Part 2: Positioning
Why Someone Should Buy From You in an Ocean of Choices
There is more similarity in a precious painting by Degas and a frosted mug of root beer than you ever thought possible.Alfred Taubman, owner of the A&W chain, comparing marketing challenges faced following the purchase of a 241-year-old auction company
Why would someone buy from you? Visitors to your website buy your product, or a similar version, from another business all the time.
Perhaps visitors buy from local businesses because they give an in-store experience, the ability to touch the product, and the option to talk with staff. Maybe a competitor has a feature in their product that makes it better than what you sell. Then there’s Amazon who will always offer a wider range at a cheaper price delivered faster.
Ecommerce today is competitive. The battle for a customer’s credit card will only harden as new competitors emerge.
The solution to competition is positioning. Someone will buy from you because your business and product stands out in their mind as the solution.
Position is determined by perception. Position-focused CRO works for any store because perception is malleable. Positioning is your saviour to the great ecommerce sin of being another “me too”. It is how you set yourself apart from the competition to solve problems unique to your business.
A store’s position can be anything. You can serve the tastiest ice-creams to leprechauns. However, an effective position solves a meaningful problem. Your conversion rate will increase with great positioning—ignore it to make all other conversion work hard. Let’s mould your store into a profit-generating machine with the right position.
Strategy That Sets Your Business Apart From Competition
The Law of Category
You cannot compete head on with the monster of Amazon. Their size carries with them an unbeatable economies of scale, which drives down price and provides shoppers a wide range of products.
Positioning gets attention to make you remembered. When someone thinks about the niche problem you solve, they go to you.
The size of your category matters to the point it aligns with your business goal. First-time pugapoo owners in Texas could turn to you for dog equipment, but if you want to build a 10-million dollar empire, you’ll need to expand. You want enough size to meet your profit goal.
Here are ideas and questions to position yourself into a unique category:
- What type of people buy your product? Survey to find why someone buys, where they use the product, and who they would recommend the product to. If hobbyists get the product for the weekend, the website hero banner and text should show these people in that situation.
- Drill down to one benefit. A toothbrush for the general population is taken. A toothbrush made for sensitive teeth stands out.
- Mindmap your niche in the centre then branch out with product categories. Spend time alternating between brainstorming and looking at competitor product categories for ideas. Find a niche within a niche. Our client Galen Leather sells handmade leather goods for writers.
- Browse competitor reviews. What do customers love about a product that gets little attention? What do customers hate? How are customers using the product?
- Overlap two traits of value. Go crazy writing down a combination of product traits and problems. You can’t be critical of your ideas until you get at least 20 since creativity flows from volume. Magic Spoon recreated childhood cereals that are keto-friendly.
- Use your imagination to enter prompts within ChatGPT. I entered, “Give me a business idea tagline for a men’s skincare brand that no one else has done. Everyone has black products or a complex list of ingredients. Make it brief and to the point so I’m impressed by it.” The response I got was, “Simplicity is Strength: Men’s Skincare Redefined”. Build on the idea by yourself or with the AI. The idea of simplicity and strength had me think of a skincare brand that can scientifically prove it is good for male hormones.
Avoid Dilution from Extension
Products will forever tempt you to dilute your message to a broader audience. Speak to everyone and you will speak to no one. The purchase rate of products begin to vaporise when you disobey the law of category.
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.Steve Jobs
If you must deviate, launch a new brand and store for products that do not serve your biggest buyers. Shopify makes it easy to get a new store up in minutes.
Focus on Your Biggest Buyers
Serve the 20% of Top Customers
20% of customers will contribute to 80% of profits. Identify your biggest buyers then arrange everything to attract more of them. Make it your mission to figure out how to acquire them and keep them.
Every market is made of bad and good customers. A bad customer may ask loads of questions from customer support about a product that costs less than $20. If the person eventually buys the product, they return it.
Great customers are identified by the recency and frequency of their orders. A great customer is likely to have recently bought, and buys many times. Your biggest buyers are also nice to talk to since they appreciate the brand.
When you know your great customers, you understand how to acquire them and how to get them to buy. Since they make up a small percentage of your addressable audience, your conversion rate may not increase, but your customer lifetime value will skyrocket.
