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Jet.com launched into the online retail scene this summer, with $225 million in funding and eyes set to directly challenge Amazon. Their strategy? Competitive pricing via a real-time dynamic pricing structure, which individualizes pricing for customers based on number of items in a cart or payment type used.

While Jet.com’s main competitors are big box brands and marketplaces like Walmart or Amazon, the entire ecommerce industry felt the margin squeeze of Jet’s new strategy. With scaling SMBs around the world still attempting to balance out the monetary marginal issues arising from free shipping, Jet.com’s dynamic pricing structure adds yet another competitive pricing tactic to the industry’s arsenal –– one that many SMBs may find difficult to replicate.

And, with the holidays quickly approaching, the competitive pricing conversation is more relevant than ever. Shoppers have already been conditioned to expect deep discounts on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season.

So, what’s a retailer to do when a race to the bottom appears to be the only way to stay competitive? Well, first, take a step back. Smaller online businesses have a unique position within the industry –– offering custom products, high-quality service and prices that reflect craftsmanship rather than cost cuts.

Below, we offer three strategies to avoid the pricing race to the bottom, helping you to sell more, make more and ultimately grow your business this holiday season.

Offer Appealing Products

Utilizing dropshippers or cost-effective sourcing companies to expand your catalog with items known to sell well online is smart. But, your business needs something to make it unique. For the quickest scaling SMBs, this means a unique product offering you can’t find anywhere else online. Take FlashTats for example, an online businesses creating custom flash tattoos so intriguing even Beyonce herself wanted to partner with their team.

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Once you have a unique and desirable product offering, you can utilize those items as your high-margin pieces within your catalog. Additional items which are less unique to your site, but still relevant for your customers, can be priced lower –– serving as a tactic to increase average order value rather than serving as your sole revenue-producing products.

Provide Memorable Customer Service

There is no reason to cut your prices to keep pace with competitors if your customer service excels theirs. In fact, 9 out of 10 U.S. customers say they would pay more to ensure a high-quality experience.

Think about how you can incorporate your customer experience into every single aspect of your online store. Boutiques often maintain a reputation for high quality service, so mimic many of the attributes people find so appealing about local in-store shopping. Write personal notes to each of your shoppers, if possible, and include them in their package. Offer 24/7 customer support –– using a mobile app to respond to any off-hour questions via text so you don’t have to be tied to your desk. Use YouTube as a way to talk directly to your customers, putting a face and a voice to a brand.

Whatever you do, be sure that your brand experience excels your competitor’s from the moment a customer lands on your site to the day their package arrives at their door.

Cultivate a Strong Brand Image

Similar to providing a high-quality customer experience, be sure to cultivate a strong brand presence that generates customer loyalty. It is 6x more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to nurture a repeat one. This isn’t a stat to take lightly. Successfully scaling online businesses are companies which drive high customer loyalty.

Customer loyalty encourages word-of-mouth marketing which will then increase your net new customer acquisition, without much cost on your end. Focus your activities, on retaining customers. Put in place a loyalty program. Encourage them to sign up for your newsletters, and then make those newsletters particularly relevant to their lives. Launch a blog and keep it updated, both with regular business news as well as brand perspectives on topics trending within your industry.

Give customers a reason to come back time and time again, and a reason to emotionally connect with your brand. Once you have them connected, the race to the lowest price point is no longer an issue. Win customers over on brand perception, loyalty and engagement rather than on a lowest price possible strategy.

Conclusion

This holiday season, shoppers will be looking for the right gifts at the right price. New and established retailers will try to win their attention with heavily discounted prices, but it can be a losing battle. Sacrificing margins to gain revenue can only work in the short term. For online SMBs looking to scale this holiday season, a combination of a strong brand image, unique offerings and customer service will help your brand to out-compete the big box retailers.

Photo: Jet.com

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