Breaking up with Best Practices: How to Distinguish Your Brand in a Competitive Ecommerce Landscape

Ecommerce businesses are always looking for ways to boost visibility and generate high-volume sales. Unfortunately, the industry’s long-held “best practices” are holding them back. These practices create a frictionless commerce experience that is efficient but unoriginal, making one brand indistinguishable from the next. Shoppers’ expectations have evolved, and it’s time ecommerce practices do so as well.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of shoppers say it’s rare to see a website that feels unique or has unexpected functionality. As a result, businesses need a recognizable brand to stand out among the millions of other competitors they have online.

So how can businesses distinguish their brand in a competitive ecommerce landscape? As a starting point, they can break away from outdated ecommerce ‘best practices’ to elevate the shopping experience and make their brand more distinctive.

Frictionless Commerce ≠ Increased Brand Loyalty

One of the ecommerce industry’s best practices is creating a frictionless commerce experience, which includes streamlined search, predictable website navigation and expedited checkout. However, frictionless commerce only improves the experience for customers looking to buy a specific product and move on. The ease of frictionless commerce might boost sales temporarily, but more is needed to build brand loyalty long term.


Only 5% to 9% of new customers will ever reach “loyal” status, but this core group will contribute heavily to overall revenue, driving up to 23% of annual sales. These are the customers ecommerce brands should be targeting, not one-time shoppers. 

Brands can target and cater to these loyal customers by understanding what they want: 62% of shoppers said they not only want but expect personalization, indicating that ecommerce brands need to move away from a cookie-cutter, frictionless experience to something that feels a bit more personal.

The Movement from Website to Mobile App

However, it goes further than personalization, as shoppers expect brands to provide a unique experience without compromising speed, which retailers can easily deliver with a brand-owned app. Brand-owned apps serve as a hub for product listings, reviews and a user-friendly checkout process. In addition, mobile apps help provide the quick shopping experience shoppers are accustomed to and want on mobile.

Moreover, mobile apps are where brands can also create a personalized VIP experience for shoppers. Implementing functions like advanced wish lists, product recommendations and customized push notifications can give shoppers the unique experience they want. Apps can also serve as a central location for app-exclusive content, helping shoppers learn more about a brand’s origin story, its sustainability efforts or anything else they find important to know about a brand.

Tips on Breaking up with Best Practices

Whether you’re looking to spice up your mobile app or your website, there are a few ways to break up with best practices and provide a unique shopping experience within your ecommerce store.

Develop a strong visual brand identity.

To stand out from the crowd, brands should develop a compelling visual brand identity that translates to their website or app by creating an artistic visual experience and implementing a multi-media approach to brand assets. It is important to highlight these aspects throughout a website to set the brand apart from others.

Restructure your path to purchase.

In addition to running micro-enhancement tests for conversion rate optimization, such as product images, button colors and placement, etc., consider some macro tests that push the envelope with unique layouts and paths to purchase. For example, experimenting with the website layout and customer journey stages can help your brand feel fresh and modern instead of ushering shoppers directly from the home page to the product listing to check out. If the website experience engages them from start to finish, customers will be open to a different shopping experience.

Find ways to create a VIP experience.

Through exclusive content, special sales or members-only perks, shoppers want to feel like they are getting something unique out of their shopping experience. In addition, providing VIP experiences can help build brand loyalty because shoppers know they will get more than just a product out of their transaction. Other methods that can help to create a VIP experience are loyalty programs, referral programs, personalized outreach and injecting more novelty into your marketing efforts.

It is time for merchants to relinquish archaic approaches. Instead, brands that strive to remain relevant must be willing to innovate. It may be easier to lean on the industry’s best practices, but it creates a predictable experience that could leave your brand lost in a sea of competitors. Shoppers want an easy and entertaining experience, and the businesses that give that to them have a greater chance of success.

JJ Workman is the VP of Growth at Tapcart. He helps revenue teams at ecommerce and technology companies more effectively engage their communities, convert prospects to customers, retain revenue and grow profits.

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