two if you want your site to be competitive.