Globalization and easier access to the internet have benefitted online businesses from all around the world. eCommerce businesses are especially thriving, thanks to a dramatic shift in online shopping, with an average of 3.4+ billion eCommerce users and over $4.2 Trillion in sales worldwide.
Now, increased opportunity also means increased competition, which can make it difficult for new eCommerce businesses to set themselves apart. Top-tier customer service, competitive pricing, and streamlined fulfillment are all just expectations at this point. So, how do you make your eCommerce business memorable and competitive? Focus on your branding.
Why is branding important for eCommerce businesses?
Your brand encapsulates everything about your business. It’s everything from your visual style, to your brand persona and even the way your customer service teams communicate. It’s what makes your eCommerce site stand out from all other eCommerce sites. Years before the internet, the word “Amazon” only meant a rainforest to most people. Now, when you hear that word, would you think of a forest? Nope, you think of the brand.
The impression that you will leave on people who have either directly or indirectly interacted with your eCommerce business will be determined by how impactful your brand is. Thus, branding is important to have maximum control of how people perceive your company. Without it, you’ll be entirely dependent on customers and third parties defining your business.
eCommerce branding is important not only for the first impression but also for the sustainability of your company. In the long run, your branding, along with your service, will help solidify your place in the competitive eCommerce market.
How to build your eCommerce brand
There are countless ways in which one could go about building their brand. However, we have compiled 12 solid ways which are foolproof for all sorts of eCommerce businesses. Regardless of what kind of eCommerce business you have, you can rely on these 12 methods to ensure a strong brand image.
1. Define your brand
What is your brand? By that we mean, what are the visual components that customers can identify and reference? These are the go-to elements that are everpresent across your eCommerce site, ads, email signatures, and anywhere else your brand must be present. Here’s what you need to think through when defining your brand.
Create a brand name
The first thing you should choose is your brand name. It could be relevant to the eCommerce business itself like the way Woocommerce and Shopify iterated on online shopping terms for their brand names. It can also just be your current business name, something specific to your niche or product offering, or something completely unaffiliated. Whichever name you choose, just make sure to follow the SSS rule.
Keep it short
Keep your brand name short. Make sure to keep the entire name within the shortest number of syllables, regardless of the number of words you use. The quicker it can be pronounced, the easier it will be remembered by consumers.
Keep it simple
Think of a very simple name. Remember, your brand will be visible to people from all walks of life. Thus, whichever name you choose, keep it simple for everyone to understand.
Keep it sensible
Once again, a lot of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and influences will approach your brand. If you want to have maximum success, it’s best to think of a name that is neutral and sensible towards all kinds of consumers.
Create a brand logo
Imagine the brand Apple without their logo, the bitten apple. You can’t, can you? A brand name and logo are the epitome of a business to both known and unknown consumers. Well-thought-out names and logos play a subconscious role in how your eCommerce business will be “felt” to consumers, especially to new ones.
While designing your brand logo, all of the same points you worked through when creating your name applies. In addition to that, you must think of some key factors like:
Logo color choices
What are the color schemes that you wish to pick for your logo? Different colors have different effects on the human psyche. For logo design, the world’s most elite brands have always taken this scientific fact into consideration.
Whichever colors you choose, you must study those thoroughly to make a wise decision. Because of the nature of humans and how colors are perceived by us, your logo’s color palette will be one of the defining factors for your brand.
Even if your logo consists of just one letter from your brand name, you must think deeply about which font you want to use. Most brands tweak an already existing font towards their preference, which could be a good idea for your eCommerce brand too.
Logo and name integration
Your logo should be unique and stand on its own. However, you should also consider how it will play with your brand name. Is your logo just a stylized iteration of the name? An icon that sits beside, above, or below the name?
In general, it’s wise to start with a logo that works in your brand name, especially as a young business. Customers simply don’t know you and having both the iconography and copy connected makes it far easier to associate your brand with a specific image. You can always iterate and simplify your logo as your business grows and becomes more recognizable. The evolution of the Starbucks logo is an excellent example of this practice.
A logo needs to be consistent across all platforms, whether it’s on a phone, tablet, computer, laptop, paper, poster, or anything else. Regardless of being 1:1, 3:4, 4:3, etc, the aspect ratio in which you create the logo should be fixed across all platforms. The font that you choose must also appear the same.
The same applies to the coloring; whichever color palette you use, it should visually appear the same across all mediums. Even using a slightly different shade, or an altered aspect ratio of 1%, will immediately hamper your brand reputation.
Logo inconsistency will leave a subconscious mark in the consumer’s mind. It’s ingrained in us to identify consistency with trustworthiness; thus you should have your design choices thought out deeply before you publish it. Additionally, you need to ensure that the logo gets uploaded and printed with that same consistency.
