E-commerce Market Examples - May 2003

Ecommerce or online shopping market examples. Most of us run businesses in categories filled with competitors.

Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Caloundra, Buderim, Noosa or anywhere in the world.

What's the best way for us to create a strong brand?

The secret lies in narrowing the focus of your business until you've created a new category you can be first in.

From Ford to BMW

Consider the auto industry. Henry Ford didn't invent the automobile, but he was the first to combine it with an assembly line. That reduced his costs enough so that millions could afford a car. Being first with an affordable car allowed Ford to dominate the category, even though there were literally hundreds of car companies in the U.S. by 1910. That's a powerful brand!

So how did other auto manufacturers develop successful brands? By creating new categories in the mind of the buying public. If you're in the market for a "safe" car, Volvo is probably the first brand to pop into your mind. If you're looking for the "ultimate driving machine," BMW owns that category. Buyers shopping for a high-priced luxury car think Mercedes Benz.

Notice that none of these companies is trying to be all things to all people. They narrowed their focus until they had a new category they could be first in. Even though other car companies could make claims about the safety of their cars, it's unlikely they're going to supplant Volvo in the public's mind. Volvo "owns" the safe car category.

Two Fast Food Examples

When Tom Monaghan owned a small pizza restaurant near a college campus, he started asking his customers what changes they would like to see in his business. Did they want a higher quality pizza? No, the quality was fine. Did they want a cheaper pizza? No, the price was fair. What they really wanted was a pizza that came to them. Thus, Domino's Pizza created the new category of pizza delivery, and even though others offer the same service, being first allows Domino's to enjoy a dominant share of the market.

Little Caesars saw another opportunity. If they focused on take-out pizza, they could save money on delivery and a large restaurant. That would allow them to make money even if they sold two pizzas for the price of one. Pizza. Pizza. Brilliant.

Apply These Ideas to Your Web Business

If you're trying to grow your business, it might seem logical to expand your offerings, but that's unlikely to be successful in the long run. As these few examples have shown, it's often better to narrow your focus until you've created a new category you can be first in. If you're a specialist, people will regard you as more of an expert in your field than a generalist.

Let's say you're a photographer. If you live in a town or city of any size, you no doubt have lots of competition. Look around for opportunities to separate yourself from the herd. Maybe you could become known as the only one in town to call for action shots during kids' athletic games. Or maybe you specialize in soft-focus sepia-toned photos of mother and child. Fly fishermen. Architectural details. Even though you've narrowed your pool of prospects, you've also eliminated most of your competition.

Our photographer could expand her business while maintaining focus by publishing a book, printing greeting cards and calendars, or teaching lessons, all in her specialized area.

She'll know she's created a powerful brand when her name is the first one to pop into a parent's head when they want a "hero shot" of their young soccer player.

Once you have your category you move on to customer friendly web design.

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