Branding plays a huge role in how returning and potential customers perceive your ecommerce business. It’s not all about looking pretty – although it does help – it’s also about creating an emotional connection to your business and demonstrating what makes your brand unique. Whether it’s a compelling mission, a distinctive manufacturing process, a quirky personality or something else entirely, your brand needs to say it all and appeal to the desired lifestyle of your target audience. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself to improve your chances of success.
Does your brand support your mission?
Ecommerce is a competitive market. The real winners have realized they need to be more than just a platform for sales. Rather than selling a product, you should be selling a lifestyle. So ask yourself: what lifestyle are you selling?
This question has a lot to do with the kind of values you want your business to stand for. To answer it, you should first look to your customer research. Discover whether the product/lifestyle you’re selling has a genuine audience in the first place before you invest too much time and money into it. And if the answer is yes? Start right away and come up with a mission statement and some branding goals that will help to determine what direction you go in.
Above all, try to think honestly about what your brand is about, and what you want it to achieve. It’s well-known that the best branding appeals to the heart, as well as the head. If you can encourage your audience to feel something, your chances of success are much higher. Slack is a useful tool for monitoring your brand’s evolution as you grow and ensuring that you stay on the right path.
Are you providing an emotional shopping experience?
As mentioned, in an ideal world you want to ensure that your customers connect with your brand on an emotional level. This means identifying the emotions that will lead to favourable results – whether that’s trust, intrigue, desire or fear.
For example, if you want to generate a feeling of trust, you can do so by making a point of offering secure payments, displaying security badges, and being transparent in your communications. Or if you want to encourage curiosity, you can work to create a compelling identity and marketing strategy for yourself (including everything from messaging to graphic elements) to form an image that resonates with your target customers’ mindset. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is also a great motivator that can help to create a sense of urgency around your products.
The most important thing is to make sure your brand has a distinctive personality – whatever that may be. Shoppers like to be reminded that they are interacting with real people, and not just a faceless money-making robot. So don’t be afraid to embrace your unique quirkiness and brand stance on important issues within your industry.
Is your brand reflected in your online store?
One thing I can’t stress enough is The Importance of Good Website Design. Luckily, there are plenty of online resources and tools – even customizable e-commerce platforms – that have lowered the barriers to entry and made it possible to create a professional-looking e-commerce store in a comparatively short amount of time. The other alternative is to work with a professional web designer if you need something more bespoke.
The important thing to remember is that your website is an extension of your brand – or if you’re a purely online business, then it’s actually the home of your brand. To create a cohesive brand, you need consistency in everything, from the logo and colour scheme to your choice of fonts and imagery. This applies across all channels, starting with your website and moving throughout your social media accounts, product packaging, and email marketing campaigns.
What does your brand say about you? And importantly, what does your competitors’ branding say about them? Consider how you can work to give yourself an edge – a distinctive niche or specialty – that will allow your brand to stand out.
What is your USP?
Every successful brand has its own unique selling proposition. This is an important consideration, as it should form a large part of your brand identity and marketing content. Your brand USP is what separates you from (and makes you better than) your competitors. Whether it’s something unique about your product, the way it’s made, the philosophy behind your company or the way it’s run, you need a quirk or specialty that identifies you as different from the rest. So – what makes your store unique?
There has been a huge comeback of late in the buying and selling or artisanal, handmade goods that have been manufactured in traditional ways, rather than mass-produced. People seem to long for nostalgic products that you wouldn’t find in the home of every other person. When you’re selling products, try to highlight what’s unique about them, or find a way to offer some kind of personalization.
A good example of this at work is Popov Leather – an online store created using Shopify that sells handmade leather wallets made in Canada. In his About page, Ryan Popoff (the founder) explains how the store came to be and describes the process of handcrafting each wallet individually in his workshop.
Is your branding consistent across social media?
If nothing else, you should aim to register your business name on every major social media channel before somebody else does. It happens. While it’s not necessary to be highly active on every social media channel, you do want to maintain that consistency and at least have your logo, name, website and a short ‘about’ section included wherever you can. You can then do some further research to determine which social media channels are going to be the best places to interact and engage with your audience.
The key to success on social media is to make sure you’re posting on a regular basis – but also, you shouldn’t always post about yourself. The key word here is ‘social’, so you should also make a point of interacting with others, sharing information around and commenting on relevant issues and stories. Automated posting tools such as Hootsuite can be a great way to schedule lots of posts at once, saving you time throughout the week.
Social media is not the be all and end all – but it is a great way to gain visibility and capture the attention of potential new customers.
Hopefully, this article has helped to identify some areas in which your e-commerce branding could be improved. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to branding, as every company is different. But by following some simple guidelines such as being consistent, having a clear mission and creating an emotional shopping experience, you can boost your chances of success in this competitive industry.
What are your experiences of creating and maintaining an e-commerce brand? Share your stories with us in the comments.
Patrick Foster: Ecommerce Expert and Branding Coach
As an e-commerce entrepreneur myself, I’ve had a lot of experience in seeing what works and doesn’t work. I write about everything from planning and building e-commerce websites to branding, marketing, and strategy. Follow my work on EcommerceTips.org.