Gone are the days when businesses could ascribe the feature of exclusivity only to luxury products and product lines.
Strong differentiation has become a central narrative in eCommerce—and what this really means is that exclusivity is now a part of a strategic approach to create special/unique/limited experiences for shoppers.
In this post, we elaborate on why eCommerce marketing works when it incorporates exclusivity as a proven technique—and how 6 eCommerce brands have been using it in memorable ways.
What is exclusivity in eCommerce marketing?
Exclusivity is the phenomenon where a brand creates a special or selective way of catering to a segment of shoppers.
The segment for whom the brand is driving exclusivity depends on the goals of that marketing effort.
For example, when a kids’ clothing brand creates an exclusive line of products only for baby girls, the parents of this demographic get the “this is just for a parent like me” feeling—and in effect, may want to readily buy.
Let’s take another example:
Ann Taylor is an eCommerce brand that’s known to target idle customers with exclusive offers to warm them up for purchases again—the following is an instance of that.
There are several reasons a shopper will notice this offer of exclusivity:
- It displays a relational tone of language
- It highlights “special offer” and reiterates with “just for you”
- It offers a CTA for immediate action
In the next section, we’ll take you through 6 brands that are utilizing the exclusivity tactic to bring customers closer to their products and establish a positive brand perception.
6 eCommerce Brands that Perfect Exclusivity in eCommerce Marketing
1. Ace pre-order campaigns—like GlossyBox
Pre-order campaigns have recently become a dual-sided vantage point for eCommerce businesses:
On one hand, they generate exclusivity (by targeting those who’re truly interested to place an order first).
And on the other, they help the business assess crucial aspects like market demand and customer feedback.
Because pre-orders are orders that shoppers can place for products that aren’t yet available (but have been announced), the anticipation is naturally greater.
Subscription box brand Glossybox enhances the powers of eCommerce exclusivity by running some cutting-edge pre-order campaigns and promoting them well.
What they’ve also done on the side is to incorporate “exclusivity” into their everyday communication, including what a shopper encounters when they go over to their website.
They extend exclusivity to segment their target audience—which is why they have special discounts and offers meant only for students.
If you want to set a great pre-order campaign in motion, here are a few things you’ll have to consider:
Start communicating before the pre-order launch
Because 15-28% pre-orders happen on the first day itself, you’ve got to build anticipation and awareness at least a month in advance—use email, SMS and pop-ups to build the narrative up to the day of the launch.
Create a separate landing page for the pre-order launch
Drive more traffic to this by linking from your homepage and optimizing your website for Google to feature the launch as a result.
Introduce polls/surveys through customer segmentation
You can reach out to loyal customers with questions and even offer a reward in return to make more shoppers take the survey.
Use urgency for the pre-order launch day
Declare a discount for the first X people to place an order, declare tiered discounts— 25% for the first 100 orders, then 15% for the next 100 and so on.
Urgency on your mind? Read: eCommerce Scarcity Marketing: 10 Common Mistakes + How to Fix Them
2. Create “limited edition” products—like Away
The “limited edition” is an exclusivity hack that can create excitement and generate fun—provided you do it with flair.
eCommerce brand Away is known for coming out with “limited edition” products every now and then, and the reason they do well is because they retain the brand’s design & personalization aesthetics.
For example, when their Maverick “limited edition” bags were launched, various segments of their target audience felt kicked—the brand ensured there were two kinds of carry-on bag sizes as well as two checked sizes.
Similarly their limited edition Aura collection has featured hues that shoppers have loved and the press has called “Away’s most Insta-worthy designs yet”.
If you’re looking to create similar “limited edition” success, here are a few to-dos you’ll have to remember:
Make minor upgrades to an existing best selling product
Like what Solo Stove did with their Elemental series—in their limited edition they just brought in a set of attractive colors.
Bring in a sense of urgency through microcopy
Introduce small nudges like Away does—sometimes something as simple as “Almost gone (for good)” works better than “Hurry! Buy now!.”
Leverage themes your target audience is likely to prefer
How successfully your limited edition products sell is a lot up to how well you know your audience—for example, when Coca Cola did the “Share a Coke” campaign, the brand knew its audience would respond to their names or the names of their loved ones being labeled on the bottles.
Be clear about your goals
For example, zero-waste brand Sporty & Rich is very clear that their “capsule” collections are meant to clear out excess inventory and align with their zero-waste goals—this helps them plan out their limited editions in terms of stock & windows of availability.
Looking for ideas on personalization? Read: eCommerce personalization: 20 revenue generating examples
3. Generate excitement through mystery boxes—like Zuru
Everyone likes a bit of mystery—whether it’s in films or some purchases they make online.
Mystery boxes have become a thing in eCommerce for the simple reason: shoppers want to pay money to be surprised in very personalized ways.
It’s a strategy that allows eCommerce businesses gamify the shopping experience—with a surprise package waiting at the end of it.
And because no two packages are the same, every shopper has claim to uniqueness no other shopper has.
This form of exclusivity is what eCommerce toy brand Zuru has come to be well known for.
Take the example of how the brand launched their “minis mystery boxes” in 2019—where each box called “5 Surprise” contained tiny replicas of universally known products like Heinz ketchup bottles and Jell-O boxes.
Notice how in the above example urgency is brought in—only 8 left in stock—to further drive the point that stocks are limited and people are showing interest.
If you want to build excitement through the mystery box approach, here are a few things you’d best consider:
Give special attention to the design of the box
Since mystery boxes ride the trend of unboxing, if your mystery boxes are difficult to open or peel off, chances are your shoppers wouldn’t want to make videos and share them—plus word of bad box design gets around thanks to social media.
