Imagine that you’re picking up your grocery online, looking to buy a bottle of ketchup. Do you pick a Heinz bottle or any other lower-priced store brand? After all, ketchup is ketchup. Right?
When it comes to consumer’s choices, brands are what really matter. Consumers buy a brand, not a product. You pay a premium price for Heinz because, over time, the brand has created a perception of quality and trust.
So, how can you build your brand and differentiate your business in today’s very crowded space? And what are the best eCommerce branding strategies that really work?
This is what will be explained in this article.
You’ll find out:
- What Exactly Is a Brand? And What Does a Brand Consist of?
- What Is Branding and Why Is It Important for Your eCommerce Business?
- How to Do Branding for Your eCommerce Small Business Perfectly?
Let’s dive right in!
What Exactly Is a Brand?
It may seem like a silly question, but most people, even some marketers, don’t fully know or understand exactly what a brand is. A brand is usually understood by most people as the most iconic representation of a business, the logo, while a logo is just one very small part of the overall brand elements.
So, it’s actually really important to figure out what a brand is.
According to the American Marketing Association (AMA) “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.”
Brands can be distinguished from the more generic concepts of products and services, which can be defined as “Anything that can be offered to a market to satisfy a want or need, including physical goods, services, experiences, events, persons, places, properties, organizations, information, and ideas” (Kotler & Keller).
Types of Brands
Starting from organizations to individuals, there are many kinds of things that can become brands as follows:
- Individual Brands are the most common type of brand. They’re tangible, individual products, such as shoes or cars.
- Service Brands are companies that moved from manufacturing products to delivering complete solutions and intangible services (e.g., airlines, hotels, banks, management consultancy, supermarkets, and restaurants).
- Organization Brands are companies and other entities that deliver products and services (e.g., Mercedes and the U.S. Senate).
- Group Brands are a small group of branded entities that have interconnected and overlapping brand equity.
- Personal Brands can be one individual or it may be composed of a few individuals who are considered as a brand just like Oprah Winfrey or the Republican Party.
- Event Brands are like the TED series, music festivals, sporting events, touring Broadway musicals, and so on.
- Media Brands include magazines, newspapers, and television channels such as OSN and CNN.
- Virtual Brands or E-Brands exist only in the virtual world such as online marketplaces.
What Does a Brand Consist of?
Any brand consists of a group of elements. These elements can be categorized into two main categories: controllable and uncontrollable elements.
1. Controllable Brand Elements
These are the elements that you have the power to control and craft them your own. They’re made up of two major components, personality and looks.
- Personality or Brand Persona is a set of consistent human characteristics that are attributed to a brand name and consumers can relate to. Remember, the more your brand’s persona is similar to your customers, the more those customers are likely to purchase and deal with it.
- Looks or Brand Visual Assets are all visual elements that are front-facing and can include everything from your brand logo, your online store design, your ad designs, the color palette you use, and even your packaging and unboxing designs. Your visual assets play a vital role in providing an overall visual representation of your brand.
2. Uncontrollable Brand Elements
They are things out of your direct control. However, you can positively influence them through crafting your controllable brand assets perfectly. Uncontrollable brand elements include the following.
- Customer Experience: Simply, it’s an impression resulted from what they see, hear, and feel while interacting with your business.
- Customers’ Expectations: Unfortunately, it may not relate to your own business only, but it’s also related to shopping online in general. And you have no control over these expectations. For example, Amazon Prime members always get free shipping and next day delivery; so, they may expect getting the same when dealing with small eCommerce businesses.
- Word of Mouth: It’s all about what your customers are saying about you when you are not in the room. It’s incredibly important to keep your customers satisfied and loyal because one word can take your business to heavens and another can take it to deep hell.
All brand elements work as a psychological trigger or stimulus that causes an association with all other thoughts, emotions, and experiences one has had about this brand.
What Is Branding?
Branding is an iterative marketing practice that helps a company create a distinctive, strong, and positive perception that is easily identifiable and associated with your products or services.
Many businesses and marketers may find branding a bit vague and misunderstood concept but it is much easier than you can imagine.
As Jay Danzie famously said, “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”
That’s all about what branding is and that’s all you have to do — to be yourself and show your own personality depending on careful planning. Ideally, your brand strategy and branding guide should be worked out before you launch your online store.
Why Is Branding Important for Your eCommerce Business?
Branding for eCommerce businesses is absolutely critical because of the overall impact it makes on your company. It gives your business identity — something that your customers relate to and connect with beyond your product or service.
