Creating a successful ecommerce store involves more than listing products on a website. Attracting and retaining customers is the biggest challenge for most ecommerce retailers, so your marketing strategy should be at the forefront of your mind.
One of the most important aspects of marketing is branding. Before you can advertise your business to potential customers, you must define what your business is all about.
A strong understanding of your brand will serve as a guide as you build your website, select your products, and market yourself to your audience.
Building a brand requires creativity and thoughtfulness, but it’s an essential part of the process for achieving ecommerce success. As the owner of an online store, it’s important to understand what a brand is, why having one matters, and how you can develop your own unique brand.
What is a brand?
Your brand is your company’s overall identity or image. An ecommerce store should be more than just the products it sells. To attract loyal customers, your business should have a unique personality that sets it apart from competitors.
A company’s brand involves several different elements. Your target audience, mission statement, products, and store design all contribute to your overall brand identity.
When a store has a strong and recognizable brand, customers feel a sense of consistency and purpose throughout the shopping experience.
When customers remember the business, they think of more than just the products. They may associate the store with certain emotions or positive characteristics.
Why is building your brand important?
Online businesses with a clear brand tend to fare much better than ecommerce stores that simply list products on a generic website. The most important reason to consider branding is customer loyalty.
When your business has a clear identity, shoppers will feel more connected to the store. They'll feel compelled by your story or mission, which can make them more interested in your products.
Customers like to buy from brands that they believe in. Branding makes your store more memorable, too, so shoppers will return for future purchases.
Furthermore, branding is particularly important for online stores because shoppers don’t physically visit a retail location.
They aren’t immersed in your store, and they can’t look all around at decorations or signs. Your store appears on a computer or phone screen, so your branding has to be powerful enough to draw the visitor in.
It’s far easier for online shoppers to exit your ecommerce store and visit another site than it is for shoppers at a brick-and-mortar store to leave and go somewhere else. Therefore, your website must offer an experience that the customer can’t replicate elsewhere.
Another reason that branding is so helpful is that it promotes word-of-mouth marketing. Consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, and many people reach out to others for suggestions before making a purchase.
If your store has a clear brand, it’s much easier for customers to recall and describe it to others.
Having a strong brand can be a major benefit financially as well. Your brand is considered an “intangible asset,” which is separate from your products and profits.
Your intangible assets account for the difference between what your business could sell for and what your concrete assets are worth. A recognizable, compelling brand adds value to your business.
Tips on building your ecommerce brand
Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. You may already have a general idea of your store’s character, but bringing your vision to life takes time.
Here are nine steps you can take toward building a strong and successful ecommerce brand!
1. Determine your brand’s style
Style mostly involves the visual elements of your ecommerce store. This can include your color scheme, logo, images, and site layout.
Your store’s style is ultimately a personal choice. Choose a style that resonates with you and that you think will reflect the goals of your business. You may prefer a bold, bright, and energetic style, or you may lean more toward a mellow, peaceful aesthetic.
It can help to identify an emotion that you want to be associated with your brand. Then, you can choose a color scheme and other design details that evoke that feeling.
Be careful not to overwhelm your site with colors or images, though. There’s a difference between letting your style shine through and adding too many unnecessary elements to your website.
Keep in mind that it’s better to have a few big fixtures on your site that establish your style than for your site to be loud or cluttered.
Style can also include text and communication. Some brands are very formal and professional in their written content, and others are more casual or humorous.
The tone you use in your website content, emails, social media posts, and other written content will strongly reflect your brand. Be intentional with everything you write, and make sure the text is consistent with your style and overall brand.
2. Identify your unique selling proposition
Your unique selling proposition, or USP, is what makes your store different from others in your industry. Identifying your USP is one of the most important things you can do for your ecommerce branding.
It’s very difficult for small online retailers to compete with major recognizable companies like Amazon or Walmart. These massive corporations have the ability to offer lower prices than small and mid-sized businesses can manage.
To establish a loyal customer base, your store needs to set itself apart!
Some retailers’ USP is simply the products they offer. If you sell a highly specific, niche item that no other businesses supply, you’ve found your USP.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for the vast majority of stores. You may have to get creative to find a way to make your business unique.
Another USP option is your company’s backstory. If your business has a compelling, heartwarming, or funny history, include it in your branding. Use your store’s background to influence your logo or slogan, or include the anecdote on your “About” page.
You could also highlight anything unique about your manufacturing process. If your products are handmade, this could be a major selling point for your brand. If you use unique materials, focus on that fact in your product descriptions.
3. Build trust and credibility with customers
The main purpose of branding is to create a stronger connection between the customer and the business. Establishing your company as trustworthy, transparent, and authentic will help you attract and keep customers.
Building relationships with the customers is particularly important for ecommerce businesses.
Buying a product online requires faith in the seller. You can only view images or videos of the item, so you have to trust that the business is being honest in how they portray the product.
Content creation is one of the most effective ways to build trust among your customers. You can offer informative, valuable content that benefits readers and showcases your expertise in your industry.
Establishing a social media presence can help you build credibility, too. These days, using social media for your ecommerce business is pretty much a necessity.
If you haven’t already created accounts on different social media networks by the time you’ve launched your website, now’s a great time to do so!
The role of social media in ecommerce is significant, as it allows you to interact directly with current and potential customers. You can answer questions, thank customers for tagging you in posts, or show your followers what your day-to-day operations look like.
Your business should also send follow-up emails to shoppers. About a week after the purchase, reach out to the customer to thank them and ask them if they’re satisfied with the product.
