magento-ecommerceIntroduction: Having had the opportunity to work with several businesses that have decided it’s time to focus on their online strategy as the next step to their already successful business, there are common themes, concerns, and questions that often come up.  Different than a start-up business, established businesses have existing processes that were built over time by people that have achieved success with great pride, and without the help of a website.

Ecommerce for an established business needs to embrace what made the business successful in the first place, while introducing change needed to compete in the online marketplace.

In this series of blog posts we will be sharing common solutions and considerations based on what has worked and what hasn’t for established businesses transitioning their attention to their online channel. While the focus is ecommerce, many of the concepts can be applied to most established businesses making an effort to improve their web presence.

Chapter 1: Your Brand vs. Your Pricing

When transitioning from a non-web based sales strategy to ecommerce, one of the first concerns we commonly hear is that publicizing your pricing leaves you open to price comparison shopping at a level of transparency you’ve never had to deal with before.  You are correct… your potential customers are looking on your competitor’s sites and major shopping sites like to find the best deal. At least you need to make that assumption.

Don’t Commoditize your Brand. Understand where your competitors are pricing, but don’t change your entire strategy to rely exclusively on price. Instead, leverage your online presence to adapt the same business tactics you use in your offline business to help foster relationships and build trust.

Here are some common ways to preserve your brand and stand out beyond a price tag:

Your Differentiator:“Our people are knowledgeable about the industry and will work with our clients to find the right solution”

Ways to adapt this differentiator to your online channel:

  1. Online chat: The online prospective buyer is typically self-service oriented, but like any customer may need that extra assurance from seller that they are about to make the right decision.  Providing a means for them to instantly connect can keep them leaving your site and searching elsewhere for the answer.
  2. Online Staff Profiles: Putting your key staff (typically someone a prospect may interact with such as sales or customer service) helps humanize the online experience. Featuring your top talent not only helps build trust with your customers by demonstrating your team’s expertise, but also demonstrates a healthy culture for your organization, which aids in building trust with your brand during purchasing decisions.  People like feeling good about where their money goes.
  3. Make your phone number prevalent:  If your website converts a lead to a sale, it’s helping your bottom line.  It’s a misconception that measuring a site exclusively from it’s online sales will accurately tell you it’s value.  Your prospective buyers will choose the path they feel most comfortable in taking, make it easy for them.
  4. Blog / Resources: Creating useful content on your site for your buyers will help demonstrate expertise as well as help with your SEO.  Remember when writing blog content that it should be useful to your target audience on it’s own, and not just be a gratuitous sales pitch.  Take it a step further and have members of your team contribute to the blog and showcase them.
  5. Showcase your Physical Location: At this point, many online buyers have experienced a bad purchase experience from an unknown company. Even if they don’t know you, knowing you have a physical location brings credibility that you are established since you have more than a hosting bill to pay to keep your business afloat.


Your Differentiator: “We have more products in stock than our competitors”

Ways to adapt this differentiator to your online channel:

  • Attributes & Advanced Search: Many online buyers have come to assume that if the product they are looking for is on your site, it’s in stock.  They key here is to make the experience of finding that product on your site easier than your competition.
  • Enhance your Product Data: Define attributes your buyers use, and enhance your product data to accommodate.
    • ex: If you sell refrigerators, users should be able to search by dimensions, door style, color, and not just brand and price.
    • Often this is a laborious task, however that is exactly why it can give you a competitive edge.
  • Implement Multiple Search Options: Not all buyers are experts on what they want.  Think about the questions you ask or your customers ask when making offline purchasing decisions, and craft a search tool to mimic that process.  At the same time, don’t make buyers that know exactly what they want jump through hoops to see if you have it.
    • The following are the basics that cater to most search personalities:
        • Implement Simple search on all pages, and target industry known product values such as SKU, Manufacturer, and Product name.  Avoid trying to make your simple search “like Google”.
        • Implement Advanced Search options where multiple criteria can be used.  Make it easy to find, and stray from required fields.
        • Use simple navigation on your site that offers a drilldown experience with filters on results.


Your Differentiator: “We have the best prices!”

Ways to adapt this differentiator to your online channel:

  • Confirm it’s true!  First, before maintaining this claim when you are seconds away from being price shopped with a web search, understand your online competition by searching for key products you sell and see what they are selling for.  There are tools to help with this process.
  • Review your IMAP Pricing rules:Many manufacturers have an Internet Minimum Advertised Price (IMAP), meaning you can’t display a value less than their IMAP without certain conditions being met (such as a user must be logged in).  Knowing what in your product line is subject to IMAP can change your online strategy considerably.
  • Display your Unit Pricing: As simple as the math may be to know that $3.79/ea is more expensive than $34.99/10-Pack, larger prices can deter buyers when it requires work to figure out which is a better deal.

Ultimately there are several other differentiators that can be used to help build confidence and security in online prospects, however these are a few of the more common we come across and have the benefit of being addressable.

As you’ll learn in later chapters, the online channel is definitely different and requires your business to think different, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon your brand and the differentiators that have made you successful to date.

Future Chapters:

Chapter 2: Best Practice vs. Your Practice – Finding the happy medium between retaining your existing processes while embracing the new.

Chapter 3: Prospects vs. Customers – Attracting new buyers while maintaining your current clients.

Chapter 4: Best Foot vs. No Feet – Your buyers know how they want your website to work better than you do.

Chapter 5: Internal vs. External Hosting – Considerations for where to host your website.