As Seth Godin famously said, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”.
People frequently mistakenly equate a brand to a logo. While a logo is a part of a brand, it, alone, is nowhere near the brand as a whole. Common elements of a brand are its logo, colors, taglines, and of course, the product. However, an eCommerce branding strategy surpasses the creation of visual elements.
Your eCommerce branding strategy helps you control and guide your customers’ expectations while developing a relationship with them. Many companies feel powerless around customers’ thoughts of their brand, but it is, in fact, you who gets to define how you want to be seen and remembered.
You have the power to establish a unique personality for your eCommerce brand that sets you apart from your competitors despite potentially having similar products. Your unique personality creates a point of familiarity for your customers. How you build your brand online is an ongoing process that helps customers understand what you offer, what you stand for, and how you make their lives better.
Brand identity develops a relationship through positive emotions so that customers are not just satisfied with your product, but they are satisfied with you. Online brands can create positive emotions by being helpful and continuously showing care.
The athletic brand Nike is a great example of a solid eCommerce branding strategy. It did not reach a $37B valuation for no reason. It transformed itself from a shoe brand for professional athletes to a fitness and lifestyle brand for the general population and is so well known for its simple “swoosh” logo, short name, and consistency in its inspirational athletic images that depict how you, the average athlete, can become a winner.
Of the biggest eCommerce brands, Apple dominates the tech space and the world at a $205B valuation with a very loyal and heavily emotionally invested following. Their branding revolves around highly consistent product design that conveys both the quality and status that their customers have come to expect.
Why branding for eCommerce matters
eCommerce is an incredibly crowded space with over 7M retailers and strong branding helps a company survive and thrive despite a similarity in products. For companies that had a brick and mortar presence first, moving to eCommerce was easier because of already having the established name and in-person brand experience.
Branding builds trust
A strong brand builds trust through relationships with an audience, building loyalty, keeping them coming back repeatedly and leading to your business’ success. And, with that trust comes a premium people are willing to dish out as can be seen with more people buying a name brand option when the generic brand is the exact same and cheaper.
People buy from brand names that they recognize because of the comfort and status it provides. In fact, people who wear luxury branded clothes get treated better, Nelissen and Meijers discovered in their peer-reviewed article. They are not just buying your products; they buy what you stand for. Generic products don’t stand for anything.
According to the Harvard Business Review, 64% of people cite shared values as being the main reason they have a relationship with a brand. And they stick like peanut butter and jelly. Just look at Coke and Pepsi: two products that are basically the same yet have such polarized brand adherence.
While your products may not be forever as the market and technology change, your brand can be. Good eCommerce branding is memorable for the long term, which creates equity in a business. It is critical for growth so that your brand doesn’t rely on a single product for your company’s success. Independent of a product’s existence, your brand will give people positive, trusted associations forever.
Branding provides an experience
The relationship, or connection, your customers forge with you is created through experiences. When they can share in an experience with others by being a part of a brand’s community, the connections are strengthened and they return.
People want more than a product; they want an experience — and they are willing to pay for it. Great experiences have multiple effects. They transform your company from having a simple buying-selling relationship into something that gets people to return and even tell others about you.
Your branding is a way of talking to your customers in a way that makes you relatable and likable.
Branding shapes expectations
Your eCommerce branding strategy shapes your customers’ expectations. With consistency in your eCommerce branding ideas, they become ingrained in your customers’ minds, helping them easily identify and follow you.
Search engines factor your following into who they give good visibility, so creating a following is essential. It is essential to create a strong online presence if you are an eCommerce brand. Unlike the stores who started off as a brick and mortar company, you do not have that in-person experience to fall back on.
How to build a brand strategy
We will guide you on how to build a brand online. eCommerce branding strategies have a lot of components, but really it is a simple formula. And, once you have your branding ideas, you can create your eCommerce branding guide. Your strategy gives your brand standards to help you maintain consistency that your customers can begin to identify and associate with. Here’s how to build a brand from scratch.
