The secret most marketers know is that customers buy a brand and not a product. To try and sell a product is a costly rookie mistake. In saying that, many people confuse the company’s logo, colors or design to be the brand. While they are an identity of your brand, they are not what experienced marketers define as branding.
What is branding?
Branding is how you make consumers ‘ feel’. It is the image people have in mind when they think of a certain product, service or company.
“Branding is how you make consumers feel.”
Think of some of the most popular products you have engaged with or used.
- Apple invokes a sense of aspiration and lifestyle. Their branding strategy focuses on emotions.
- Nike. What images does that bring to you? Nike conveys athleticism and a spirit of determination.
- Under Armour sells athletic wear as well but does not compete with Nike on lifestyle and luxury. Their brand stands for functionality and usefulness.
This is branding. It is consistent across their advertising in print, television, digital and the content they put out on social media.
You can sell the same product as others but how you position it and connect with your customers is what differentiates you from others.
A powerful brand signifies how well a customer relates, recognizes and trusts the brand.
“Your brand is one of the most beneficial investments you can make in your business.”
8 actionable steps to create a powerful eCommerce brand
We’ve outlined 8 best practices that all popular eCommerce brands follow. These are not complicated steps but yet, many brands skip them or keep them for later thinking that ‘branding’ is an expensive affair. It is not. It is time-consuming but it will be resources well used and hold you in good stead in the long run.
1. Define who you are
Defining your brand is important before you market it. Every brand has a personality. What is yours?
Whole Foods – Health freak
Mc Donald’s – Family oriented
Amazon – Sincere
Kindle – Knowledgeable
Etsy – Artisinal
Get the gist?
You need to have answers to the following questions to ‘know’ what your brand stands for.
2. Define your target audience
Once you have defined yourself as a brand the next step is to ‘know’ your target audience. The foundation for building an effective brand is to determine your target audience.
Who is your product for? How can you appeal to customers’ emotions, if you do not know what they are? To understand this you must have a clear and defined ‘buyer persona’. What are the behaviors and lifestyles of your consumers? What are their needs and desires?
You can and most definitely will have multiple buyer personas. It is the right thing to do. Let me illustrate.
Let’s say you sell organic products. While your broader audience could be ‘health-conscious’ that is only one common attribute amongst your target audience. Drill down further and you will have many different ‘buyer personas’ under the health-conscious. The single-mom who juggles work and three kids, the university student who is environmentally conscious and wants to make better choices, a gym-goer who is looking for natural supplements, so and so forth.
It is not as overwhelming as it sounds. HubSpot has a great free tool that you can use to create your buyer persona. This buyer persona is your target audience.
Keep these points in mind when defining your target audience:
- Pain points
Read our article How to Understand your Target E-commerce Market for more on the topic.
3. Position yourself uniquely
“Positioning is not about making your product unique but creating a unique image of your brand in the minds of potential customers.”
How is your brand position unique? Is there something that only you’re known for, and none of your competitors? You should have answered this in the first step when you defined your brand.
Position your brand uniquely, do not imitate other brands. There will be a thousand others who will be selling similar or even the very same ‘mind-blowing’ eCommerce product as yours.
How many Instagram ads have you seen for Bamboo Toothbrushes or Anti-theft Backpacks?
What makes your brand different from others then? It could be as simple as your product’s packaging, a thank you note with the order, an informative leaflet, a coupon for the next purchase, amazing after-sales service or friendly customer care.
Make your brand relevant, credible, and inspire customer loyalty.
4. Build customer loyalty
“Increasing customer’s lifetime value is the most reliable way to achieve effective branding.”
How do you build customer loyalty? By serving your customers better. It is a no-brainer! But in today’s age of blink and miss eCommerce brands and trends, this age-old tenet of business is being forgotten. If you are in eCommerce for the long haul, do not forget who your product is for.
Always keep their best interests in mind. Understand and respect the trust they put in your brand by buying your products online without physically inspecting them.
Do not indulge in false advertising, use genuine images of your product, write honest product descriptions, include clear dimensions of your product so customers can gauge the true size of your product.
Include product videos as this builds the customers’ trust in your brand.
Check this product page by www.mangroomer.com and how effectively they show their product being used via a video. There is absolutely no room for doubt left about the product!
Great customer service is how you ensure customers stay with you. What is ‘customer service’ and why is it difficult for many eCommerce brands to achieve this hallmark?
A lot of eCommerce today revolves around dropshipping. For the uninitiated dropshipping is when you do not hold stock of the products you sell online and forward the orders you get on your eCommerce store to your supplier who then ships the order to your customer.
It is quite apparent here that choosing a reliable supplier who ships high-quality undamaged goods in a timely fashion is crucial.
If however for some reason customers do not get their orders on time or receive faulty or damaged goods, there must be clear lines of communication to you and a favorable return, refund or replace policy in place.
The moment customers feel that you aren’t listening to their complaints they will lose trust in your brand. Build a community where your customers’ voices are heard.
5. Include testimonials on your website or product pages
Customers will easily trust what other buyers say about your product than what you say.
Fun fact – 92% of consumers now read online reviews before buying a product or service.
Customer testimonials are an impartial review of your product. Ask your customers for testimonials to post on your website. Loyal customers are more likely to become promoters of your brand.
Why include testimonials?
- Increases conversion rates.
- Builds trust by acting as a third-party endorsement.
- Unbiased reviews of the brand.
- An important form of social evidence.
Customer testimonials are also the reviews they leave on Google, their social media comments about your brand and their engagement with your social media platform.
Have a look at this example from Poo-Pouri.
6. Add value with quality content
Consumers today are bombarded with new content every second. If you want your brand to stand out, you have to create content that adds value to their screen time.
The buyer personas you created in the above steps will help you tailor content that appeals to your audience. What is content? Anything that your brand puts out via your social media, website, blogs, etc. Each time a consumer interacts with your content and finds value, you build trust. Instead of leaving your website or blog, they follow you on social media or even subscribe to your email newsletters.
7. Have an “Our Story” Page
It is important to tell the story of your brand. Your “Our Story” page should let readers know-
- Who you are
- What you stand for
- The history of your brand
- Your journey
Having an “Our Story” page helps you build stronger relationships with your customers as it gives them a glimpse of what’s behind the business.
Show them the people that build the business, include pictures and bios. Give them a human connection with your business. If you have any interesting anecdotes to share about your journey, do so.
A great example is the ‘Our Story’ page of Cotopaxi, a company that sells travel gear. Yet nowhere is this distinctly mentioned in their ‘Our Story’ page. It is a BEAUTIFULLY created and well thought of Our Story page that makes you want to know the brand better and associate with them.
8. Be consistent
Like everything else in life, consistency is key in branding as well. Branding is a continuous process. Consumers trust brands that they recognize. Maintain consistency in your tone, style, the colors you use and in all communication you have with your customers, including your social media and website content.
Create brand guidelines to define the type of content you want to put out, the tone and style of your brand, the colors and fonts you use, etc.
Then be consistent in putting that content out. If your customers have come to expect newsletters from you once a week, ensure that you send them quality content weekly. If for some reason there are any changes in your content calendar, let your customers know.
Any changes in the business that affects customers directly, should be conveyed through various media.
“Rome was not built in a day”.
You “build” a brand not “make” a brand. An effective brand strategy takes time, patience, and lots of work to execute. Follow the guidelines above to successfully create a powerful eCommerce brand.
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