2020 saw the global e-commerce market reach a staggering figure of $4.2 trillion in sales. The online marketplace is redefining our experience of buying and selling and new stores seem to pop up every day offering anything and everything imaginable. E-commerce now makes up nearly 20% of all retail sales and shows no signs of slowing its momentum.
This explosive market, brimming with competition can seem daunting at first, but an important question to ask yourself is
“What can I do to stand out in such a saturated market?“
Think of it as a job interview.
Two people with the exact same qualifications apply for the same position. Person A goes in, sits quietly, and answers all the questions he is asked in a measured voice. Clearly, he meets all of the criteria for the role.
Person B does the same, except he starts the interview with a warm smile and a firm handshake. He makes a little small talk, asks a few enthusiastic questions, cracks a joke or two, and compliments the interviewer's tie. When it comes time to decide between the two, who do you think will be called back?
This simple analogy is what online branding is all about. It’s a personality you create for your business that makes you unique and memorable in a way that works for the people you’re marketing to. In this article, we go over a few tips to keep in mind when you’re building a brand for yourself.
We’ll start with the cardinal rule of all marketing...
1. Know Your Audience
This step is crucial for e-commerce marketing. Branding is about building a persona and if you try to be palatable to everyone that persona will seem bland and forgettable.
Having a specific demographic in mind will give you laser focus when it comes to your branding. When you know who you’re aiming for it will make everything in your business more effective, from product descriptions to logo design.
“But, How Do I Figure Out Who My Audience Is?”
When building a persona for your audience, you should look at the features your product offers. Each one of these features serves as a solution to a customer’s problem. So, do a little detective work and try to build an identikit of the kind of person that has the kinds of problems you can solve.
Keep asking questions about this person. Find out their age, their likes, their dislikes. Where do they spend their time both online and offline? If possible, lean into a niche. Selling mouse pads and ergonomic keyboards? Figure out if you’re selling to office workers or gamers. Each requires a different approach to the same product.
This process is likely something you’ll be continuously tweaking. Once you’re getting customers, you can use your Google Analytics data to find out if your predicted target audience matches with who is actually showing up and engaging and adjust accordingly.
2. Design Elements
This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of branding. With bright, instantly recognizable logos and the short catchy slogan - branding, and design go hand in hand. The way you present your e-commerce site will be what sets you apart from the rest.
Use Color To Your Advantage. For example, consider these phrases:
“Green with envy.”
The psychology of colors is ingrained in us, with each shade and hue capable of eliciting an emotional reaction. The way we react to colors comes from millennia of human experience. Red is the most obvious example, as we have come to know it as the color of blood and fire. It’s provocative, eye-catching, and exciting.
There is also the effect of cultural associations. A deep wine red is thought of as a sensual color. Purple has come to be associated with affluence due to the rarity of purple dye in ancient times. Green, both as a word and a color, is now a metonym for nature.
Think carefully when choosing a color palette for your brand as these colors will carry your message on an emotional level. Be aware of the meaning of colors you use as well as the effect that different shades and color combinations have.
Pay Attention To Fonts
Simple changes to your font can convey a lot. A serif font says “sleek” and “modern.” A script font says “fun” and “artsy.”
Think of the Hugo Boss logo. It’s a simple, serif font in bold black with the word BOSS in large font.
That’s the entire logo. Just words in black and white, but it says everything you need to know. It’s sleek and elegant while still being bold and eye-catching - exactly what you want a suit to be. Its simplicity speaks to the nature of the suit, a classic look that’s largely unchanged, hence the monochrome. Meanwhile, the sharp edges of the serif reflect the precision tailoring.
Speak Through Shapes
Your logo will likely incorporate color and typography, but you should also think of the kinds of shapes you plan to use and what they will say about your company. Soft and rounded edges can make you seem welcoming and approachable while sharp, angular shapes can emphasize a slick, modern feel.
Implement Your Brand Voice
The copy on your site is you speaking directly to your customer. This is where you can be more direct with your branding by implementing your business’ persona into the tone of voice. Remember: it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Instead of “we are a fun and approachable team”, perhaps say “come on in and meet the people behind the shop!”
3. Tell A Story
The story behind your business is one of the main things that can differentiate you from the competition. It’s not enough to just have a WOW factor, you need a WHY factor too. People will relate to your brand if they can see the story behind it, the circumstances that led to its creation.
Tell them a bit about yourself, where you grew up, what led you to start this business, the pitfalls and roadblocks, as well as the passion and drive that helped you overcome them. Showing a little openness and vulnerability can go a long way with your customers.
4. Make It An Experience
If your brand is a person, it has to be more than just a cashier. Show your customers that you have more to offer than just your product. Engage with them through content and social media marketing as having interactions outside of transactions is a good way to establish brand identity. Blogging is the most common form of content marketing and an easy way to build your brand.
Depending on your brand goals and target audience, your blogs can come in the form of tips and tutorials, news, or even just entertainment. Giving them relevant content lets you establish yourself as not just a store, but somewhere they can learn and have fun.
Using social media can bring a sense of interactivity to your brand too. Asking questions on Instagram stories and creating fun challenges present an opportunity to engage with your audience and even make use of user-generated content.
5. Take Things Offline
It can be so easy to get caught up in the digital, data-driven nature of e-commerce that we forget about the offline side of things.
If you’re selling something physical, product packaging is a powerful branding tool that you may have been overlooking. Using your logo on your packaging is a great way to maintain brand consistency. Not only that, but for all our advancements of the digital age, the fact is that many people still prefer offline advertisements.
Neuroscience & Physical Advertising
A study by Temple University comparing digital to physical advertisements found that physical ads took less cognitive power to process and were more likely to be remembered. It also uncovered the fact that paper ads also held people’s attention for longer.
Most fascinating of all, however, was that physical media caused a more profound effect in a region of the brain known as the ventral striatum, an area known for its effect on reward and desire.
Carrying your branding over into physical form will also feel more personal and something as simple as a thank-you note can leave a lasting positive impression.
Remember: Consistency Is Key
For success in your e-commerce business, it’s important to maintain a recognizable brand. From your logo to your social media, to the fonts you use - everything should be distinctly yours. Your brand helps customers relate to you as well as making you stand out from the crowd.
Hopefully, these tips will have inspired you in your branding work. Putting them into practice will have you well on your way to perfecting a brand identity that customers keep coming back to.