If you are reading this article, chances are you've moved on from selling stuff piecemeal on eBay, Amazon, Etsy, or any of the other major marketplaces where you're more or less anonymous. You've probably built your own store. More power to you. Now it's time to think about branding.
Having an e-commerce store is like being a puppy in a pound full of cuteness. You're all equally adorable, so you need to do something to make you stand above the rest, like pressing against the cage for pettings and looking pitiful when people pass by (that's how my pup escaped euthanization).
Branding is a like a less-sad version of that.
E-commerce stores can use the same marketing strategies as an individual eBay seller, but branding is unique to your store. Furthermore, it can help you beat back the competition simply by being YOU! You will foster customer loyalty, command a higher price point, and more easily "go viral" when you post something online. However, creating a brand is by no means a walk in the park. Brand building requires knowledge of buyer psychology, a bit of narcissism, consistency, and sheer hard work to perform properly.
It is all about the brand, but at the same time, it is all about the customer. That sounds contradictory, but that doesn't change things. Here's how you can create a brand that will help you rake in the big bucks for your e-commerce store.
Let's start by explaining what branding is. A "brand" is not really a thing: it's not your logo, it's not your website design. It's a feeling. The trademark of a truly successful brand is that said feeling isn't based in logic. For example, think about your favorite brand of shoes. What makes it your favorite? Is it the quality? The price? The design? In most cases, you probably appreciate all of these things initially. But those aren't what make the brand.
In addition to everything else you find satisfying about your shoes, you feel good about the brand because it triggers your happy centers. It could be because your celebrity idol wears the brand all the time, or your friends think they're the most awesome shoes ever, or you associate them with a positive experiences (maybe it was the brand of running shoes you wore when you completed your first 5k).
The brand evokes not only emotions but ideals that translate to a missions and actions.
As another example, let's consider Apple. Love it or hate it, you can't deny that there's a certain culture and a certain school of thought that surround its products: clean design and innovation. There's an army of Apple fans who never tire of touting the virtues of the company.
That's branding in a nutshell.
And that, my friends, is why it's the greatest resource your store can have. Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks.
Customers are the only raison d'être for your store. They are simultaneously the source of and solution to all of your problems. However, we don't have to flog this particular horse to death today, as we've discussed it quite nicely in a previous article. Suffice to say that you have to do your buyer research before you can hope to build your brand.
You cannot hope to be all things to all customers. Identifying your target market will help you narrow your focus when creating your brand, increasing its effectiveness. If you are serious about creating your own brand, then find out important demographic information, like the following:
Gather as much info about your audience as you can and this will inform your marketing efforts. It'll help you come up with effective methods of targeting new customers and retargeting those who might return. More importantly, it'll help you build a profile of your customers, in other words, a general outline of who a sample member of your audience might be. Personalizing your customers this way helps you build a rapport with your audience, and that humanizes your brand in their eyes as well.
Building your brand means building relationships with the people you interact with. This is all about individuality and personality. That's why it's important that all of your branding materials represent you in unique and amicable ways. This starts with a proper tagline.
The “you” here is your store, of course, but for the sake of brevity we will be using the royal “you.” You need a great logo, but you also want a tagline that people can easily remember and recognize. Your tagline should be short but loaded with value. That means you should be able to infer more than what you're saying from what you said. There should be a benefit or cause integral to it. It can be a call to action or a simple declaration that people can connect to emotionally.
Whatever it is, it should be something that personifies the products you offer without over-promising. You don't want to raise the expectations of your customers to an untenable level. That risks disappointing them when you're unable to deliver both moon and stars. Focus on your USP (unique selling point) and you should do well.
Not sure how to get started? Check out this Forbes article for some great advice on creating incredible taglines.
Once you have all the pieces of the puzzle, it's time to put them together to make a cohesive whole. In other words, you have to plan how to create customer awareness for your brand. There are a lot of ways to do this online (social media and email marketing immediately come to mind), but you have to be careful not to push too hard. Pushiness is off-putting, so you have to be cautious when you present your brand to the public. You also need to be consistent in your emphasis and approach to avoid confusing your audience about who you are.
You will also have to give a lot of thought to the look and content of your online store, newsletters, promos, emails, and packaging. All should be a reflection of your branding to reinforce your identity every time someone visits your store, receives a notification, or buys a product. Consistency wins the cake. Check out how this guy did it. He now rakes in $120k a month selling beard care products. No kidding.
Keeping your brand's integrity is dependent on customer satisfaction. You didn't go through all that work to get negative reviews at the end of the day, right? Poor quality products, shoddy packaging, late deliveries, and crappy customer service all impact on your brand, so you need to up the ante on the quality of everything.
If you have to, sacrifice some profit to satisfy your customer's needs, or ensure their continued patronage, so long as it does not compromise the core of your brand. Consistency can be hard to sustain at times, but it is essential for your branding strategy.
Word-of-mouth is an important marketing strategy, but not if they're dissing you. You have to take the good with the bad; make sure it's all good, as much as possible.
Here are some points we would like to emphasize:
Are you running away scared? We don't blame you; it is a tall order for any retailer. However, if you truly want to maximize your profit potential, you will need to build a brand for your e-commerce store.
Do you have a story to tell? Shoot us a comment, we like to hear from our readers.