First, let’s start by taking a moment to go over some basics:
What is a brand?
According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” but to us, a brand is way more than that. A brand is a business’s DNA, personality, aftertaste, and the whole vibe associated with it.
The brand doesn’t depend on the products or services you sell, it depends on how what you are offering is different from the rest. Let’s take a white t-shirt for example. Many stores are carrying the same product, so the decision on where to buy said t-shirt will depend entirely on what clothing brand meets the criteria the customer is looking for.
If the buyers are obsessed with quality and don’t mind dropping over $100 on a t-shirt, they will probably go for a brand that carries Sea Island cotton (the finest and most sought-after cotton in the world), if they care about sustainability they will probably go for a brand that offers organic cotton, if they love big designers they will probably go for a high-end brand (and not mind if the t-shirt is polyester) and finally, if they are buyers who know nothing about fabrics and are looking to save money, they will probably go for whatever brand their local wholesale club offers.
Earning a new customer takes effort, and so does keeping one. There are so many choices out there for potential customers, that making sure you take the time to understand what your audience wants and then deliver it, is crucial. In this era, overstimulated brains are the norm and we are constantly being bombarded with information. Standing out amongst that chaos is not for the faint of heart.
Human beings are creatures of habit, and we tend to stick to what we know has worked for us before. Therefore, we usually go for the same toothpaste brand, hair color, drink at our coffee shop, etc. So, becoming the “go-to” choice for customers is the true definition of successful branding. This means that even if what you are offering is not an original product, the brand you create does have to be distinctive, have USPs (unique selling points) and satisfy your target customers’ needs or wants. By doing this consistently you will be able to establish an emotional connection with your audience. A better relationship with customers means better results overall, this can look like earning repeat customers that might eventually end up becoming brand ambassadors!
What makes a brand great?
Building a great brand means more sales, higher revenues, and more market share. So how does one go about building a great brand? According to Dartmouth professor and author of Strategic Brand Management, Kevin Lane Keller six characteristics make a brand great. These are grouped into three offensive qualities and three defensive ones.
Offensive Brand Qualities
Brand elements should be distinctive and have what he called the sticky factor, which makes them easy to recognize and recall. The goal is to make your way into the customer’s mind and stay stuck there! The brands that create memorability see higher conversion rates (turning visitors into customers) as well as an increased number of repeat customers.
An example of a sticky brand is Apple. Its users refer to themselves as “Apple people” and some love the brand so much that they are willing to wait in line overnight, for hours on end, to be the first ones to have access to a new product.
Sticky brands do not happen by accident, they need to be nurtured and tended to. If you do the work and get repeat customers who are even willing to recommend your brand for free, you will see how this is reflected in your monthly and yearly sales reports.
Brands need to have a meaning behind what they do and why they do it a certain way.
Your audience needs to like who you are as a brand. Therefore, curating a brand personality that aligns with your target customers is so important.
On the defensive side, brands need to have
Brands should be transferable in a way that can cover more than one product, market niche, etc. this ensures that brand equity is maintained through time.
Brands should be flexible enough to remain relevant, this means being able to adapt to new demands and needs from their customers.
Brands need to make sure they take care of all the legal aspects that come with making sure they are protected against competitive infringements.
Why is branding essential to e-commerce?
Gone are the days when customers were afraid to shop online. Nowadays even grandparents have payment information stored on their computers! However, regardless of how widespread online shopping is now, buyers will always prefer to shop from a reputable brand name. No one wants to give their credit card information to some random nameless e-commerce that does not inspire trust.
We do almost everything online now and having a digital presence is more important than ever. Building a brand that is recognizable and solid will play a key role in the success of any e-commerce business. When you go to a brick-and-mortar store, you get to touch and feel the products you are about to buy. On top of that, there is usually someone there that will guide you in real-time and provide one-on-one feedback. This does not apply to e-commerce. Potential clients are left to research on their own, so you will need a brand that is strong enough to capture the attention of potential buyers in hopes of earning their trust (and their spending dollars).
How to build a solid e-commerce brand?
To build a successful e-commerce brand, you need to make sure you answer the following questions:
Who is my ideal customer?
Marketing tendencies have expanded. A decade ago, it might have been enough with the basic demographic questions like gender, income, age, and education. Now, things have changed. You need to get to know your customers, find out what motivates them, what their dreams (and fears) are, and what their souls yearn for. This will allow you to build a brand that has a high chance of likability and success.