A good way to test consistency is through beta uploads in all your digital platforms along with high-quality poster and paper prints. Check thoroughly for the mildest discrepancies and/or alterations across both the digital and physical copies.
However, logo testing is a rigorous vetting process that considers several technical factors other than design. For instance, creating the logo for diverse digital color spaces like sRGB and Adobe RGB. Since learning and applying these elements require a high level of expertise, logo testing is best done with the help of professional graphics and/or logo designers.
Create a brand slogan
What does your brand stand for? Of course, we know it’s an eCommerce business. The consumers will know that too.
These days, something extra is required for consumers to be appealed to a business other than the service itself. The extra motif, theme, concept – something that will emotionally connect to your audience. That is where the slogan comes into play.
So, what does your brand stand for? It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything related to eCommerce. Nike’s “Just do it” or Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” are slogans that aren’t necessarily related to their business type, which is good. Picking out slogans that everyone can connect to will help to attain that something extra.
However, choosing slogans that are directly related to eCommerce is not a bad idea either. AliExpress’s “Smarter Shopping, Better Living” is a good example of one. Whichever slogan you make, remember to make it timeless – so that it can stand just by itself for the rest of your brand’s history.
Brand names, logos, and slogans — these are the three things that most successful businesses never change or need to change. These are the fundamentals of eCommerce branding. That’s why you must pick them wisely and make each of them interconnected yet independently strong.
2. Identify your target audience
As an eCommerce business, it may be tempting to think that everyone with a web connection is your customer. While appealing it’s overly optimistic and can lead to trouble for your business if you don’t accurately define your available and attainable market. Thus, you must find your target audience.
Take American Tourister, for example — a brand that is specific not to just luggage, but towards touring and small travel luggage. Even though the parent company, Samsonite, could’ve included travel luggage in its own repertoire, it created a separate luggage brand just for the touring niche. Not only does this help target a specific audience, but it also enables American Tourister to be branded and emphasized differently as one of the best brands for regular travel luggage.
Boden is another example of a brand that built its business around a target audience. It defines its brand as a clothing line that strictly adheres to sustainable and ethical manufacturing. This helps them target a specific clothing niche, i.e. eco-friendly clothing. While it may not make a difference to consumers who aren’t ecologically concerned, it leaves a solid impact in the industry as one of the leading eco-friendly brands, along with a committed and growing customer base.
Defining your target market helps curate your brand
Is your eCommerce brand a technology-focused business? Then look for a target audience to build your brand around like gaming or office technology, instead of technological products in general. Is your eCommerce more focused on services? Then look for a consumer base with just a couple of services at first and brand accordingly.
You can always branch out your services and/or products later. Regardless, you must identify your target audience to know about the location and demographics of your potential consumers, which in turn will greatly help you grow your business.
3. Outline the key benefits of your brand
How will people benefit by purchasing from your store instead of your competitors? This is just another way of asking what your strategic advantage is. The clear benefit(s) that ensures they don’t just think, “oh, it’s just another eCommerce business.”
Typically, providing discounts and the lowest rates are almost a necessity for new eCommerce businesses. You can also focus on providing super fast delivery for a lower cost, giving an extra discount for referral customers, or integrating in-person with online shopping. Whatever the strength or opportunity you’ve identified and intend to leverage for your business may be — the key is to immediately associate it with your branding.
The key benefit may be part of your tagline or is consistently present in the header or footer of your site. As long as a consumer can find more than one reason to purchase from your site in comparison to all other eCommerce businesses, you are good to go. The more they benefit, the better it is for your brand.
4. Define your visual aesthetic
For building a brand online, you need visuals. There is a section regarding content strategy below. However, visual content deserves focus as a separate strategy itself. In a recent B2B study, 86% of buyers expressed interest in accessing visual or interactive content over other forms.
Images, graphics, and pictures are all quicker and easier to digest. That’s just human nature. While using your own visual content, having them in the most pristine and professional form is needed to make maximum impact in the consumer’s mind. This is one of the best branding practices for eCommerce brand building as it helps not only by branding your business but also by branding your product.
Hiring a professional photo editing service provider can help you greatly in achieving this feat. Photo editing is a highly specialized skill that will take several days to endless weeks, just to master the basics. Should you be editing countless photos for so many hours where you can be investing that time in your business? Best to leave the editing to the professionals.
Embrace customer photos
Other than professionally capturing photos of your own products and/or services, sponsoring user-generated content like tagged photos and unboxing videos are good practices for eCommerce brands. It makes your product appear more tangible and authentic to viewers. You can also ask your customers to submit and/or tag photos for all the purchases that they make in return for a discount or voucher. This establishes your visual content in a much more cost-effective and sustainable manner.
