[intro]If you're just starting out with your own online business, it's important that you develop a clear plan to work towards to ensure your success. In this Guide, you'll learn all about how to define your own brand, identify your target market and plan how best to promote your EKM online shop.
Summarise what you’re all about
Before you begin, it’s important that you develop your own marketing strategy. A good marketing strategy allows you to identify your strengths and how you should highlight these when promoting your brand to potential customers. When you launch your EKM online shop, you are competing with hundreds of thousands of online competitors. Of course, the level of competition you face is entirely dependent on the kind of products you are selling, but regardless, a strong marketing strategy is essential to your own long-term success.
This is because when you are competing for sales against different competitors, you need to discover your own particular ‘niche’ and invest your time into targeting the potential customers there - this is a much more effective way of encouraging sales than simply ‘targeting everyone’ - especially when you invest in online advertising in the future.
You may sometimes see the term USP when you are online. USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition and it is how you define your own product or service from the rest. It’s important when defining your business strategy that you define your own USP as being able to identify it’s characteristics allows you to formulate a successful marketing strategy for yourself and your EKM online shop.
a) What makes my products unique?
You can determine this by researching and identifying who your competitors are, and then comparing the benefits of your products to their equivalents. Do they sell exactly the same products? If so, are they cheaper, or more expensive? If they’re different, what makes them so? What is their Returns Policy? Do they offer a loyalty scheme at all? Are they running any promotions or discounts on these products? All of these factors need to be considered to help you work out what makes your products unique to you.
b) What needs do my Products meet?
This is an essential part of your USP too; all products can be related to a benefit or solve a specific problem and should be as this will help you to market to your target audience. The easiest way to determine this is to list the features and benefits of your products. For example, a mobile phone would look like:
Whilst customers will look to the product descriptions for a list of the features of the phone, it’s the benefits that you use when marketing it, on your online shop, on social media posts and in email newsletters. The word ‘5g’ is not as enticing and exciting as ‘video streaming on the go’! With this in mind, you need to begin to list the features and benefits for your products which will give you a useful resource that you can refer to when promoting your product lines.
c) What makes my EKM online shop stand out - what is unique to me?
You also need to identify and highlight what makes your business stand out from that of your competitors. For example, at EKM, it’s our Evolution Mode service which is unique to us. There are many competitors for us, but we are the only ones who offer this service. Your unique selling point needs to be a characteristic that sets you apart from your competitors - this could be particular product features or services, but it ideally needs to be something unique to you that your competitors can’t imitate.
d) ’What’s in it for me?’
Your next step is to place yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask yourself ‘what’s in it for me?’ Why should the customer purchase this Product from your EKM online shop? If you look at some of the biggest brands and household names, this is often defined as their ‘tagline’ - a statement which summarises exactly why their people should purchase from them, and not their competitors:
- L’Oreal - ‘Because you’re worth it’;
- McDonald's - ‘I’m Lovin’ It’;
- Ronseal - ‘It Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin’;
- Mastercard - ‘There Are Some Things That Money Can’t Buy. For Everything Else, There’s Mastercard’.
When you’re writing this statement, make sure it is short and concise, has no negative connotations and ideally highlights a key benefit. For example, ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ - you know McDonald's food is not at all healthy, but it is very tasty.
e) Create a list of bullet points that summarise your unique Product or service
With the notes you made in steps a-d above, make a list of bullet points which summarise what makes your own EKM online shop and the Products you offer stand out from the rest. Defining this will help you create the foundation of your marketing campaign and memorising these points will help you to streamline how best to present your brand and products to your potential customers.
Identify the Competition
Your next step is to identify exactly who your competitors are. When trading online - dependent on the kind of products you sell of course - you could be competing with lots of small businesses and start-up enterprises, household names and brands, or a mixture of both, so it’s vital you understand who you’re up against and what resources you have that can help you claim your own particular niche within that marketplace.
For each competitor you discover, you need to ask yourself:
- Who - are they?
- What - do they sell that’s the same as you?
- Where - are they located?
- When - did they begin?
- How - do they differ from you, if it all?
- Why - are they better (or worse)?
The quickest way to do this is to grab a pencil and some paper, clear an hour or two in your schedule and use Google to help you discover what competition is out there. To do this, you need to use specific search terms as - often called ‘search operators’ - which are listed in this Guide; use this to find out who is selling the same products and offers the same content that you aim to do on your own EKM online shop. These will help you quickly ascertain who your competition is. Jot down the names of your ten most popular products - or at least what you think they are if you’re not sure - and use these Product Names as keywords in your searches.
