Whether a bricks & mortar or virtual business, differentiation is a core organisational activity. It's what sets your business, brand, products and services apart from your competitors. And, it is fundamental to how an online marketing campaign will be conducted.
Despite this commonality, businesses with an online presence can create differentiation via a number of diverse strategies. According to Strauss and Frost (2006) and subsequent literature, there are seven ways an online business can create differentiation. Some may work for some businesses, while others may not.
Site Environment. This refers to the website and such features as easy navigation, the provision of accurate information and products / services displayed clearly.
Making the Intangible Seem Tangible. That is, although the sites are selling a physical product, the business must do everything it can to make the product appear as such. It might require significant imagination for a consumer to envisage the intangible product on the computer screen as a physical product. Using virtual tours and customer reviews are two methods for achieving this.
Develop Trust. This mostly relates to security. Businesses with low brand recognition, in particular, must promote their secure site.
Promotion of Ease of Ordering and Timely Delivery. Because this is a major reason for consumers purchasing online, it should be actively promoted.
Pricing. Non-price differentiation is preferable because price differentiation is easily copied.
Customer Relationship Management. Increasingly being used as a way of differentiating a business, this is about relationship building via personalised service provision.
Experience Enhancement. This differentiation strategy can occur via the enhancement of the selling, buying or user experience (Feeny, 2001).
Businesses online can also differentiate themselves online via products, services, personnel, channels and images (Kotler, 2003).
Differentiation strategies are central to any business. In the online world, however, traditional strategies have undergone a remodel. It is important that business understand and apply this when planning and implementing an online marketing strategy. Only then, will the foundations of a successful campaign exist.