5. Share the story of your company
Company stories help add an extra layer of branding for your business. It gives life and personality to your business, wrapping your sales, customer service, and imagery in a story-driven layer. Having the right story provides clarity in your messaging to better motivate new and old consumers to take action.
This StoryBrand framework isn’t just limited to your about page. Instead, it should be the throughline of your entire site. Crafting a narrative of who you are, what you do, and why you do it, while simultaneously putting your customers in the driver’s seat. It may be your brand, but it’s truly your customers’ story that makes it come alive.
Create a company mission
Remember, as an eCommerce brand that’s starting out, you will always be scrutinized in the face of giants like Amazon, eBay, and Ali Baba. Why would consumers leave these established brands to purchase from your store? That is where the company’s mission comes in.
The general perception of eCommerce stores is that they aren’t particularly consumer-friendly and only care for the business. Who’s to blame? It’s a result of companies not carrying out their businesses according to their statements. Your goal is to be the exact opposite of that.
Statistically speaking, it’s almost impossible to measure how the company statement affects consumer’s purchases and loyalty, especially since doing a survey on it ruins the purpose. The influence of company missions is more about word-of-mouth, how consumers talk about your brand with other consumers.
However, company missions like these can give you a good idea of how powerful words can be, especially when aligned with your business motives. When IKEA mentions “…to create a better everyday life for the many people” within their company story, they actually mean it through their business structure of creating easy-to-assemble furniture at affordable rates.
For eCommerce sites, having a solidified company mission around an ideal or championed initiative can set you apart and garner a very dedicated following. Always focus on your target audience and create a specific mission based on that market. Your mission should never be just filler content for your website, it should be a testament to who you are as an eCommerce brand.
6. Establish a presence on social media
According to a study conducted by datareportal.com, 4.3+ billion people globally use social media in 2021. It’s a better time than ever to utilize social media platforms as a pathway of brand development.
Facebook ads, Instagram ads, celebrity endorsements, social media events — designing marketing campaigns inclusive of social media platforms will get the word out that a brand like yours exists. Don’t believe us? Take it from this study which shows 93% of consumers stating that social media content has had an impact on their purchase decision. Most of these social media platforms provide store integration which is a critical feature to utilize for all eCommerce brands.
Additionally, promoting your brand through sponsored live streams, advertising in eCommerce groups and communities, connecting your social media profiles to a visually enriched Pinterest profile, paying trending influencers on TikTok and other platforms to highlight your product in their content, and so many more innovative pathways are available to brands to want to leverage social media to its fullest potential.
Keep in mind that you must focus on your target audience before you use any of these platforms. Certain consumers are well suited to certain platforms. If you plan to create a high amount of video adverts, focusing more on YouTube and Facebook might be better. For pictures and graphics, Pinterest and Instagram are suitable. For corporate advertising, LinkedIn is a better platform.
7. Reinforce authenticity
Any form of monetary transaction includes a level of trust. Since you will be on the receiving end of payment from consumers, you must ensure brand authenticity at each and every step of your eCommerce journey. Here are a few ways to reinforce the authenticity of your eCommerce brand:
Build relationships and be consistent
Through marketing and customer service, you must ensure that you build a relationship with your customers and that you are consistent with it.
Be transparent and engaging
Transparency and honesty are always important. Remember, you are managing a business, and you shouldn’t try to hide that too much.
The most common issues which most eCommerce brands face are delivery and shipping procedures. Promising lightning-fast speeds can help retain a higher customer base, but also creates more space for complications. A product may be delivered slightly late, or be handled improperly. Errors may happen on your part, even if you hadn’t advertised supersonic delivery timelines.
That is where you have to be transparent and engage immediately with the customer upon any issues. Engaging with your consumers can help them humanize your business and help them forget that it’s not just a monetary relationship. However, you must take every step to ensure that you learn from these errors and actually improve your business over time. It will reinforce authenticity and reliability for both old and new customers.
There are certain values that you must pride over. If you stay true to these values, your customers will take pride in them too. Whether it be through product quality, delivery timelines, customer service, eco-friendliness, or a mix, keeping such values will help symbolize your brand’s authenticity.
The more your customers trust you, the better it is for them to be loyal to you and refer more people towards your brand. Just be sure that you practice what you preach.
8. Refine your marketing strategy
Market trends continuously change. To stay on top of this, it’s best to take an adaptive approach to business planning and marketing. This is especially true for eCommerce businesses, where a hot trend can be done and over within just a few days.
