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5 Ways to Validate a Business Idea, Right Now

Don't let your day job or lack of capital stop you from finding and testing a business idea. Here's how.
Last year, I embarked upon a personal challenge to validate a business idea in 30 days. To make it even more difficult, it was a random idea chosen by my readers. They asked me to do it without using my existing website, traffic and business connections and without spending more than 20 hours per week on the project. On top of that, I limited myself to spending no more than $500 validating this idea. The experiment was a success.In just two weeks, I built an email list of 565 subscribers without having an actual website. Then, I reached out to a handful of those subscribers and pre-sold 12 copies of a book that didn't even exist yet, all in less than 30 days. I wrote about the experiment in real-time with in-depth weekly updates, successes, failures and lessons learned along the way, right here in my validation challenge. Today, I want to share with you the five most effect…

5 Branding Strategies for Smaller Online Retailers

Just about 10 years ago, at a time when in-store purchases still dominated retail sales, some sceptics believed that e-commerce was just hype and the bubble would burst anytime.
10 years later, the bubble only seems to be getting bigger.
Alibaba, an online marketplace, claims to have over 300 million customers. Amazon’s annual revenue is over $67 billion, Apple made over $ 10 billion in revenues in online sales. Even brick and mortar stores like Walmart, and Staples clock annual revenues of over $10 billion just in online sales, according to a report on Insider Monkey.
E-commerce now seems to be dominated by some large players who control a major share of the online market.
Now, how can smaller online retailers compete with the big guys?
Here’s a list of branding strategies for smaller e-commerce businesses:

#1 Money back guarantee

In the early stages of online shopping, consumers were reluctant to use their credit cards online. There was a certain level of fear. That’s when ‘Money Back Guarantee’ became popular. Most online retailers like Amazon, FlipKart, and many others still offer money back guarantees. This helps build trust. Today, customers almost expect it.

#2 Focus on a highly specific target market

Large retailers like Amazon focus on a broader mass market. Smaller retailers can focus on a highly targeted niche segment that is fairly large but not big enough for the larger players.

#3 Build a community around your brand

People are always looking to connect with each other in some way or the other. The Beetle Owners Club and Harley-Davidson Owners Group (H.O.G) are prime examples. It’s much easier to build a community for a smaller brand. The community can be based online with special live events once in a while.
#4 Tell a compelling story
One of the biggest advantages of small business is when owners are directly connected to their customers. Everybody has a story to tell. Unfortunately, very few of them actually tell their story.
A good write-up about where the company started, the location of the warehouses, the mission and purpose of the company, and even little things that happen in the office and in the lives of their staff builds an emotional connect with the brand.

#5 Position yourself as a specialist

Sometimes, focusing on a narrower segment and positioning yourself as an authority in your area of expertise makes you the go-to-guy in your niche.
James Chapman, Owner of Bella Bathrooms an online retailer of bathroom fittings says, “Our focus is only on bathrooms. I’ve been a former plumber, and I understand the business better than anybody else.
I don’t just position myself as an expert, I am the expert. When you know your trade well, you can recommend the right product to your customers. That’s a big deal. I can’t think of any big business that can offer such knowledgeable advice.
Customers don’t mind paying a little extra for valuable information. Our expertise just sets us apart from the competition.”

Conclusion

In an era of online commerce, it can be easy for smaller retailers to get intimidated by the bigger players. It doesn’t have to be that way. Bestselling author Seth Godin said, “Small is the new big.” Small businesses need to identify their niche, nurture their relationships with their customers, and know their business better than anybody else. Sometimes, it’s an advantage being small and agile.

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