Walk into any marketplace in Southeast Asia or China and you’ll encounter dozens of stall owners flogging identical watches, T-shirts, and perhaps most notorious of all - knockoff North Face jackets. As you bargain the terms of your purchase, you’ll argue with the shop owner. A stall two aisles down is selling the exact same item for $5 less!
“Same same but different!”, the stall owner insists.
You're not convinced, which is fair. Why should you pay more for the same item when this particular stall owner isn't offering you anything more?
Like the stall owner, many online retailers and wholesalers struggle to differentiate themselves from competition.
With the ubiquity of the internet, it’s clear that many online businesses will sell similar or identical goods. A simple search on any marketplace will bring up a whole list of different sellers toting the same product.
Faced with an industry where barriers to entry are lower than ever, profit margins are tighter than ever, and your competitors are just a mere click away, it's no surprise that many businesses are struggling to stand out. It can't be denied. Many products on the market are indeed “same same”...so how do you, as a business owner, ensure that your customers see the part that isn't just “different”, but better?
What are some things that online retailers and wholesalers can do to differentiate themselves from competition?
Of course, the answer is likely to vary depending on the nature of your business and who your customers are. Nevertheless, there are some good underlying principles that all retail and wholesale businesses should abide by. Here are 4 things you can do to help your business can stand out in a sea of competitors.
1. Provide excellent customer service
According by an article by Zendesk, 85% of customers would pay up to 25% more to ensure a superior customer service experience. Of course, the level and type of customer service expected can vary substantially between firm types, industries and service channels.
In fact, nearly half of B2B firms agree that Customer Buying Experience is a competitive differentiator, yet they invest as little as one percent of their annual revenue in it. One thing is clear - B2B firms that develop differentiated and personalized customer buying experiences will drive incremental value to organizations.
Many of these factors are already commonly used in B2C eCommerce - such as having currency displayed in the customer’s home language - are starting to make appearances in B2B customer buying platforms. Firms should leverage technology to improve customer service - especially since it is such an important part of succeeding in B2B sales. As both buying and communication move online, it’s important that businesses adapt as well to reach their customer base in the most effective way possible.
2. Explore fulfillment options
95% of companies that responded to Aberdeen Group’s Next-Generation Order Fulfillment study considered order fulfillment a significant principal domain expertise of their enterprise. Companies seem to think that order fulfillment activities are significant contributors to corporate differentiation and a key to gaining high levels of customer satisfaction. Amongst the same companies however, 42% reported that they did not use a key performance indicator (KPI) program to manage order fulfillment.
Despite the emphasis that companies are placing on order fulfillment, companies aren’t putting in place the necessary metrics to monitor this aspect of their business. Depending on your business, there may be a variety of fulfillment options available that could ensure better prices, more transparent processes, faster fulfillment, and higher customer satisfaction.
Businesses should invest in researching their options and make periodic adjustments to ensure that fulfillment is executed at the best price, and at an acceptable standard! After all, this is one of the most important points of contact that your business will be making with your clients. Ensure that the experience is a positive one will go a long way in upholding a good reputation.
3. Culture - adapt to your market
One of the great things about the internet age is that your client base needn’t be confined to those in your geographical proximity. These days, your customers are probably coming from all over the world. We would know - TradeGecko's amazing customers are spread out over more than 70 countries!
Although the internet allows people from all over the world to come together in one uniform platform, you should never discount culture as a great way to help your business stand out.
For example, sellers on Tmall, Alibaba’s B2C platform, are known for pushing additional “prizes” for their customers - with some vendors going so far as to offer a “surprise” along with purchases. Mobile phone vendors for instance, might offer tiered package deals - ranging from handset only (no charger included), all the way to packages including additional batteries, chargers, and even high-end headphones. China remains a culture that incorporates gift giving into personal and business relationships. Just because the transaction takes place online doesn't mean that there shouldn't be an element of personalization!
It seems that the reward model is working well in China, although this won't necessarily be the case elsewhere. It’s important that online retailers engage with different online buying cultures, whether these segmentations are separated by geography, age, or any other factor.
4. The kicker - price!
Competitive pricing remains a prerequisite for success in the modern marketplace. With a multitude of other players jockeying for the top spot, being able to offer products at a price lower than or comparable to your competition is crucial.
SMB owners tend to place a great deal of focus on generating sales and increasing revenue, believing these factors to be the key to profitability. At the heart of any retail or wholesale business however, is stock control.
Not only is stock control closely linked to costs, it’s also an essential component of forecasting demand and managing cash flow. Demand forecasting technology is now available for SMBs to help plan their purchasing activities. By maintaining a lean supply chain, businesses can minimise their costs and transfer these savings to their customers.
It is ultimately the stock that you sell that provides value to your customers. To be competitive, SMBs will often cut prices now, pray that revenue will increase as a result, and then target profitability. Often, it’s only when revenue doesn’t perform to the expected standards do business owners think about tackling costs. According to research by Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks, more than half of SMEs go at least six months without reviewing costs, while 14% never review their expenditure at all.
For SMB owners in particular, it’s absolutely integral to periodically review your costs. Refining inventory control and keeping a lean supply chain is a relatively painless way to cut costs - and has the added benefit of ensuring that your bookkeepers monitor cash flow carefully.
With more and more businesses moving online, ensuring a lean supply chain that is custom built for your customer's needs is key to success. Standing out from your competitors is becoming a more sophisticated and demanding task. Having access to data about your business will help you make better decisions. Inventory is at the heart of any good retail or wholesale business.
TradeGecko provides a supply chain and inventory management solution that helps you stand out from the crowd. Easily manage all your sales, accounting, shipping, and customer data from one place so that you can focus on the stuff that matters - growing your business!
TradeGecko’s wholesale online ordering add-on seamlessly integrates your wholesale business with your online retail business. With integrations with Shopify, WooCommerce, Amazon, Xero, and many more, our online ordering system will allow your wholesale customers the same impeccable online experience that they have come to expect. In addition, our iOS mobile sales app allows your sales staff access to TradeGecko data on-the-go - place orders, update customer details, product catalog all without internet connection.