To dive deeper into your biggest buyers, there is qualitative and quantitative data to collect then analyse. An example of qualitative information about your biggest buyers is surveying someone through Klaviyo once they make their third purchase. If you can meet with them face-to-face, you will gather insights that are otherwise impossible to collect.
Quantitative data can be gathered and analysed through Google Analytics, Shopify, Klaviyo, or Triple Whale. I like to export data from Klaviyo then begin working with it. Your goal is to look at recency and frequency then understand so much about these people.
Leverage Profitable Traffic Sources
Get more of the traffic that converts well for the business. Sources that lead to visitors—rather than profit—is a common mistake store owners make in a lousy conversion rate. Your conversion rate is doomed before anything else happens.
You can use Google Analytics to see the most profitable traffic sources. The data you gather from an out-of-the-box Google Analytics setup is often inaccurate and incomplete. Once good data flows in, good choices can flow out.
To see the touchpoints of people who order a lot in Google Analytics, there are several features you need to set up so the data becomes useful. Give your business the best chance of accurately tracking lifetime value in Google Analytics with the “User ID” feature, Google UTM codes on external links that point to your store, cross-domain tracking to eliminate self-referrals, and referral exclusions for attribution accuracy. Follow my step-by-step guide to get Google Analytics done right for your Shopify store.
A good first way to leverage profitable traffic sources in Google Analytics is by doing a lifetime analysis. Open “Reports”. From the template library, create the “User lifetime” report.
Looking at this Shopify client example from the default report, customers who first buy from email are 10 times more valuable than those who first buy from Facebook. The business can focus more on how to collect emails and invest more into email marketing.
Sell to Your Foxes
Too many companies are afraid to read a scathing comment of an offended visitor or turn away market segments because their products are for everyone. You may feel uneasy about an ad speaking to a niche group when you know everyone can benefit. Quiet mediocrity is the formula to be the little guy with a soft voice.
You will minimise those unlikely to buy from you when you speak passionately to your best buyers. The late copywriter Gary Halbert called this “selling to the foxes”:
There are hundreds of companies in direct response who give up millions of dollars in sales every year just so they won’t offend a small percentage of scumbags who will never buy from them anyway… Stop worrying so much about offending people and start worrying more about selling them… I didn’t worry about offending the ‘dogs’. Instead, I concentrated on selling the ‘foxes’.
Cards Against Humanity excel at selling to the foxes. One holiday they updated their website with the message: “To help you experience the ultimate savings on Cards Against Humanity this Black Friday, we’ve removed the game from our store, making it impossible to purchase.” Another year the company had a campaign to sell bull s*** that had staff the whole day on Twitter explaining what people could literally buy:
If you buy the poop expecting it to be something else that’s not poop, you’re actually buying a valuable life lesson for $6.Max Temkin (@MaxTemkin) November 28, 2014 (Tweet has since been deleted)
30,000 people in one day literally brought crap. Cards Against Humanity’s foxes are people with a dark humour. Sure the company annoyed a lot of people. I’m sure their owners don’t care. Healthy ignorance stems from knowing your audience rather than stupidity.
Your foxes have problems, ideals, emotions. If they believe Kim Kardashian has done nothing for human life, your store can say that on social media. Does your product have a defect? Maybe your product should not be used in a type of situation? Write about it then when you say something the product does well, it is believed. Tell deep stories, publish videos, and single out a situation that matches the lives of your passionate fans. You turn away the dogs and appeal to your foxes.
Tactics That Command People to Buy From You Over Others
Add Value Propositions
A value proposition is a simple message that promises value to the visitor’s purchase. They can alleviate risk, build trust, save the customer money, or guarantee a solution to your customer’s problem.
Imagine you were interested in buying a bike to ride along the beach. You arrive on one of my client’s websites:
Do you feel safe? Do you feel Beachbikes is the right store to buy from? Do you feel confident that if you were to buy a bike from here, it would be fantastic?
Value propositions pull you apart from the pack. They are best placed in the header of the homepage and beneath order buttons on product pages to quickly tell most visitors why they should stick around. You’ll have unique value propositions like “Take Your Bike for a Test Ride” in addition to general ones. Here are some to get you going:
Do not use vague variations that carry poor influence:
Test the presentation of value propositions because they have been found to distract. FSAstore.com boosted revenue per visitor 53% when they removed their five core messages from below the navigation for a simpler appearance.