From your searches, you should now have developed a list of perhaps ten competitors, which you should note down for future reference. Now you know exactly who your competitors are, you can use their online shops for further research and the development of your own marketing strategy. Take some time to look at the products your competitors offer and compare the quality, variations and prices.
Ask yourself what kind of consumers your competitors appear to be targeting. Are they male or female? What is their age, location, profession? What hobbies might they like? What kind of lifestyle do they lead? Don’t be afraid to check out the social media for each of your competitors, so you can garner further data. How does each converse with their followers? What kind of content do they publish? Do the run any competitions or promotions? How many followers do they have? What social media accounts do they use - are they all using Facebook Pages, or are some using Twitter or Instagram as well?
Use this information to give you a clearer idea of where your own products fit within this area and identify what makes your brand stand out from your competitors’ in the eyes of the target customers. You should now have enough information to begin to note down some bullet points about who your target consumers are.
Identify the Target Market
The next step in creating a marketing strategy is to identify your target market. This will help you to create advertising campaigns, social media content and promotions in the future which are tailored to suit your target customers. One of the most common mistakes made by start-ups is by wrongly assuming that their product is something that ‘suits everyone, young or old’. This is something that’s only true to a minuscule amount of products in the world - everything else is, and should be, marketed to a specific kind of consumer in order for that product to be successful. As discussed at the beginning of this part of your Toolbox, your aim is to identify your own unique niche in the online marketplace and deliberately target consumers that your niche would appeal to. Your target market will probably be made up of factors like this:
- Gender - Example: If your online shop sells make-up, your demographic will most likely be nearly all female. This is not to say that men don’t wear make-up, but as a whole, a lot more women buy it.
- Age - Example: If you sell DIY products and equipment, chances are that your target demographic here will be old enough to have moved out and got a place of their own; your marketing needs to be aimed at adults.
- Location - Example: If your products have to be used within a certain time (like food or fresh flowers), your target customers will need to be in a specific location; you won’t be able to ship those products into foreign countries without the quality degrading.
- Profession - Example: If your online shop sells classroom equipment and learning aids, you will need to market it to teachers, classroom assistants and other members of the education sector, by using the correct industry terminology.
- Family Status - Example: If you sell toys or children’s clothing, your target demographic is parents and children. Parents ultimately pay for the orders, but children - if they’re old enough and able to access your shop - need to be considered too, especially in the case of toys.
- Marital Status - Example: If you sell wedding dresses, wedding rings or accessories and services related to weddings, your target customers need to be in a relationship. You won't need to target single people.
- Hobbies - Example: If your online shop sells rock climbing equipment, your target demographic will be adults with an active lifestyle where rock climbing and other outdoor activities are their hobbies; you won’t need to target busy parents for example.
- Device - Example: If you have a physical shop as well as an online shop, you may want to target potential customers using mobile phones who can increase your footfall as they visit your premises to see your product lines for themselves.
Who is my Target Market?
Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list but it will give you a good idea of the kind of information you need to define your target market. From the bullet points that you have written above, some of these will provide clues as to who your target customers are.
Don’t forget, that if you have sold these same products previously on a different ecommerce platform, then you will already have an idea of the demographics of your customer base. But you should still research your competitors as what were your target customers that you defined years ago may have since changed as the behaviour of online shoppers and product demand have evolved. Obviously, as your EKM online shop becomes more popular and grows older, you will be able to use the information learned from your customers on both your shop and social media to evolve your target market data so that it is constantly current and your marketing strategy remains relevant.
At this point, you should have defined:
- Your USP;
- What your niche is;
- Your target market;
And summarised exactly what your products, your brand and your EKM online shop is all about!
[contact] If you need our help with your EKM online shop, contact your Ecommerce Expert or the Customer Support Team, who will be able to point you in the right direction. We're open from 8am-6pm weekdays and 9am-5.30pm weekends. If you'd like to suggest a feature or an upgrade on any of the EKM platforms, please let us know on the EKM Suggestions Board. If you have a non-account specific question to ask the EKM Team, join us in EKM Community. If you need some inspiration for your EKM online shop, listen to our podcast on iTunes and Spotify.[/contact]