A global survey conducted by Nielsen revealed that almost 6 in 10 American shoppers actively bought from brands that they already know, and 21% of shoppers bought a product because they liked the brand.
Developing a strong brand identity with consistent branding strategies that position brands as a trustworthy choice will enable eCommerce small businesses to achieve competitive advantages that include the following.
1. Increasing Brand Value and Driving More Conversions
Branding is essential when trying to create a future online business. It enables retailers to differentiate themselves from one another and give them more leverage in the industry.
Brands that have succeeded in building a solid brand identity will have no trouble drumming up the referral business and increasing their conversions and sales. Customers will be more likely to do business with you because of the familiarity and assumed dependability of dealing with a name they can trust.
2. Building Trust and Customer Loyalty
People want more than just a product, they want a good experience — and they are willing to pay for it. Branding for eCommerce small businesses has multiple effects on driving better results from the eCommerce marketing and brand advertising campaigns as it transforms the target audience of potential and current customers to more loyal customers and brand advocates.
Once your brand has been well-established, word of mouth will be the best and most effective brand advertising technique.
3. Supporting Brand Advertising
Brand advertising is another important component of branding that will directly reflect the brand and its desired perception. Advertising strategies, such as the use of promotional products, make it easy to create a cohesive and appealing advertising strategy that plays a great role in achieving your company objectives and branding goals.
4. Shaping Brand Recognition and Expectations
The most important reason branding is important to an eCommerce business is that it shapes how a company gets recognized and becomes known to the consumers. Building consistency in your eCommerce branding ideas helps customers easily identify your brand.
That’s why creating a strong online presence for eCommerce brands is essential because you don’t have in-person experiences to fall back on, unlike the stores that started off as a brick and mortar business.
5. Shaping Customers’ Expectations and Brand Perceptions
The successful brand building helps to create a positive, strong, and lasting impression that will be difficult to displace. Brands can convey multiple levels of positive or negative messages about the company, products, or services, that may convey multiple levels of meaning as well. These meanings may include the following: (let’s take Amazon as an example)
- Attributes: They’re the specific product features. For Amazon, attributes are a wide range of products, lowest prices, perfect customer service, reliability, and value for money.
- Benefits: They’re the attributes when translating them into functional and emotional benefits. Amazon eCommerce giant suggests convenience, honesty, and trustworthiness.
- Values: They’re the company values and operational principles. Amazon brand evokes company values around being innovative, timely, energetic, reliable, and excellent.
- Personality: It’s about showing a strong and distinctive personality. Amazon’s brand personality combines friendliness and efficiency and precision.
- User: It’s about suggesting the types of consumers who buy and/or use the product/service. Amazon customers might be perceived and classified differently than, for example, Amazon Prime members.
Everything that has been mentioned above leads us to an important main idea, which is that all the activities the brand does contribute to building consumers’ perceptions about the brand. A new study conducted by Statista shows the reasons why American online shoppers like dealing with Amazon.
After knowing the basic concepts of eCommerce branding and why it’s so important, the question now is how you actually want your eCommerce small business to be seen?
Let’s figure that out…
How to Do Branding for Your eCommerce Small Business Perfectly?
Crafting and developing a brand allows you to better control your messages and more effectively tell your brand story to help shape your customer’s expectations, relationships, memories, and stories.
There are basic steps for building a brand for an online shop perfectly:
- Crafting a brand name, logo, and slogan
- Understanding your customers
- Defining your brand persona
- Determining your brand positioning
- Establishing your mission, vision, and values
- Creating your visual assets
Let’s delve deeper into each step…
1. Crafting a Brand Name, Logo, and Slogan
To start, a brand name and logo are the first things through which customers recognize your brand. Or we can also say that they’re the identity of the business. Choosing the perfect brand name that is both catchy and communicates what your business is all about is not so easy.
Think carefully and consider the below:
- Keep it simple.
- Don’t copy your competitors.
- Avoid using your own name.
- Be descriptive but not too general or vague.
- Use business-related words in a creative way.
Crafting a powerful logo can leave a lifetime impact on your customers. Take a look at the following logos; all of these brand logos managed to cement their names in consumers’ minds for a long time.
To create a perfect brand logo, there are some important things to consider:
- Take a look at your competitors’ logos (this is part of the competitive analysis you should do).
- Make sure to be unique.
- Use an enticing color palette.
- Your logo should be inspirational.
- The text font should be good and comfortable to the eye.
- The brand objective should be recognizable.
So, what about your brand slogan?