If possible, personalize the email by addressing the customer by name or mentioning something specific about the item they bought. This shows your patrons that you truly care about their experience.
4. Prioritize the quality of your products
For small ecommerce businesses, quality is vastly more important than quantity. Online retailers that sell only a few products usually fare better than retailers that stretch themselves too thin. Some businesses are successful with only a single item in their product catalog.
When you narrow down your inventory to just a few items, you can focus on quality control. Whether you make the products yourself or purchase them from a manufacturer, you should only use high-quality materials from trustworthy sources.
Quality is critical for promoting customer loyalty, positive reviews, and word-of-mouth referrals.
Your store should be known for offering the best version of whatever items you sell. This sets you apart from competitors and strengthens your brand image.
Customers will have a stronger memory of your business when the products they receive serve their purpose as effectively as possible.
5. Provide customers with a high-quality unboxing experience
Branding can involve more than your products and your web design. Your ecommerce packaging can also be a valuable addition to your brand image.
Unboxing is a unique experience with online shopping that doesn’t happen with traditional commerce. Customers don’t receive the products right away when they shop online, so the excitement builds as they wait for their order to arrive in the mail.
Opening the box to finally see their purchase is an important part of the overall customer experience. Your business has the ability to create an enjoyable and memorable moment for your customers.
If possible, use branded boxes to ship your products. This can generate excitement as your customers will realize right away that their items have arrived. It can strengthen brand recognition, too, as it clearly displays your company’s name and logo.
In addition, consider the presentation of the product inside the box. The item should be safely and neatly placed in the box. You could even use bubble wrap or other packaging that matches your color scheme.
A postcard that includes information about your store and the product can be a great opportunity to establish your brand. This can help the customer learn more about your business and what you offer, and it can improve their experience with the item they purchased.
6. Make videos featuring a variety of content
Video content can showcase your brand and your products even better than photos can. Videos allow you to show an item from all angles, demonstrate a product in action, and include narration.
The amount of information you can provide in a video far exceeds what you can offer in a photo or written product description. Demonstration videos for your product listings are a great starting point.
There are plenty of other opportunities for video content, too. Your videos should reflect your company’s values and goals to reinforce your brand identity.
Some businesses share videos on Facebook or Instagram that show their behind-the-scenes operations. Others create humorous videos that showcase their products in a lighthearted way.
When brainstorming video content, think about how you want customers to view your business.
What emotions do you want to be associated with your brand? What do you want viewers to do after watching the video?
Short videos are highly engaging, especially on social media. Different types of videos may perform better on different channels.
For this reason, you’ll want to carefully measure engagement for your videos on each of your platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram for your ecommerce business, to fine-tune your video content strategy.
7. Use language that resonates with your target audience
Identifying and appealing to your target audience is an excellent way to build your brand. You may want to start by creating a buyer persona, which is a detailed representation of your ideal customer.
When building your buyer persona, consider their age, gender, income, needs, and priorities.
Once you’ve narrowed down your audience, think about what they want to hear and what they’re looking for in a brand. Adjust your tone and word choice accordingly. The goal is for your target demographic to feel like they're being spoken to personally.
If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at your competitors’ language.
Note that you shouldn’t blindly copy your competitors, as that can prevent you from becoming a unique brand. However, you may see a pattern in the type of messaging used by ecommerce businesses similar to yours.
You can also get a better grasp of your customers’ style of language by reading their reviews. Notice if your reviewers tend to write more casually or formally.
Take note of specific words or phrases that appear frequently in your reviews. Then, you can use this information to shape your written content.
8. Tell customers about your brand’s origins
Customers like brands that feel authentic and human. If your business has a compelling story that explains its mission and values, share it as often as possible. Your backstory helps your shoppers get to know your brand, and it shows authenticity.
Every ecommerce website should include an “About” page. This page can tell your story through a combination of text, photos, and even video.
Your story should include more than just the date and location of your brand's creation. It needs to explain the deeper reasons that you created the business.
What inspired you to establish this store? What problem are you trying to solve?
How did you come up with the name for the business? How has your brand evolved over time?
Your “About” page shouldn’t be a novel, but it should include enough information that viewers feel like they truly understand your mission. In any type of storytelling, readers feel more connected to characters who have a compelling background and clear motives.
This is true for customers and brands as well.
9. Find a charitable cause to support
If you’ve got the means to do so, giving back can truly be a wonderful thing. Supporting a charity benefits your community and gives your brand a stronger sense of purpose. It also helps you connect with your audience.
Some brands make a charitable donation with every purchase or donate a percentage of their total sales to a charitable organization. You could either donate money or give useful items to communities that need them. Your social media platforms can be used to promote a cause as well.
To strengthen your brand image, it’s generally best to select one charitable cause to strongly support. It’s important to choose carefully.
Think about your brand’s goals and values. The charity you work with should align with those ideals.
You can explain your company’s involvement with the charity on your “About” page, or you could add a separate “Giving Back” page to your website. If you make a donation with every purchase, explain this policy to your customers in your email follow-ups.
Identifying your brand should be one of your very first steps as you create an ecommerce store. Everything about your business should reflect your brand, including your products, your website, and your written communication.
Consistency is key, so make sure you keep your brand identity in mind whenever your business interacts with customers.
When creating your brand, it can help to think of your business as a person. Just like people have personality traits, values, and goals, your brand should have a clearly defined purpose.
The ecommerce industry is booming, which means there’s plenty of competition in almost every niche. Your brand is your opportunity to stand out from competitors.
No two businesses should have exactly the same branding strategy. Find what traits make your ecommerce store unique, and play to those strengths when crafting your brand!