Survey Customers to Attract More
Empathy gets you started at what you think should be done; ignorance caps your store’s conversion rate. Disregard what your intuition tells you to do. Listen to the exact reason why someone purchased in their words with a survey.
You’ll want to trigger the survey to appear on the thank you page. Buyers have gone through the sales funnel. They have wrestled their objections. They have experienced the low of a problem and the high of a solution promised by your product.
Here are my most potent questions to ask buyers that will fuel conversion ideas to boost skyrocket sales:
- Where did you first learn about us?
- What got you most excited about buying from us?
- What almost stopped you from buying from us?
- What are you unsure about with your purchase?
- What convinced you to buy from us?
- What other options were you considering before buying from us?
- What could we have done to make your purchase choice easier?
- How would you describe us to your friends or family?
At first glance some questions seem like they are best suited to non-buyers. The problem with asking a non-buyer what they are unsure about or where they first learned about the business, is they don’t have money in the game. They may have spent 10-seconds on the website, forming a weaker opinion. You will get garbage responses. That’s fine. It only takes one response for an epiphany.
Integrate what you learn into the business otherwise the data is useless. Log insights into your Conversion Optimization Library sheet. When you understand the people who bought, you nudge along people who previously wouldn’t have bought.
Survey to Find Out Why Your Visitors Didn’t Buy
I tweaked the guarantee of one store to instantly boost sales 50%. It worked so well because the product was inherently risky. The heart of your Shopify store’s conversion problem is unlikely to be a simple design change. The biggest growth may come from qualitative testing.
Trigger a survey with rules that match your most profitable segments and another with rules that match your least profitable groups, to learn about visitors who do not buy. The disparity in answers may surprise you.
Any business can always improve with surveys. Look at this survey Google gave me in analytics when writing this guide:
The information Google would gather from this survey to understand what users are trying to achieve on a report would be golden in usability design.
Ask one question for the best response rate. Good questions you can ask include:
- It seems you didn’t complete your purchase, can you share why not?
- What would convince you to buy from us?
- What other information would you find helpful on this page?
- What if anything is stopping you from completing your purchase?
Test Google’s approach of asking what someone is trying to do. When you’re convinced this strategy works, survey visitors based on other behavioural data. You may want to know why one product does not sell, why someone who viewed 10 pages left, or what caused someone to abandon cart. It depends on what you want to discover. Bathe in the new information gathered then test what you learned about your store.
A survey to nearly any segment is possible. For example, you can create a unique shortened URL for a magazine promotion. You can then have an overlay with a discount that only triggers for people redirected from the URL. The popup can include the magazine’s name. This way the scent remains from the advertisement to improve conversions. Refer to WebEngage’s guide for extra ideas to use overlays for CRO.
Should You Offer Live Chat?
Passivity is the enemy of change. You need feedback. Live chat is one way to provide instant customer support without the delays of an email or feedback form. Forrester research found, “44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer.”
A live chat widget on your store is not guaranteed to increase conversions, but it is an avenue to explore if you get many support questions, feel dazed at why people do not buy, or have never done it before. How you implement live chat also matters.
Total Gym Fitness increased sales by 39% with live chat while other stores have seen a decrease. Several things Total Gym Fitness did well was train staff to ask different questions based on how high or low the person was into the research funnel, deliver a chat box sized to mobile, and provide short answers when typing to a mobile user.
The problems your visitors try to solve will differ from each other so don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. You need to regularly train and meet with your live support agents. Record every question your visitors ask, or objections your visitors raise, about your product or store. These are optimization opportunities to include in your testing log.
Run The Premature Test
Get a person who doesn’t know about your store to visit it on their phone. Give them three seconds to view your store then pull their focus away. Ask, “What person would buy from this store?” Repeat the test with someone on a desktop computer.
The premature test tells you the immediate positioning communicated through the design of your store. If your tests reveal contradictory points or uncertainty, look at the top 200 pixels on the home page. What can you do to speak to the person most likely to buy from you?
One major mistake I see are messages like, “Welcome to So-and-So.” Use the visual real estate in a clearer way. Your visitors will be unknowingly thankful.
Brand names like “Chamberlain Coffee” and “Guitar Center” are clear with what they sell. When brand names are unclear, taglines beside a logo are effective at selling to your foxes. Smith and Noble use to do a good job with a tagline next to their logo that quickly describes who the store is for.