Leverage UGC to the fullest extent
If you’re hyping up a specific mystery box launch, make sure you follow it up with a social media campaign requesting related UGC—you can then use this material to promote the mystery box further.
Limit the number of items to 5
While there’s no real choice paralysis that shoppers have to overcome in this case, more than 5 products within a mystery pack can feel disorienting—it also may not make business sense to you if you’re in the subscription business and would want shoppers to return for more purchases.
4. Buzz it up with exclusive collaborations—like Heyday
What sets the stage for exclusivity for an eCommerce brand is also how it collaborates with other brands and what exclusive customer experiences those collaborations result in.
An eCommerce brand that has been making waves in creating this kind of exclusivity is Heyday.
The brand incorporates a collaboration strategy that brings about exclusivity—an example of this would be how the brand became the exclusive retailer for OneKind, an indie skincare brand in 2019.
Similarly, at the moment, the brand is promoting its collaboration with “The Outset”, a skincare brand co-founded by none other than Scarlett Johansson (this simple fact lending an elite and exclusive feel to the associated offerings).
If you’re looking to create exclusivity through brand collaborations, here are a few things you’ve got to remember:
Look for brand alignment in collaborators
For example, when IKEA decided to collaborate with late iconic designer Virgil Abloh, the limited edition that resulted was instantly up for grabs. The Markerad collection, as it was called, came about to satisfy the first home setting up dreams of millennials. The limited edition featured just 15 kinds of products and was an instant hit with the intended target audience.
Look for complementary strengths
If your immediate goal is to enter a market where your presence isn’t defined, choose a collaborator who has already made a mark there. A fine example of this would be how Casper (a mattress brand) and West Elm (a high-end furniture brand) decided on collaborating on the “try a casper mattress” campaign—in the process, West Elm was able to promote its furniture to a crowd it otherwise wouldn’t have access to and vice versa.
Here's something you'll love: Selling luxury products online: 7 unique strategies to boost conversions
5. Take the invite-only route like—Atoms Shoes
People, and especially shoppers, feel a keen sense of gratification when they know they have access to something others don’t.
This is the feeling that invite-only events and access mimic, and ensure shoppers really show up and spend as well.
In the eCommerce context, one brand that has continually made the most of invite-only access is Atoms Shoes.
There was a time when the brand sold tennis shoes exclusively through invite-only access.
The process was simple: an exit intent pop-up would collect customer email details to send across an invite for the final purchase—reports say they received thousands of orders in the process.
To incorporate a successful invite-only exclusivity strategy, here are a few areas you’ll have to look into:
Limit the access to JUST ONE product or discount
Even if shoppers know what you’re doing is exclusive and by invite-only, it loses its appeal if you spread it across multiple products or offers.
Hence it’s important that you segment your customers and run such accesses on only one product or offer per segment.
Leverage the invite-only tactic for the initial stages of a product launch
This is because the secret sauce that powers invite-only access is word-of-mouth.
At the beginning, when a product is still not well-known, the invite-only approach makes it a talking point—as a result, more potential buyers flock to enjoy limited access or a special early bird price etc.
6. Focus on curating a line of products—like Book of the Month
Combining personalization and exclusivity can create an experience that shoppers will flock to make a part of their everyday lives.
This is why promoting “curated” products as a monthly or yearly subscription can create so much traction.
This is the approach that Book of the Month takes.
BOTM curates a selection of books every month and lets shoppers either take on the monthly subscription mode or pay a lesser subscription amount for the entire year.
What makes their selections exclusive?
- In-house editors and book aficionados carefully create the book line-up every month (the shopper can pick one favorite of their own)
- Every book in a line-up comes in hardcover (which would practically cost more $ per book if a shopper bought it from outside)
- Every book carries BOTM branding, which ensures the books look different from what’s out there
If product curation is how you’d want to run with exclusivity, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Introduce a quiz or questionnaire
This can help you collect more real-time data to look into shopper preferences, browsing behavior and what they may experience as gaps with a competing business (you could then fill some of these gaps).
Use curated content to create awareness
A lot of times what you curate might be great, but because shoppers may not have adequate awareness, they might stay away. When you align your content to support the way you curate, shoppers can understand their options and see what will work best for them.
Dive deeper with: eCommerce Subscriptions: 15 Amazing Examples (+ Ways to Increase Subscription Sales)
People also ask:
1. What is product exclusivity?
Product exclusivity is a phenomenon where an eCommerce business puts guardrails between a product and its consumers, making only some of the latter access it.
It also applies to exclusive customer experiences that a brand creates in order to improve loyalty and customer lifetime value.
A significant aspect that drives the idea of product exclusivity is psychological in nature—it is in bringing an edge to a feature, price point or experience that makes end users feel privileged and special—inspiring them to buy and engage with the brand.
2. What are the ways to promote exclusivity?
Brands often promote exclusivity by limiting the amount of product available (and say something like, only 100 pieces available).
They also put limitations around the window of time a product is available—and call it “limited edition”.
They may also pass on an exclusive offer only to a particular segment within their target audience.
Other ways of promoting exclusivity include improving overall product value through brand collaborations, offering special access to a particular demographic of shoppers and bringing in an element of mystery/curiosity.
3. Why is exclusivity important in business?
Exclusivity ensures customer experience does not get jaded or boring—in the long run, exclusivity works as a hook to help shoppers engage more, engage with greater intent, buy more and even refer more (provided the business takes the right approach).
eCommerce businesses that play around with exclusivity to create products and product lines with special features and price points intend to do one PRIMARY thing: create a strong value proposition that sets that specific brand apart from everyone else.
Ace exclusivity—but first, UX
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