Positioning your store in the online market

Successful positioning adds value to your store and gives you a head start on the competition. Positioning is the art of standing out, distinguishing your business from others in the mind of your audience. You can stand out with high product quality, great service, low prices, or dedicated care for the environment. But it’s important to communicate this position to your target group, as they eventually decide how they view your store. In this post, I’ll help you position your store in the online market.

The fifth P in marketing

If you’re in marketing, you’re probably familiar with the name Philip Kotler. And if that name doesn’t ring a bell, you’ve might have heard of the four P’s: product, price, place, and promotion. When I studied Marketing decades ago, these were the core of every marketing strategy. Since then, many have added their own extra P’s like people and purpose. Philip Kotler also mentions another P: positioning.

Definition of positioning

Kotler defines positioning (your store or company) as:

“the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market. The end result of positioning is the successful creation of a customer-focused value proposition, a cogent reason why the target market should buy the product.”
(Philip Kotler: Marketing Management, 2003)

This is closely related to finding your niche market. In my post about finding your shop’s niche, I explained how a product and target audience can be considered shop shapers. You can build an entire store just based on the right product and the right market. Since positioning is about finding your spot in the mind of the target market, it’s clear that emotions play a part as well.

Questions to ask yourself

If you want to position your online store, it might help to ask yourself some questions:

  • What is your ideal customer? (not in terms of budget, but in terms of values)
  • What are my personal values and how do these relate to my products or company?
  • What do I consider my company’s core competencies and how can I make these visible?
  • What brands do I like and how would people associate our company with these brands?
  • What are the current trends in my market and what can our products contribute to that?

I realize that it’s not that simple to answer these questions. It’s quite heavy stuff and requires a lot of your time. Especially since it’s almost all related to emotions. But thinking about these topics will help you find your store’s position.

Determine your store’s position

There is a simple way to determine and work towards your store’s position. First define the following variables:

  1. Company name
  2. Product
  3. Target market
  4. Needs of your target market
  5. Distinctiveness of your company

That might require some research, and perhaps you haven’t thought about a number of these variables. But when you’ve defined them, your brand position will be something like this:

[Company] supplies to [target market], looking for [needs]. [Company] distinguishes itself from competitors by [distinctiveness].

Have a look at a few examples

This is quite a strict format, but you’re free to alter it to fit your company. To give you an idea of what a store’s positioning can look like, I’ll give you a few well-known examples:

Coca Cola

Cola is popular worldwide and is liked by people of all age groups while diet (and zero) coke targets the niche segment for people who are more health-conscious. Coca Cola uses a competitive positioning strategy to be way ahead of its competitors in the non-alcoholic beverages market. This strategy has always been to associate happiness, positivity and the good life with their products. Something Coca-Cola has been the master of for over 100 years. Source: Marketing91


“Don’t Buy This Jacket”. This Patagonia advertisement (2011) talked about the cost to the environment of one of their own best-selling jackets. And asked consumers to reconsider buying this jacket, recommending to go for a used product. And this might seem weird, but it fits in quite well with their positioning: creating products that last, minimizing our impact on the environment, and using recycled and organic materials. Patagonia also donates to, and is involved in, many environmental initiatives that resonate well with the environmentally-conscious customer it targets. Source: Investopedia

The Body Shop

The Body Shop expects its customers to view its products as beauty products with a focus on health and nature, instead of glamour. They use all natural and organic ingredients in their products. But that’s not all. To further establish their position, the brand puts forward the environmental concern and campaigns against animal testing of beauty products. Source: Marketing91

Note that these aren’t the brand positions these companies set up in their mission statement or marketing plans. These are the positions that others imagine these companies have or had. These examples are simply here to illustrate to you what your position could be and how you can achieve it.

So what to do?

Find the elements that your desired customers would look for in a product or company, which Kotler refers to as ‘points-of-parity’. And find the areas where you are able to distinguish yourself from your competition, which Kotler calls ‘points-of-differentiation’. This way customers will consider your brand and you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from the competition. That sums it up quite nicely, I think.

Positioning is the first thing to do, and creating buzz should be the second. Tell the world about your brand position! Use your blog, use social media, even use your site design to express your values and position your (company and) products in an online market with competition from all over the world.

Make sure your buzz is related to your products. If you want to position your company as conscious, animal testing and the environment could be topics for your blog. Write about promotions and other sales if your desired position is to be the cheapest online perfume outlet ever. Positioning is about distinctiveness and relevance, and making sure your consistent with it.

Read more: Find your shop’s niche »

Over to your online store

What about your online store? Do you have a hard time determining and creating your store’s position? Or do you already occupy a “distinctive place in the mind of the target market”? Share your experience in the comments below!

Keep reading: Building a brand for your business »

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