Positioning your shop in the online market

Successful positioning adds value to your business and gives you a head start on the competition. Positioning is the art of distinguishing your business from others in the mind of your customers. You can make your webshop stand out by high product quality, great service, low prices or dedicated care for the environment. But it’s equally important to communicate this distinctive factor to your target group. Your position is their minds. In this post I’ll help you construct your desired position for your webshop.

positioning your shop online

The fifth P

Every marketing expert in the world knows the name of Philip Kotler. And even if you don’t know that name, you must have heard from the four P’s: product, price, place and promotion. These were the core of every marketing strategy when I studied Marketing decades ago. Since then, many have added their own extra P’s like people and purpose. Philip Kotler himself mentions another P as well: Positioning.

Definition of positioning

Kotler defines positioning 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 shop 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 shop, 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 the core competences of my company and how can I make these visible?
  • What brands do I like and how would people associated our company with these brands?
  • What are current trends in my market and what can our products contribute to that?

It’s not that simple to answer these questions. It’s quite heavy stuff, come to think of it. Especially since it’s almost all emotions. But thinking about these topics can help you find your shop’s position.

Construct your shop’s position

There is a simple way to construct your 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 have defined them, your brand position will be something like this:

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

Some examples

This is quite a strict format, where you should of course craft this to fit you as a person or your company. Let’s look at some possible examples for known companies.


Cola is popular worldwide and is liked by people of all age groups while the diet coke targets the niche segment for people who are more health conscious. Coca Cola uses competitive positioning strategy to be way ahead of its competitors in the non-alcoholic beverages market.
(Source: Marketing91.com)


Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis for males, females, and children, at any age that love the outdoors. Patagonia calls out other companies with “environmental initiatives” to beat theirs.
(Source: Adventures in Branding)

Body Shop

The Body Shop expects its customers to view its products as beauty products with great quality, from a trustworthy brand. The fact that its products have a compelling natural, ethical and environmental story is an added advantage, and how it differentiates its brand from other big mainstream brands and retailers, instead of ethical or charity purchases to customers.
(Source: Natural Cosmetics Lovers)

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.

So what to do?

Find the elements that your desired clients would look for in a product or company. And find the areas where you want to and are able to distinct yourself from your competition. Kotler refers to these as ‘points-of-parity’ and ‘points-of-differentiation’. That sums it up quite nicely, I think.

Positioning is the first thing to do, and creating buzz should be the second. And strongly agree with that. 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. Animal testing and the environment could be topics for your blog, if you want to position your company as conscious. 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.

Over to you

What about your shop? Do you have a hard time construction your shop’s position? Or do you manage to occupy a “distinctive place in the mind of the target market”? Share your experience in the comments below!

Read more: ‘Find your shop’s niche’ »