The Konga mall is home to almost 20,000 active sellers, it’s easy to feel like your store doesn’t exist amongst so many other stores, of which, about a quarter of that number may be selling the same products you sell. The key to gaining competitive edge has less to do with the thing you sell, and more to do with the way you position it. Many online sellers do not achieve success by creating a new product category, but rather they manage to carve out a piece of their existing category and dominate it. In business school a move like that is called “competitive positioning”. This involves the process of finding one or more meaningful differences between you and your competitors and building a reputation around them.
This fundamental concept can be used in every industry and by every kind of business, from the biggest corporations to the smallest mom-and-pop shops. But to be successful, they should all follow five general steps:
Understand Your Customer- As a seller, you need to get a better understanding of your customers, you could start by asking yourself a few questions about your customers: What are their needs and wants? What really matters to them? Is it price and convenience or quality and service? Do they want the latest and greatest design or a piece of nostalgia? Do they care deeply about the story behind the item? Be as specific as you can and note that your shop may be serving many kinds of customers with the same product. The more you know about your customers and their particular needs, the better prepared you’ll be to reason with them.
Research the Competition- To determine your unique value you need to ask yourself a few questions about what you are really good at doing/selling. Are you a perfectionist with incredibly high quality standards? Are you an idea factory? Do you love working with customers and serving their needs? Do you know a lot about a very specialized market? Are you blessed to live in a place with great infrastructure or access to supply shops? These are all areas where you can leverage your natural abilities and stake out a unique competitive position.
Determine Your Unique Value- To determine your unique value you need to ask yourself a few questions like, what are you really good at? Are you a perfectionist with incredibly high quality standards? Are you an idea factory? Do you love working with customers on custom projects? Do you know a lot about a very specialized market? Are you blessed to live in a place with great infrastructure or access to supply shops? These are all areas where you can leverage your natural abilities and stake out a unique competitive position.
Choose a Positioning Strategy-
Now you know your customers, who you’re competing with, what you’re good at. You can tie this all together by asking yourself, what’s the one thing I want to be known for? There’s almost no limit to the ways you can differentiate your shop, but some of the most common strategies are:
- Product Quality: Sourcing top-of-the-line items or exclusive, rare items.
- Design: Offering superior aesthetic or functional design.
- Service: Doing absolutely everything in your power to exceed customer expectations.
- Niche Focus: Comprehensively serving a subset of a product category.
- Authenticity:Establishing unique credibility in a particular area.
- Innovation: Introducing new and unexpected variations on existing products.
Whatever direction you choose, there are a few general rules you should follow:
-It has to matter to the buyer.
-Customers will only associate you with a couple of factors (at most), so choose carefully.
-It should be hard for competitors to copy.
And most importantly, be consistent. Test every new idea against your positioning strategy.
Align the Rest of Your Business With Your Strategy- Having a positioning strategy is great, but it won’t get you anywhere until the rest of your business is aligned with it. Keep reminding yourself of that factor you are known for and make sure every decision you make supports that position. Reinforcing your positioning strategy across your business will tell a consistent story to customers and make you more likely to stand out. Being competitive doesn’t have to be ugly. Competition is what makes the marketplace so vibrant — sellers of all kinds are continually trying to satisfy customer needs in innovative ways. Setting and following a positioning strategy allows you to focus on the things that make your shop unique; you compete in the areas you add the most value and, over time, build a distinctive reputation with customers. When done right, it also creates a competitive edge that’s sustainable and hard to copy.