Use Simple Customer-Focused Language
Company-focused information gets me mad. You don’t give visitors “Consumer Information” or “Customer Care”.
What is Sunbeam’s “promotions” page supposed to be? Promotions is a bad marketing translation of “specials” or “sales” in normal people’s language.
When reading corporate speak, I picture a board of bobble-head directors puking their vile. It is common among large companies that distribute their product to retailers while also selling to individuals.
The right jargon can be used so your best buyers understand why they should buy your product. When your words mimic the lives of your visitors, you captivate an audience. Hobbyists love jargon. If you sell to passionate golfers, write about the golf club that puts an end to army golf, makes you a burglar, and equips you to break par.
Write to one person using “you” language—do not say “people”, “you guys”, or “customers”. Be guided by “what’s in it for me” instead of “what we do” in everything. Keep your product descriptions, core content, navigation, and stories focused on your biggest buyers.
Create an Amazing About Page
People want to know who they buy from and if they can be trusted. The about page lets you address these concerns while helping you differentiate the business from others. It is a commonly overlooked area to increase your conversions.
What makes a good ecommerce “about” page?
- Tell your story. Use dialog, names, times, and other specific details to bring the story to life.
- Give a personal anecdote related to the reason the visitor is interested in your products.
- Share your passion as though you were talking face-to-face to the person reading.
- Use video.
- Reveal team members.
- Provide contact information.
Another idea that can work well on your ecommerce “about” page is connecting your message with a greater cause. A fitness store can show photos of fun fitness classes it ran for a school.
Here are examples of good about pages:
Be Clear with Brick and Mortar
If you have a physical location where customers can buy your product, it’s a good idea to test the message. While it’s nearly guaranteed to boost offline conversions, it can also boost online sales by establishing trust.
Have a page for your offline location. Test how you attract customers to the offline store whether through a link in the header or footer of the online store. Anchor text ideas are: “See our showroom”, “Visit us in store”, and “Our physical locations”.
John Lewis provides a “Our shops” link in the header that takes you to a list of their brick and mortar locations.
Do not reference your online store (mystore.com) as differing from your offline store (My Store). Your company is one body.
For help setting up brick and mortar locations, there’s the Bold Store Locator Map app. Make it clear where users must go when things are accessible in only one place. For example, let customers know that certain products or video instructions to get the most out of their purchase, can only be accessed from the online store.
Make Customers Buy Before They Visit the Store with Endorsements
Your customers admire certain people. Get a person your audience respects to endorse your product and you will have people ready to buy before they visit the store. An endorsement can also drive branded traffic. Every store can use endorsements, though it works best when you develop your own product.
Endorsement strategies include sending your product to the person, offering equity in the business, or working closely with a charity that appeals to the person of influence. Superficial endorsements are the lowest-level execution of this strategy even though it can still work.
Under Armour signed NFL athlete Tom Brady for equity in the apparel company. Brady wears Under Armour clothing and speaks well of the brand given any opportunity. SK Energy partnered with 50 Cent and the World Food Programme to provide one meal for every energy drink sold. The Honest Company works closely with Jessica Alba who reveals a side you rarely see that is authentic and aligned with the target audience of concerned parents.
Capture video, photography, and as many quotes as possible from the person. Show the celebrity using your product for the ultimate proof of support. ROC headphones rapidly built its brand with Cristiano Ronaldo that combined a PR campaign and endorsement.
Your celebrity’s behaviour is a double-edged sword. What they do imposes onto your brand. Kellogg’s ran from Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps one week after a picture of him smoking a bong became public. Nike, Honey Stinger, and other major brands departed from Lance Armstrong following his doping scandal. Total Flex home gym equipment caught Jean-Claude Van Damme on a British reality show revealing his disdain to promote the product he disliked.
A superstar is unnecessary; sometimes ineffective. What matters is your audience’s respect for the person and awareness of their love for the product.
- 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout
- Drew Sanocki on Customer Value Optimization
- How To Acquire Better Customers To Increase LTV
- The Finest Google Analytics Setup in Shopify for Splendid Data
- 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly
- Gary Halbert on selling to the foxes
- How to find a manufacturer or supplier for your product idea
In the next lesson of the conversion optimization guide, you will learn how to design a store that gets you sales without being a designer: