hen a prospective customer is thinking about making a purchase, a variety of factors come into play. Depending on the customer's wants and needs, they will be influenced by things like price, shipping speed, ingredients, brand, and more. As entrepreneurs, our job is to product service by.
Modern consumers have more choices than ever before. There are an endless amount of stores to order from on the internet, and if you want yours to stand out, then you need to skew value and find ways to make your offer as attractive as possible.
What are Value Skews?
Value is what entices a customer to make a purchase. Generally, if the price of the product is lower than what they would be willing to pay for it, the customer will perceive value. The more value they perceive, the more irresistible the offer will seem to them. Value skews are the characteristics of the offer that consumers care about. For a dropshipping store, consumers likely care about the price, the shipping speed, the packaging, the return policy, the product's impact on the environment, the customer service, and so on.
As a business, your job is to increase the perceived value of your product as much as possible, or until it no longer makes sense. The more ways you can 'skew' the value your product brings, the more it will fly off the shelves.
If you can deliver the same product for cheaper, then congratulations — you've just skewed value. However, dropshippers don't usually have much control over the price, so we must find other ways of skewing value.
Famous Value Skew Examples
Amazon — Variety & Delivery Speed: Amazon now accounts for 40% of all e-commerce sales in the USA, largely because of its infrastructure. It is able to offer 'free' 2-day shipping, 1-day shipping, and even same-day shipping in some locations. Therefore, delivery speed and cost are major value skews for attracting customers.
Walmart — Price & Variety: Walmart, one of the biggest retailers in the world, offers a wide selection of products at very low prices. Inventory, price, and location are all value skews that Walmart relies on.
Supreme — Exclusivity & Design: Supreme is a brand of apparel that drops limited edition collections of clothing, accessories, and even bricks. Consumers are willing to pay crazy amounts of money for Supreme items because of the exclusivity, the scarcity, and the brand image.
Apple — Design & Brand Image: Apple not only makes some of the most user-friendly consumer electronics, but has also created an ecosystem of products and services that benefit from one another. This creates a value skew of convenience and brand image for users, since their Apple devices are set up to communicate and connect with each other.
The Best Value Skews For E-Commerce Businesses
Price is one of the easiest value skews to understand. In general, a lower price means the product is more accessible. The lower the price, the less thought is required in the decision-making process. However, a lower price is not always better. Pricing your products higher than the industry average is a good strategy for marketing your products as higher quality than your competitor's. It's more believable than a high-quality product for a low price.
To point out the obvious, a higher price point also provides you with leverage. It gives you a bigger margin to play with, which you can use for growing the business, paying out your shareholders, or developing other value skews from this list. But, remember — it's easier to start off with a high price and lower it over time than it is to start off with a low price and raise it. Once your customers see you deliver at a lower price point, they'll get attached to it and they won't want to pay a higher price in the future.
Shipping speed is one of the most important factors in the consumer decision-making process. Nowadays, nearly half of American consumers receive at least one package from Amazon every week, many of which were delivered with one or two-day delivery. Consumers want their orders as soon as possible, and many of them would rather order from a different business than wait 3-6 weeks for a product to be shipped from overseas. Ambiguity is even worse, as 53% of consumers have reported that they won't carry through with a purchase if they don't know when it will be delivered. Therefore, it is of increasing importance that your business be able to offer fast shipping and honor your commitments.
On a side note, this is why we created DropCommerce. We wanted there to be a dropshipping company with fast shipping, and we couldn't find any that actually delivered. A few years later, we now have over 20,000 dropshipping products, all of which come from suppliers located in the US and Canada. If you'd like to see what we carry, and what we can help you sell in your own online store, then come create a free account! No credit card required!
Shipping price is another value skew of vital importance. Nearly 80% of consumers have reported that they would shop more online if offered free shipping, and 77% of consumers have abandoned a purchase due to "unsatisfactory shipping options". No matter how you cut it — expensive shipping is a major deterrent for customers.
When possible, free shipping is the way to go. Even though the consumer is still paying for the shipping in the product's price, studies show they prefer it this way. When they have decided that they are comfortable with the price of the product, finding out that there are other fees can be a deal-breaker.
Another option is to set a free shipping price with a minimum order value. Even though customers are being asked to place a bigger order, they will get more perceived value out of it than spending some of that money on shipping.
The environmental impact a company or its operations has is becoming more and more important to modern consumers. In fact, it is reportedly Generation Z's #1 concern. While consumers don't necessarily have control over how companies treat our planet, they do have control over what companies they do business with. People want to know that what they are buying isn't going to contribute to the destruction of the planet or its various life-forms.
Businesses can use this as a value skew in many different industries. For example, some beer companies are swapping out the plastic rings in favor of cardboard rings, since plastic is not biodegradable. If you're able to source your products in a way that has little-to-no impact on the environment, consumers will love you for it. Better yet, why not explore whether your product can be made using the by-products of another product. Shark Tank contestant Prime Six makes charcoal from hardwood sawdust that would otherwise end up in a landfill, and plants a tree for every purchase.
This value skew is a bit harder to control when dropshipping, but with a little creativity, it can still be added to your arsenal.
Coming with as much or more attention as environmental impact is a company's social impact. Nobody wants to find out that the t-shirt they are wearing was made by a slave, a child, or a person being exploited. When it was discovered that many of Nike's products were made in sweatshops with deplorable working conditions, the company was met with intense public scrutiny — scrutiny that continues to this day. Apple, one of the biggest tech companies in the world, reportedly installed nets outside of their factories to prevent workers from committing suicide at work. Talk about a PR nightmare.
It's best to avoid these situations entirely, and to ensure that your company is having a positive impact on society. Or, at the very least, isn't causing harm to it. As a dropshipper, you might want to do some research on your product's supply chain. This can be as simple as calling on a certifying third-party, or as complicated as paying a visit to their facilities.
Some companies that have a positive social impact draw upon their story as a main part of their marketing. On DropCommerce, we have a few amazing suppliers that are on a mission to change their communities. Sutisana helps former sex workers in Bolivia to find a stable line of work making crafts and accessories. Article22 pays locals in Vietnam and Laos 5x the local wage to recover leftover shrapnel and bombs from the Vietnam war, and turns those materials into jewelry. These are perfect examples of how you can add value through your company's social and environmental impacts.
One of the most underrated ways of adding value is through a compelling origin story. For the shoe brand Toms, the founder was backpacking through Latin America and saw the hardships that children were going through, so he founded Toms and donated one pair of shoes for every pair sold. Apple was founded by two college dropouts in a garage who wanted to make computers accessible to the masses. Patagonia was founded by a rock climber who made his own gear and sold it out of the back of his car.
Awesome origin stories can add a lot of perceived value to your products. However, these origin stories usually don't get developed overnight, and you should never lie about yours. If you want to develop yours, start by thinking about what led you to start your company. There are likely some reasons why you chose to get involved with your category instead of all the others, so you can start there.
Keep in mind that your story is a work-in-progress, and you can continue to add to it as you go on. The 'About Us' page on your website is a great place to display your origins, or you can even include the highlights in your advertising.
Having your products made with the right ingredients can be very compelling to your customers. For example, if you are selling food or beverages, consumers would likely pay more if there are no artificial colors or flavors, or if the products are organic. Many clothing brands have chosen to focus on materials like Merino Wool because it is softer and more breathable than Polyester. The point is, as long as you are selling physical products, there will always be ingredients that are held in higher regard than others. Using these ingredients will lead your product to have more value in the eyes of consumers, which translates into being able to charge a higher price.
Return Policy & Satisfaction Guarantee
While it may not be a major value skew for most consumers, many prospective customers will feel more at ease knowing that the company will take care of any issues that arise post-sale. Some companies do this by offering a 30-day money-back guarantee. Other companies offer a lifetime repair-or-replace warranty. And, some companies choose to proactively include a pre-paid return shipping label in the order, which symbolizes that you can return the item without paying any fees.
You can also let your customers know that you are there to assist them by including a phone number on your website. Many of the larger companies will choose not to do this, but as a smaller company you can get away with some things that will not scale.
Regardless of what you choose to implement, this is an excellent strategy for overcoming the road blocks that customers set up in their minds to block themselves from pulling the trigger. The more you can reassure them that you'll be there for them after they make their purchase, the more they will trust you, and they more they will purchase.
The last value skew that we're going to talk about today is your company's mission. Modern consumers are very conscious of who they are doing business with, and companies with a compelling mission will beat out companies that are just looking to make a profit. For example, Tesla's mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy. This is much more passion-invoking than Chevrolet's mission to "provide the highest level of service in automotive dealership operations". One is seeking to change the world, the other just wants you to enjoy your time shopping with them.
While you don't want to use your mission as a crutch, you do want to select something that contributes to the world you want to see. Having a strong mission or company values gives consumers a reason to like your company besides what you are selling. It's an underrated value skew, but one of the easiest to implement. Just don't think that it's going to be enough to stand on its own. If this is your only value skew, your organization is likely closer to a non-profit than a business.
Overall, these are just a few of the value skews that you can incorporate into your e-commerce business. There are surely others, some of which will depend on the niche that you are choosing. Not all of them will be a good fit for your marketing strategy, and that's okay. You only need a few value skews to put together an effective marketing strategy.
This concept of value skews was brought to our attention by MJ Demarco in his book Unscripted. If you're interested in learning a bit more about his concepts and frameworks, make sure to give his books a read!