Know your buyer persona
To start, it is crucial to know who your customer is. All of your branding elements will revolve around the people who are buying your products. Your clients serve as the base of any successful branding strategy.
You may use Google Analytics, surveys, and your competition as guides to uncover where they live, do not live, how old they are, their gender, interests, education, job title, income, relationship, language, favorite websites, why they buy, and questions or concerns they may have about your product. With this knowledge, you can anticipate their needs and create messaging that resonates with them by reaching them on the right platforms with the right design and the right copy.
Determine your brand positioning
Because the eCommerce space is incredibly crowded, it is important to identify the best way to fit into the pre-existing market. What is it that you do and what can you do better than any of your competitors? Your unique value proposition is the benefits you want people to think of when they think of you.
Here are some ways to consider how you may be different in your space.
- Is it by how your product is designed differently than other similar products?
- Is it how you solve a problem a little bit differently?
- Is it your price point?
These are just a few different ways you may be able to position yourself that sets your brand up for long-term success.
Be consistent in everything
At this point, you have a very early base established. You know who you are selling to and have an angle in mind. From here on out, all of your branding elements should be similar and complement each other. For example, if your graphics are colorful, your language should be equally colorful.
Establish your vision
Obviously, you want to generate a profit, but beyond that, what is the impact that you want to have? What are you looking to achieve besides revenue?
Your vision will serve as your inspiration as you focus on the future of your company. It will guide your decisions as you set out to solve the problem that your customers will buy into. Consider the vision statements of some of the biggest eCommerce brands:
Nike’s vision is to remain the most authentic, connected, and distinctive brand; Amazon’s is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company; and Apple’s is to make great products.
Establish your mission
Your mission is your overarching direction; it is your reason or purpose for existing. What do you stand for?
The mission statement for Nike is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world; Amazon’s is to serve consumers through online and physical stores and focus on selection, price, and convenience, and Apple’s is to bring the user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services. How are they doing? Are they holding true to their mission?
See how these mission statements compare to their vision statements.
Establish your values
Your values share why you do the things you do — the reason behind your policies.
You may establish your values based on what is important to you, or what is important to your audience. Here are three questions you can use to help you determine your brand values. What do customers say about you?
To learn this, you can go straight to the source by talking to them or surveying them. Alternatively, you can read reviews that they’ve left of you. Secondly, what are your top three priorities? And, lastly, what are the values of your favorite brands, because, naturally, you have similar values as the things that you like.
Establish a brand promise
Your brand promise is a simple statement of goals that you work towards every day. It provides some transparency around how you will make your customers’ lives better.
Create a brand name
An eCommerce brand name should not be determined haphazardly. It’s such a huge element of your brand and you have to live with it forever. Here’s how to create a brand name. Your brand name should tell people what your business does and give it identity. It should give a clue as to who you are and what you do. If chosen correctly, it will attract clients, convert them, and keep them. Understanding your competitors’ names and why they have them will help you stand up against them in the eyes of your customers.
Establish your brand persona
A brand persona adds personality to your company and helps you effectively communicate. It makes you more than just a logo.
To establish your brand persona, start by revisiting your buyer persona. Who is your audience? What kind of language do they use? Learn more about their language by taking a look at how they talk in reviews they’ve left of you or similar products, do additional consumer research, and look at the language your competitors use. By talking how your customer talks you increase their responsiveness.
Having a brand archetype and a few brand pillars will help you achieve consistency in your persona.
The Millward Brown Index provides 10 brand archetypes from which you can select. They are: wise, seductress, rebel, hero, maiden, kind, dreamer, friend, joker, and mother. With your archetype in hand, round out your personality with a few attributes of how you might be described. Measure all of your activities against these attributes to make sure you are holding fast to your brand persona. It cannot be overstated how essential consistency is.
Establish your visuals
Visuals are particularly important in eCommerce because when shopping online people can’t touch or feel products. Visuals range from your logo to typography to photography.
