Surviving in E-Commerce – The Advantages of Being Different

Malte Dietrich
Malte Dietrich
November 25 · 9 min read

How to Survive in E-Commerce – The Advantages of Being Different

It shouldn’t be a pipe dream to want to be different, to stand apart from the rest, to stand proudly in your own right.

We all remember the kids we used to be, the ones that solved their math equation a little differently to the rest of the class. Those of us, who when the teacher said ‘It takes 7 steps to solve this equation’ found a way around that and did it in 5 or 10, but either way, did it their own way. The wish to stand apart, to be an individual.

We believe that being different is not only imperative, it is it’s own recipe for success in the business world.

When it comes to E-Commerce, to online shopping, to being part of the digital world, things can get murky. Sometimes it feels like a pool of people are just doing the same thing really. They publish their website, use a standard template to work from, and then go about following the same ‘Sales for Christmas’ and ‘Weekend Special Offers’ that everyone else is doing. I mean they are having a lot of success with this, right? Right?

It’s the standardized approach with the hope of being unique that simply doesn’t go hand in hand. Of course, we all appreciate a good ‘ol sale and are aware of the fact that there are some really great websites out there that have been made using a premade template. However, how great does it feel when you visit a custom built website? You may not have consciously realized that the websites you love most, are the ones made with you in mind. The websites that have clever and useful pop up messages to help you on your online visit, that move and work in a way that feels seamless and that above all, have features and design aspects that make sense and are unique.

The current state of E-Commerce

Now whilst E-Commerce revenue is rapidly on the rise: ‘Global E-commerce is expected to rise to a total of $4.89 trillion in 2021—almost a 400% increase in seven years’ – source, it’s an arena that we don’t see slowing down. We need to think about the fact that then equally, the number of competitors trying to get their piece of pie is also growing. So, how do you, as someone wanting to be part of this, carve out some space for yourself?

Hopefully as you continue reading, the answers will slowly start to reveal themselves to you.

Let’s get realistic.

We live in a world that truly likes to play Monopoly, and we don’t mean the fun game you play on game night (well, some say fun, we hope all the business minded readers agree that it’s fun, at least when you’re not trying to buy a hotel off your mother-in-law that is!), we mean a world where giants are forming and dominating entire markets. When you think of an E-Commerce giant, who do you think of first?

Yes, me too! AMAZON!

Amazon made a revenue of over 386 billion dollars in 2020, they have a global market share of 7.7% of global market share for online retailers and one stock will cost you just under $3700 (PER STOCK!) (source)

Do you really want to go to war with Amazon? Battle their prices, their established fast delivery track record and their generous return policy? Not really, no. You feel the pressure though, don’t you? You see this hugely successful online platform, and it triggers something in you to want to follow their recipe for success. We beg of you, resist that urge! Time has shown that Amazon has deep pockets and is ready to sell at a loss to secure market share. It’s a losing game to try to catch up with them on their home turf.

It might seem daunting to even take a shot at starting an online shop, with Amazon taking so much of the cake. Rest assured though, there is still plenty of pie to go around, you just need to know how to get your hand at the table. Nowadays it is ‘easy’ to set up your own online store. With established platforms like Shopify, you can easily pay your monthly subscription, choose a template that suits your business (sort of) and get to it! Which makes sense, and is still commendable, setting up an online shop is an amazing feat regardless of how you do it. Shopify has more than 1.7 merchants selling through their platform. This sounds like a small number now that we were talking about billions and Amazon. But we’re taking merchants like ‘Nestle’, ‘Kylie Cosmetics’ (billion dollar companies in their own right too). And all of this is doubly accelerated by trends like D2C (Direct to Consumer) which supports the idea that brands should start selling directly to their customers without using intermediaries like retailers.

(source 1) (source 2)

It’s Time to Set Yourself Apart from the Rest!

With the giants taking up large swaths of the market and many newcomers fighting for what is left, you may be asking yourself ‘How can I find my place?’, ‘How can I be successful?’