Think of whom your products are meant to be for and where these customers can be found. Once you have defined that, make sure your whole marketing and branding strategy is focused on those potential customers and on being present where they are, this will allow you to connect with them in a way that feels more natural and less forced.
Defining your target audience and making yourself available to them will help you generate content and campaigns that are curated for them specifically. This will translate into better conversions, which will, in turn, help you invest in the right direction (and make every single one of your marketing dollars count).
What and where?
What is my brand about? Answering this question will give you a brand mission. Where do I see my brand going? This will give you a brand vision. There is a reason why marketing teachers everywhere insist on the importance of these two points. Having a clear mission and vision will remind you and your audience of your purpose and objective. Keep it short, crisp, and memorable.
How can I stand out?
Be recognizable. Your company has a voice and a personality, and it must be unique! This will allow your audience to know when something is coming from you. Depending on what your goals are and who your target audience is, you will need to decide if your brand will be cheerful and fun, smart and eloquent, warm and friendly, etc.
Once you have established your brand personality you will be able to define its name, slogan, and logo. You can then use specific visual traits that match what you are portraying. This can be done by using color theory and fonts (typographies) that stand out and match your style. The visual aspect of your brand will be the face of your business so make sure you invest in something that makes a great first impression, and that both you and your target audience will love.
Your content must always align with your visual identity and brand voice! So, making sure you stay loyal and consistent is a key part of your success. Your style cannot be fun one day and informative the next. Make up your mind and build around what you have established so you can show up consistently for your audience. You should also use different channels to get this done. Don’t stick to the same platform, get creative and offer your audience a variety of images, video content, stories, blog posts, comparative graphics, etc.!
What does my brand stand for?
Your values will let your audience know what is important to you and what you stand for. Just like your personal life values, your brand needs to have specific values. These are motors that drive it and guide the way it navigates the industry. People are more likely to become your customers if they can align with what you represent. Some customers will be more passionate about sustainability, others might be looking for a brand that is inclusive and some might just be looking for the most creative offer out there. Clearly stating your values and making them accessible to your potential customers will increase the chances of them falling in love with you!
Some of the questions you can ask yourself when deciding your brand values are:
What matters to my brand?
What are the values of other brands I admire and trust?
What is important to my audience?
What principles and rules guide my own life?
What are my priorities?
Once you have this information written down, keep brainstorming until you get anywhere between 4-7 specific brand values. Make sure they are action statements and that each one of them has a description detailing why you chose that value specifically.
How is my offer different from the rest?
One of the best ways to set your brand apart is to offer five-star customer service. This step alone will turn any issue into a potential opportunity for growth and connection. Be available and willing to help your customers! After all, we have stated that you will probably not be the only brand carrying the product you offer, so you must go above and beyond to make sure you are special. Answering customer queries and adding value to their purchase experience by assisting them in what is needed can truly make a difference. Make sure you are also available through a wide array of channels (via chat, email, or phone call), and keep in mind that actively listening to what the customer wants will allow you to offer something that truly meets their needs. This will make them feel heard and considered.
You also need to make sure you have a quality offering! Not even the best customer service in the world will be enough to sustain a business model that sells items that do not live up to certain quality standards. Precisely because of the wide array of competition present in today’s market, customers are not willing to put up with mediocre products, so make sure yours does not fall into that category.
Once you have nailed the quality, make sure you also share your story with your customers. Humans love drawing inspiration from unexpected sources, and you never know whom you might inspire by sharing a bit more about how your brand was born. This will also make you seem relatable and approachable. No two companies have the same story of how they came to existence. If you find a way to creatively share your story with your audience and make it intriguing, you will stand out to your customers and allow them to feel identified with what you are narrating.
Wrapping it up:
Your e-commerce needs to have a solid branding strategy to succeed in today’s market. Keeping the elements of your brand accessible and relevant will also help you stay loyal, consistent, and aligned with everything you stand for. This will allow you to earn your customers’ trust and most importantly, to keep it!
Leave us a comment letting us know what your brand-building process looked like or feel free to reach out and let us know if there is something important you did (or are doing now) that we might have missed! We would love to hear from you and share our experiences over a virtual cup of coffee together.