How to design a logo
There are seven different types of logos: wordmark, lettermark, pictorial mark, abstract mark, combination mark, mascot logo, and emblem. Wordmark logos only include the company name — like what Google did for their logo.
Lettermark logos are simple and are frequently the company’s initials — think of NASA. A pictorial mark is graphic based. Apple and Target are great examples of these. The abstract mark is a kind of pictorial mark, but in a more abstract form featuring geometric images like that of Pepsi’s logo. For the mascot logo think of Wendy of Wendy’s or the Pillsbury Dough Boy of Pillsbury. The emblem logo combines text with an image, in a contained shape like that of Starbucks.
Revisit the persona you have for your brand, and what your vision, mission, and values are. Your logo needs to convey your brand’s message and be simple, memorable, versatile, and timeless. People will begin identifying you by your logo — that’s why it needs to be simple and memorable. It needs to be versatile because it will need to go on a variety of materials. And it should be timeless because your goal is to create a lifelong eCommerce brand.
Like anything, consistency in the visuals will help people recognize it.
Choose a color palette
Your color palette will be 3-5 colors and will evoke emotional responses — ensure it evokes the right responses! Each color has a different meaning, in addition to some industries having higher affinities for certain colors.
For example, blue signifies trust, dependability, and strength; orange is used if a brand wants to be perceived as friendly and cheerful; and green is the color of growth and health… So choose your colors wisely.
Yes, your typography has a personality, too — and it should match your brand persona. Select several fonts for the body, header, and promotional text that align with your brand and colors and make sure you use serif, sans serif, and script fonts appropriately. Serif fonts are old-fashioned, but easier to read when there is lots of text and sans serif fonts are modern and easy to read in small amounts.
Be consistent with the photographs of your products. You can photograph your products on a white background, or consistently on varied backgrounds, or use an entire scene as a background for your product images.
Building a brand from scratch can be expensive so creating your brand’s visual elements on your own may be a good starting point before you’re making money. Once you’re generating some revenue you can take your visuals up a notch. There are some tools that can help you get it done if you are on a shoestring budget. 99designs, Fiverr, and Canva are great options.
Create content in your brand voice
Content helps your brand persona build relationships with your customers by sharing your vision and value. Engage with them, holding true to your brand persona, on social media whether that is through content that you’ve created, by listening to them, by providing customer support, or by selling.
Helpful, relevant content such as podcasts; product demo or explainer videos; infographics; or comparison content show that you care. Maintain relevance by checking in with them regularly to see if your content is current and appeals to them. You can also guarantee current content by using current technologies like insta stories and trending hashtags.
Be 100% focused on your customers
Your customer’s experiences are defined by what they see, feel, and hear, so your focus should be on them 100%. You can serve your customer well by segmenting your list, learning as much about them as possible, and responding quickly.
A great customer experience makes them feel good. They like knowing that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Your community involvement is their community involvement.
Share your story
Your customers will feel a deeper connection with you if they know your brand’s unique story. So, share it. Include your story — with them as the hero — on the about us page, on all your packaging, and in the press.
Be consistent by using an eCommerce branding guide
Of all your eCommerce branding ideas, your aim should be consistency. You do not have a brand if people are not associating consistent brand elements with you.
A brand bible, or eCommerce branding guide, with all of your key brand elements can serve as a consistent reminder and reference for your employees. When branding guidelines are clearly spelled out they can be well understood and your employees can help influence how customers see you.
Employees should be aligned with your mission, vision, and core values to ooze your brand.
How to build a brand online, in a nutshell
Your eCommerce brand is not simply your products and logo. It is an entire being that needs to stand out in a crowded space. You have the capacity to craft this persona in the exact way that you want that will make you seen. You can control the expectations that customers come to have of your brand, and work to meet them and further them day in and day out.
A well-crafted brand connects with your customers through a genuine relationship beyond just that of buying and selling products. This gets your customers involved in something that is bigger than themselves that they come to feel an intimate connection with.
Build a brand with a great brand strategy that creates expectations, memories, stories, and relationships, just like Seth Godin suggested.