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Andrea Hill

Online Success Depends on Making Your Website Different From Your Competitors’

And that means thinking hard about a variety of factors. Here’s what to consider.

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ARE YOU IN LOVE with your website? Do you get goosebumps every time you launch it? Do you launch it just for fun . . . on your smart phone, your tablet, and when sitting at your desk? Does it give you the same feeling of motivation and readiness you feel when you open the store in the morning?

Or does your website stress you out? Do you avoid looking at it? Does it do what it’s supposed to do, but you still have a gnawing sense of something’s-not-quite-right every time you think about it?

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If you’re feeling this way, it’s possible your website is working fine, but it’s indistinguishable from every other retail website. And if you can’t tell the difference between your site and every other retail site, then your customers can’t either. If your customers can’t tell the difference between your site and every other retail site, then all you can compete on is price.

If you sell mid-range children’s shoes, or pasta, or paper towel, or socks, you should expect to compete on price. But jewelry isn’t a necessity. It’s a luxury, and luxuries should not compete on price. Yet so many retailers compete on price today, and most point the blame squarely at the internet.

But that’s wrong. The internet is not to blame for all this price competition. The internet made it easy and fast to compare prices, but it doesn’t make it necessary for you to compete on price. If you’re competing on price, it’s because you haven’t elevated and highlighted all the other reasons to buy from you. If you’re competing on price, it’s because you haven’t made your differentiation clear.

You probably know a lot about the competitive stores in your area. You know what brands they carry, the services they offer, and even who they employ and the vibe of their store. You’re probably careful to never bad-mouth your competitors to customers, but everyone who works for you knows how to point out the benefits of buying from you instead. You also know how to respond to a customer when they compare you to an internet pureplay, or Sam’s Club, or Costco.

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But what about your website? Does your website broadcast the personality and culture of your store? Do you convey to every visitor who you are, what you do that makes you different, and why you matter? Do you make your special sauce so clear that website visitors can make a personal connection? You don’t need all the customers, you just need the right customers. Do you know who those customers are, and do you know what to say to them, what to show them, how to appeal to them so they know you’re the right jewelry store for them?

If your website is simply a collection of typical static pages (home, about, services, products) and a grid full of the same products that every other jewelry retailer is carrying, then you’re not conveying a reason to buy from you other than price. If the only pictures of your store are an image shot in 1996 from the street, and an image of the inside, devoid of people, that would only appeal to a real estate buyer, then you’re not conveying a reason to buy from you other than price.

If you want your website to sing, you need to think – hard! – about what makes you special, and how you can convey that specialness through page design, use of color, image selection, fonts, copy, and graphic elements. No matter what page a visitor lands on, they should be able to sense immediately that something different is happening on your site. They should be able to tell that your content has been assembled with intention, and they should feel motivated to explore more, to learn more, about you. This curiosity can be seen and measured in your Google Analytics, both in the number of email addresses you capture, and in the number of visitors you convert to foot traffic and online sales.

It may be tempting to think that it’s impossible to differentiate yourself online, but don’t give in to that urge. Consumers make decisions about which brands to buy from based on several criteria that have little to do with price. If you create a website experience that makes it easy for consumers to perceive your relevance to them, they will stick around and explore. If your messaging is completely coherent as they navigate from page to page, reinforcing your relevance, they will start to trust you. If you give them ways to interact on your website, you will trigger the reward system of their brain, making them want to commit. And none of these things have anything to do with price.

Competing on price alone takes all the joy – and profit! – out of being in business. Let’s not compete on price anymore. Let’s put your unique brand offering front and center, so it can resonate with the customers for whom your message has meaning. Let’s get those customers to focus on everything else of value before they get to price, and put price back in its rightful place.

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