The first generation of e-commerce businesses became major market players because of two reasons, the absence of competitors; and that they sold products on horizontal platforms across categories, which, in fact is the most overlooked reason. Had these companies started their business today, could they have penetrated the market with equal ease? The answer is a resounding no, because to succeed in today’s overcrowded market space, these companies would have struggled to differentiate themselves with their products and services. What emerges from this fact is that if you are launching your ecommerce business today, you need to be different from the rest, in fact as different as you can be. Have a closer look at the recently launched ecommerce ventures which have struck gold, and you’ll know why they owe it entirely to their deviated approach.

A Unique Approach is a Game Winning Approach

So what unique approach did these successful ventures take? These ventures have attempted to specialize in niches that remained underpenetrated for a long time. Made Goods, USM Modular and Pepperfry, for instance, targeted the furniture market and have become a name to reckon with in this domain. Likewise, Lenskart, EyebuyDirect and Clearlycontacts have hogged the eyewear market; Babycenter and Firstcry have monopolized baby products and Big Basket has cornered groceries.

Think about Locant, Craiglist, Quickr and OLX. These companies went a step ahead to come up with a more attention grabbing idea – sale of used products. The one thing common to this offbeat approach is cashing in on the oversight of older players and stealing the first-mover advantage.

Tactical Difference Does Nothing to Differentiate

Most start-ups try to be different by adopting few tactical differences, without quite realizing that it does not provide the unique variation needed by a business entering a crowded space. Differentiators like payment methods, delivery methods, packaging, or even product feature differentiation do not help an ecommerce venture make a difference and stand out. And when you rack your brains for the truly differentiating idea, chances are you will repeatedly hit a dead wall. So much so, you may soon give up; thinking the space for yet another refreshingly different model hardly exists.  But the fact is your own niche does exist, and you need to out-think yourself to discover it. Out-think, we believe is the right word, else you may end up getting a piss poor copy of an existing model and bring down the curtains on your chances.

Wish’s success is a shining example of how a venture can out-think competitors in a market where newer ideas seems impossible to come by. This cross-border shopping app sells stuff dirt cheap; and the trade-off is a protracted delivery time, which may even run into months.  Note, the differentiation has been created on a trade-off, which buyers find irresistible.

How to Be Innovatively Different

Though there are no short cuts to developing a different approach, you can make your task a lot easier by harnessing technology to develop a differentiating website. Remember how customers were delighted when they could rotate and magnify, product images to view it from any angle and how companies used them for creating the ultimate viewing experience. Similarly, by being in touch with the latest technology you can get out-of-the-box ideas to do wonders to your business. For instance if you are into footwear business, your website could suggest the perfect shoe sizes when consumers upload images of their foot. Likewise, if you are into eyewear, your website could suggest frames that could go well with their head shape.

In the age of virtual reality, Alibaba is bracing itself to give its consumers a differentiating experience in product viewing. The ecommerce giant is trying to out-think its competitors innovatively, to remain ahead of the race. Clearly, there’s a lesson to be learnt.