Fact: Customers prefer to buy from brands they know and recognize.
And yet when you’re only starting up, building a brand is typically the last of your priorities.
You want to get the site up and running ASAP, sell products customers really want, and then get them to stick with you by offering great prices and free shipping.
But it rarely works that way, doesn’t it?
Customers drop off your store in numbers. And no matter how much additional traffic you attract, they still refuse to buy.
And that’s simply because they don’t know your brand.
The only way to change this is by building a powerful ecommerce brand. And in this post I’ll show you how you can start that process.
The problem with a brand is that it lacks a single unified definition.
According to American Marketing Association for instance, 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. The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller. If used for the firm as a whole, the preferred term is trade name.” (source)
But this definition is hardly representative of what it truly is.
Leo Burnett on the other hand called it anything that leaves a mental picture of the brand’s identity (source).
The definition I personally prefer though was coined by prof. Stephen Brown in 1992 explaining brand as the sum of all mental connection people have around it.
Just think of any major online store you’ve purchased from regularly, Amazon for instance, you’re likely to have certain emotions associated with that experience – satisfaction, enjoyment, disappointment, fear etc.
That’s what Brown understands as mental connections. And that’s what I believe you should strive towards when building a brand.
You know, it’s hard to deny – brand loyalty is on the decline.
And there are signs of it everywhere:
The list goes on…
There is actually a number of reasons:
Brand differentiates you on the marketplace. With an abundance of online stores pretty much in every niche possible, the only thing that can set you apart from competitors is a brand.
Having an established brand also allows you to charge higher prices. Or offer less incentives as customers engaged with your brand will be willing to pay more for your products.
Brand helps you provide a more consistent marketing message. Knowing what you stand for and what you want to communicate will help you become laser focused in your marketing, reach the right customers and ultimately contribute to your store’s growth.
It will attract ideal customers. A brand also works like a qualifier, helping to attract people you really want to be buying from you.
Brand will make your business model harder to copy. The only thing a competitor will be able to replicate will be your products. Everything else will remain unique to you thanks to a strong brand.
Notice that I didn’t say “build an ecommerce brand”. That’s because creating a brand is a lengthy process that involves every aspect of your store’s operations, from marketing, customer service, design to packaging and even the way you deal with money.
And thus, it will take a long time before your brand is fully developed and established.
There are however certain steps you could take to start building it. Here are 6 of the most important ones:
Entrepreneur’s encyclopedia defines USP as:
“The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.”
A unique selling proposition (USP) is that one thing that differentiates you from competitors and is what customers would use when selecting you over other stores selling similar items.
And thus, at the start of the branding process you should uncover what is it that makes you different (and better) from competitors.
The easiest way to define a brand story is by saying what it actually isn’t:
A brand story is what people think about you based on signals your brand sends them. And these signals could be numerous:
“Everything you do, from the colours and texture of your packaging to the staff you hire, is part of your brand story, and every element of it should reflect the truth about your brand back to your audience.”
And thus your story, whatever you decide it to be should be present in every aspect of your store’s operations – from copy, packaging, emails and other communication to experiences and impressions customers have about it.
Even though a brand is not just a logo or a tagline, the two are part of it nonetheless. And thus your next step is to develop a proper visual representation of your brand.
This would involve picking a logo that best describes it, colors that represent emotions you stand for and so on.
Lastly, since a brand is based not only on visuals but also experiences customers have with your store, invest resources into processes to help you deliver strong customer service.
Be it hiring and training professional service staff, investing in good live chat system and developing processes for managing customer conversations or even training yourself in the basics of customer service, you need to ensure that your store is ready to deal with customer inquires.
I know it’s going to sound harsh but it’s true:
A store without a strong brand isn’t likely to last long.
With no brand recognition, it will quickly disappear overtaken by large giants and other stores in the niche. With a strong brand however every online store stands a much greater chance to establish itself and grow.