Starting off, create a marketing plan that leverages the components of your brand that you’ve already developed. From there, begin to fine-tune your strategy in the following ways.
Review your chosen communication channels
Have you been able to communicate successfully with all of your consumers across all platforms in response to your advertisements? It could be responding to them through the comment section, personal messages, group posts, tagged posts, etc.
A high response rate will not only make your current customers feel valued but also highlight the brand visibility of your company publicly, across all the modes of communication that you have established. Social media and Whatsapp messaging, website comments and reviews, or anything at all – analyzing your communication efficiency and refining them to improve it in the future is one of the key elements of a successful marketing campaign.
Establish a content strategy
Everything we see on the internet can essentially be categorized into the single term ‘content’, whether in the form of words, videos, graphics, or anything at all.
A content marketing strategy that encompasses all forms of content to successfully promote and deliver your brand image is crucial for your eCommerce business. Utilizing all forms of content is preferred as different consumers ingest different forms of content differently – some like to read, some like to listen, some like to see.
Regardless, having content that links back to your site or has high CTA (call-to-action) terminology will help drive a lot of traffic to your eCommerce store.
Refine your email messaging
Email marketing should definitely be integrated into your eCommerce content strategies, and it most likely will. However, people pay very little attention to emails these days; thus, you must take extra steps to enhance your email marketing.
Sending extra discounts, using referral programs, creating attractive email templates and designs do help a lot other than the usual words and paragraphs. Always test out responses based on the different kinds of emails to send to measure which emails have the highest success rate.
Reinforce authenticity, again
We needed to reiterate this aspect of branding twice, just to highlight how important it is. All of the adverts and promotions that you utilize to market your eCommerce brand should always reflect authenticity. Consumers shouldn’t feel they are being served for the sake of being served, but that your brand actually wants to serve them.
Whether it be through content, email, or direct communication, ensuring your brand’s consistency will be appreciated by consumers both inside and outside your target demographic, helping you build a solid foundation of trust and authenticity. To achieve that, the imagery, approach, and policies of your brand should be consistent and recognizable across all the marketed platforms.
9. Create an application for your eCommerce store
Always, always create applications for your eCommerce store. According to Semrush, shopping apps have had year-over-year growth of 17% from 2019 to 2020, making 1.78+ billion users worldwide! Not everyone uses a browser to purchase goods online. Thus, without a shopping app, you can consider half your business to simply die out.
When you do develop an app, ensure that it is available on the most popular platforms like Android, iOS, and any other relevant marketplaces.
10. Get to know your customers
Branding isn’t everything. As an eCommerce site, you must focus on your services to sustain your brand image. Customers may receive bad products or faulty goods from time to time; there may be other sellers in your eCommerce website who aren’t very strict with their product quality.
Not only should you take steps to eradicate such products from your store, but also be patient and responsive to your customers throughout the entire process.
Study your customers
Observing consumer behavior and patterns will help your brand even further. Are they leaving carts even before purchasing, or browsing and not adding anything to carts? You may find certain patterns which can make you feel clueless.
A good strategy is to observe the most successful eCommerce businesses, especially the competitors within your target market. What are they doing that you’re not? Perhaps their checkout procedures are quicker or their website layout is more intuitive. Maybe they highlight their products with flair instead of displaying them blandly.
Small factors like these can play a big role in customer retention. Identifying these factors will help not only your business but also your brand.
Utilize customer service professionals
Having a top-notch customer service department will also help smoothen this process. One good practice is to create easy pathways for customers to submit their feedback. This way, you can understand what your customers are feeling and what you could do about it to improve your situation. No matter what, always aim to serve your customer like your own.
Be flexible but consistent
For any unexpected point of failures like misinterpreted imagery or inadequately structured policies, do not hesitate to be open and flexible. You may find certain branding strategies need a complete do-over. When change is required, change must take place. In these situations, adapt and grow your business accordingly.
This may sound contradictory to being consistent. However, stability also requires flexibility. When you do make changes, just try to ensure that you make it with a lot of study and thought so that it doesn’t need to be changed again in the immediate future.
Don’t be afraid to adapt your brand
How does it feel to know everything you need to know to start your own eCommerce brand? Now that you have all the tools in place, the last thing worth mentioning is that you will likely not get it right on the first try. Maybe your market focus is off, your logo and slogan don’t connect the dots for customers, or your site simply isn’t resonating with shoppers.
Don’t get tied to your first attempt. Focus on ways to improve and leverage the information you gain about your customers to fine-tune their experience. After all, it is your business, but you want your brand to be adopted by your customers. And if you can achieve that, especially with an online business, you’re more likely to thrive.