A brand slogan is a combination of a few memorable and impactful words to form a catchy phrase that can be used for advertising purposes and used in commercial, political, religious, or other contexts.
A brand slogan is used to convey the message and information about the quality of products/services that your business sells online, and what are the promises of your company.
While making a slogan, you should make it:
- Memorable, concise, and impactful
- Appealing to the audience
Here are some slogan examples of retail brands to inspire you:
- Apple: “Think Different”
- Amazon: “work hard. Have fun. Make history.”
- Walmart: “Save money. Live better.”
- Alibaba: “To the greatness of small.”, the slogan that used during the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018.
- eBay: “Buy it. Sell it. Love it.”, the slogan used in the brand’s first TV and radio campaign.
- Target: “Expect More. Pay Less.”
2. Understanding Your Customer
Understanding your customers is one of the toughest tasks of any eCommerce small business, but it’s necessary to analyze your target market and understand your customers to be able to understand their wants and needs so that you can effectively reach them, contact them, and achieve awareness, trust, and revenue.
To identify your target audiences, you need to answer questions like:
- What are your target audiences like?
- Where are they?
- What do they do?
- How much do they earn and spend?
- Which products or services do they need?
- What are their shopping behaviors?
- Which type of keywords and key phrases are they searching for?
- What are the best advertising platforms to reach the audience?
3. Defining Your Brand Persona
A brand persona is a set of personality traits, values, and attitudes that reflects your business personality to help connect with a particular audience segment. Your brand persona can be a character, person, animal, object, or idea.
A brand persona helps to identify the following:
- How would your persona speak and engage with your target audience?
- What tone of voice will suit them?
- What type of language will have the highest effect on them?
- What visuals will attract their attention?
4. Determining Your Brand Positioning
To differentiate your eCommerce business in today’s very crowded space, it is crucial to identify the best way to fit into the pre-existing market, especially if you have to compete with many well-established eCommerce giants.
So, what can you do better than any of your competitors?
The short answer is to conduct a competitive analysis to determine your unique value proposition.
There are some ways to differentiate your brand. Here are some of them:
- Choosing a niche market
- Solving a problem a little bit differently
- Designing your brand differently than other similar products
Check also our Competitive Analysis Guide that includes a ready-to-use template to help you study your competitors and determine your unique value proposition.
Download Free Competitive Analysis Template
5. Establishing Your Mission, Vision, and Values
What is the impact that you want your business to make? What are you looking to achieve besides generating revenue? What are your reasons for existing? What do you stand for?
All these questions and more should be considered while establishing your brand vision, mission, and values.
Your mission is your reason for creating your eCommerce business. Your vision is the goal you want to reach. The mission is like the overarching direction and vision is the guide to your decisions. And both show your personality, your company culture, dreams, and values you believe in.
The mission statement of Amazon is to bring inspiration and innovation to every customer and seller in the world, focusing on serving consumers through their physical and online stores, and focusing also on convenience, price, and selection.
6. Creating Your Visual Assets
The visual experience is extremely important for online shoppers as they don’t have the luxury of touching the products they purchase online. That’s why creating your brand’s visual assets is fundamental.
As we mentioned before, brand visual assets are all visual elements that are front-facing and can include everything from your brand logo, your online store design, your ad designs, the color palette you use, and even your packaging and unboxing designs.
It’s a powerful branding element that reaches its peak when all the brand parts are consistent and work harmoniously building its visual identity. While creating your brand visual elements, make sure to set your guidelines, and create a brand stylebook to govern the use and composition of your visual assets.
Uber is a great example of a brand that has a clear, consistent visual assets. In 2017, Uber partnered with ‘Ueno’, a creative agency, to launch ‘uber.design’ and help the company to rebrand. In 2018, Uber managed to create a holistic brand system that is instantly recognizable and works around the world, highlighting movement that’s as effortless as tapping a button to request a ride
After conducting in-deeps research, the company found a high positive association between Uber and the color black. The results also revealed three main pillars for building the new brand.
- Embrace black
- Invest in a wordmark, not a symbol
- Bring back the U.
Uber’s brand system was made up of nine main elements that are logo, composition, typography, iconography, color, motion, photography, illustration, and tone of voice. Each element was carefully built on a specific concept that reflects the brand identity.
Brand building can change how people perceive your brand, increase eCommerce sales, boost brand awareness, build solid brand loyalty, and much more.
Branding a new eCommerce business can be overwhelming for new business owners. Take it step by step, start slow, take the proper time to develop a focused online brand strategy that sets you apart from the competition.
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