Well, instead of asking yourself this, rather focus your attention on what makes your offering unique and how you can best translate this to your potential customers.

What we’re trying to say is that if you are going to go online, have your online shop, then why not do it as tailored to yourself and your brand as possible?

Time to make that ‘younger you’ who sat in math class and found new creative ways of solving things proud. Like we said, it’s time to set yourself apart.

Market places will always converge at one common denominator: they want and need to be able to sell everything to everyone. So when you go online you'll see that Amazon sells almost everything you could dream of and you may think to yourself, yes, this company offers fashion for example, but can they make a selection that goes with recent trends? Well, no, they just offer anything to anyone willing to buy. They might offer electronics but can they really answer more complicated product questions? No, Amazon let's their merchants and users answer product questions. Can you count on quality? No, Amazon offers a lot of subpar quality products and it's hard to find quality products if you don't know the exact item yet so shopping on Amazon can often feel like a bit of a gamble. Do they help you find the right choice for you? No, try to find a useful information sheet on sizing for example, or the right tools for your DIY projects. Trust me, I have tried, it’s hard! Do they help you with content around the products? No, there's no tips on how to use your baking utensils or how to do handiwork. Amazon just sells the item, high quality or subpar quality, and leaves you to figure out the rest. It’s tough.

So what you need to do, dear online shop owner, is add value to what you sell, which is something that Amazon does not (and probably cannot) do, thereby setting yourself apart from the get-go. Build a great user experience around your products and get creative! 

  • Break the mould of E-Commerce by creating a user experience that's outside the old categories-and-product-pages mould.
  • Keep the customer experience in mind, before, during and after the sale. (For far too many companies, the customer experience ends after buying. For great brands, the sale is just the beginning of the customer experience.)
  • Offer valuable information on your website, or write a blog, post reviews to your page so that the customer can make an informed decision before purchasing.
  • Offer assistance during the sale, either by having a useful ‘FAQ section’ on your website or have a live chat or chat bot function.
  • If someone wants to return something, have a structured yet fair policy, send them emails for their shopping experience and use that feedback to constantly improve your service.
  • Take your customers seriously and put them first.
  • Realize and accept that it takes creativity and energy to stand out and be unique.

Whilst tools like Shopify, with its templates and apps, are phenomenal and massively useful as they allow easy market entry, they often leave you with a generic looking store with no added value to either your business or the shopping experience for your online visitors.

Luckily, the proof is in the pudding. We’ve seen it time and time before, companies who were willing to try something new and managed to secure a significant market share by going all in on a custom approach and put both thought and emphasis in adding value around their products. Niche players that come to mind are titans like Rose, Thomann. (source), SkullCandy, MilkBar and Bloom and Wild. It is amazing what these companies have done and the message they have been able to convey through their custom built stores.

Trying to fit into a mould, or trying to blend in with the crowd and just be like everyone else, simply isn’t going to cut it. The market is too saturated at the top and too competitive for this. You need to create an online shopping experience and website that really brings out your business's voice and that is uniquely tailored to you. Instead of trying to compete with the big boys on their playing field, instead pivot and take a different approach. Do what they can’t. Offer a custom experience, filled with thought, care, passion and of course, all your genius products.

On a last note, we would like to dedicate this blog to all those working round the clock to be unique and stand out. It’s not an easy thing to do, to forge your own path, so this goes out to all the movers and the shakers, the ones who are extremely passionate about what they do, and want to take the time to explore all their options to best present their product in a unique way.

Why the shout out? Well, because that’s what we stand for here at Especial. We’re looking to work with and work for companies who are willing to stick their neck out in honour of following their dreams. We refuse the average, we refuse to settle – our main intention is to bring out the best of ourselves at all times.

We’d be more than happy to help you with us, as it is truly a venture that we are passionate about. If you would like to know more about how we can help you, feel free to contact us online, click ‘Get In Touch’ below or send us an email on

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Malte Dietrich
Written by

Malte Dietrich

Digital Strategist & Co-Owner

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