We’ve reached a point at which there are new online businesses being launched just about every single day. This past February, we wrote about the ‘Top 10 Business Opportunities to Make Money’ and covered only a fraction of the different types of companies that exist online.

This is all exciting for people on both sides of business: Entrepreneurs feel that there are unending opportunities in the online arena, and consumers are always presented with something new. Where things get difficult though is in the attempt for business owners to stand out from the crowd.

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Needless to say, with many online businesses out there, there are always competitors to be concerned with. In many cases, as soon as you overcome one competitor, three more seem to take its place. That said, there are subtle, effective ways for an online business owner to gain an edge on the competition.

Here, we’ll list five strategies that are particularly manageable.

1. Show Personality on Social

Consumers consider different things in an online business: good products, easy-to-use websites, recommendations and reviews, and so on. Additionally though, particularly in younger generations, consumers tend to be drawn to companies that show a personable quality. Think of it this way: Which one is more likely to attract attention? Two Businesses selling virtually identical products, one is quiet and dull or the other which is personable and interesting. Social media gives modern online businesses the opportunity to be more like the second company in that hypothetical. While a social media personality can be taken too far (you still want to be professional and show some authority), a little bit of human engagement can build a favourable impression and it can go a long way toward.

2. Write Well

Looking into making your website attractive, you’ve likely come across on how to display written content. Entrepreneur sums up these writing tips as ways to make your content “more readable.” Some tips are shorter paragraphs, employing subheadings, bolding certain phrases, and so on. These are good, worthwhile tips. In addition though, we’d suggest placing an emphasis on the quality of the content. Proper grammar, spelling, and sound structure are not things site visitors make conscious notes of. Make the experience more seamless, noticeably poor writing can make a site seem unprofessional or unpolished. Visitors left with such an impression may move on.

3. Take Advantage of Automation Tools

Automation often brings to mind high-tech robots replacing human workers at big corporations. However, it’s actually a lot less intimidating — but no less useful — in reality, especially for small businesses. Automation tools are great for taking your business to the next level, from marketing and e-commerce automation and business processes, to chatbots and inventory management.

But there are several benefits and challenges to using these types of tools. Case in point: In FXCM’s guide to forex robots, a common type of automation tool in the financial industry, they list several pros and cons to the technology. The biggest benefit, of course, is that they reduce the negative impact of human emotion and imperfection, as automation can make decisions more precise and much faster than any single person. However, it’s important to have a good understanding of how your chosen tools work, so that you can mitigate some key risks that come with automation. These include bugs or glitches, as well as a lack of human reasoning. Whether it’s the scheduling software Calendly or the chatbot Tidio, try conducting test cases or scenarios to ensure that the tools are properly integrated into your business’ system.

4. Maximise Visual Appeal

Visual appeal is subjective, at least to a degree, which makes this a tough tip to follow. Nevertheless, it’s very important to pay attention to the look of your website. For instance, if you’re part of the hospitality industry, be sure to highlight all of the enticing elements of your business. You should consider adding a gallery of your restaurant’s food or hotel’s rooms. Whatever industry you’re part of, try placing emphasis on your business’ visual appeal to engage visitors on your website.

Visual appeal is subjective, at least to a degree, which makes this a tough tip to follow. Nevertheless, it’s very important to pay attention to the look of your website. Certain visual elements — such as cluttered text, too much or too little empty space, clashing colours, or a total lack of images — can make a site appear poorly designed, and sometimes distinctly old-fashioned. Avoiding these issues can be a good start. Beyond that, it can be wise to test your visuals with a neutral audience, so that you can receive unbiased feedback about visual appeal. A good-looking site, in the end, will often be more likely to retain visitors than a less attractive competitor.

5. Cultivate Influencers

When you hear “influencer,” you may think of Instagram users with hundreds of thousands of followers, or established celebrity figures. People like this are difficult for the average online business to attract. However, there are more small-scale influencers as well, and it can generally pay off to cultivate a few of them. In fact, SocialMediaToday suggested a significant impact, citing surveys that indicate influencer marketing can generate 11 times the ROI of traditional advertising. The effects may not always be that dramatic. But finding some influencers relevant to your location, market, or industry — and working out ways for them to pitch your website — can certainly give you an edge on some competitors.

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