Whether it’s groceries, clothing, or electronics, customers buy increasingly from ecommerce stores, which presents a huge opportunity for savvy ecommerce brands. But many people only buy from recognized brand names and ignore the rest. That’s why building a recognizable ecommerce brand plays such a crucial role in improving the chances of ecommerce business success.
In this article, we will take you through just why branding is so important in the world of ecommerce, and the steps to take in leveling up your ecommerce brand.
What is an ecommerce brand?
Your ecommerce brand is not just your logo, brand name, and catchy tagline, but it’s how people perceive and talk about your business and your business’s personality. It’s the impression left on people by an ecommerce company they’ve interacted with, directly or indirectly. It’s the unmistakable, unique personality of a business, the first thing that comes to mind when people hear your business’s name.
Why building an ecommerce brand is important?
Building an ecommerce brand is crucial for business growth. Strong branding means customers often pick you over the competition, giving you a competitive advantage. In fact, according to a survey we at 99designs by Vista conducted, the majority of small business owners (86%) believe branding is important to their overall business success, with 84% saying that their visual branding helps attract new customers and 88% accrediting their branding with building customer trust1.
Strong branding can lead to sustainable growth: once customers start to recognize and prefer your brand, they are more likely to become loyal customers and stick with you over the long haul. It’s no surprise then that the same survey found that 78% of small business owners claim their visual branding significantly impacts their revenue growth. People trust well-branded ecommerce websites and support them even during difficult times.
Integrating the four V’s into your ecommerce brand
To discover and articulate your ecommerce brand, you must do some digging. Your company branding rests on four pillars:
For your company to be attractive to consumers, a clear vision must guide it. Vision is what your brand works to achieve, dollars aside. It’s impactful, not monetary.
How do you discover your vision? Try revisiting your company’s origins and dig into your history to find out what inspired its founder to form it. Why did you create your product in the first place, beyond profit? Go beyond transactions and think about what you want people to think or feel long after they’ve used your product.
Values are what is dear to you and your audience. Your values guide your organization and inform everything you do, and how you do it.
To nail your values, answer these 3 questions:
- What are customers saying about you? Sift through customer reviews or survey your audience to see what you are doing well.
- What are your top three priorities? This question forces you to pinpoint what’s important to you.
- What are your favorite brands doing? Probe brands you love because what they are doing echoes in your heart. You identify with them because you share their values.
Just as people have distinct, recognizable voices, your company also has a voice. Brand voice is how your company comes across when you talk to your audience. Depending on your industry and goals, you could be:
- Funny and playful
- Helpful and supportive
- Warm and friendly
Your voice must be memorable and consistent, so you don’t confuse your target audience. Voice makes you recognizable and humanizes your brand.
Brand visuals are the visible symbols associated with your organization. Here are three visual parts of a brand identity.
Your logo design is a unique mark or image that’s the face of your brand.
Basically, there are seven types of logos.
The most common logo types are the Wordmark and Lettermark, primarily featuring the company name, for example, Coca-Cola or NASA.
Other common types of logos include the Pictorial mark and the Abstract mark, using images to capture your brand’s essence, like Apple, as well as the Combination Mark, which merges imagery and your company name, for example, Adidas. And finally, there’s the Mascot logo and the Emblem.
There are many ways to divide these categories, and the lines are often blurred, but whichever type you choose, make sure your logo is memorable. The whole point of a logo is to serve as a visual mnemonic cue.
Typography has everything to do with the appearance and style of the written word.
Fonts affect people’s perception and behavior. Here’s a quick rundown of five font types and their general functions:
- Serif Fonts are the most classic, traditional, often conservative font type, and are used very ubiquitously in print and web.
- Sans Serif Fonts bring simplicity, frankness, and trustworthiness with a touch of modernity. Generally a common font style for any company across industries.
- Script Fonts evoke creativity and fluidity, have stronger inherent personalities and are best used sparingly for their eye-catching flair.
- Display Fonts are fonts designed for larger scales, communicating boldness and originality. It is commonly used by fashion and entertainment brands, as well as by publications, as they garner more attention.
- Handwritten Fonts mimic the style and flow of natural handwriting and have seen a big rise in popularity over the last 10 years. They work well in combination with other font types to bring quirkiness, a DIY touch, and personality.
- Red – passion, energy, love, romance, and comfort.
- Black – modernity, power, strength, intelligence and glamour.
- Blue – security, wisdom, loyalty, dependability and sophistication.
- Green – nature, health, wealth, fertility and tranquility.
- Pink – warmth, love, romance and femininity.
12 ways to create the best ecommerce brand
Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s get into the steps you should take to position your brand in your customers’ minds. Here are 12 ways to build a strong ecommerce brand:
1. Outline the key benefits of your brand
Today, businesses often use similar tools to make physical products. It can be difficult to distinguish between many products in a saturated market, so strive to differentiate your products by showcasing what makes your product and brand unique.
Differentiate yourself through:
- A hyper-focused target market.
Instead of selling watches to everyone, for example, focus on busy yet trend-conscious millennials.
- A benefit-rich tagline.
Capture the advantages of working with you with a catchy tagline.
- A minor difference in design.
Want to stand out? Flaunt a small but unique product feature.
2. Be consistent and loyal
Think about one of your favorite brands for a second. You’ve stuck with them for many years, maybe even decades. You wouldn’t dream of dumping them for another brand, not without a good reason. Not in a million years.
Why? Because they are consistent and reciprocate your loyalty. They show up month after month, year after year, maintaining the same excellent standards in product quality and quality of service.
As a result, you stay loyal to them.
Become a consistent customer-centric brand like ecommerce giant Amazon. This customer-centric approach has reaped them bumper sales.
3. Identify your brand’s target audience
Focusing on the right target audience is foundational to the success of any ecommerce business.
Even if you have a flawless product, without reaching the right target audience, you will struggle. Audience-focused marketing resonates with potential customers naturally, so they’re happy to pay for your product (because they already want your product).
To succeed in audience targeting, you must understand:
- Who they are.
Go beyond basic demographics and dive deeper into their needs, problems and desires.
- Where they are.
Locate their favorite online watering hole, e.g. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or niche forums.
- What they struggle with.
Identify their pain points and the problems they struggle with that your product could solve.
- Which search terms they use.
Investigate the phrases they use to search for products so you optimize your copy to draw them organically to your store.
For example, Sephora prioritizes mobile apps to dish out gift cards and coupons because they have a mobile-first audience.
4. Better serve your customer
Without customers, you have no business to speak of. The better you serve your customers, the more money you can hope to make. So, how do you improve your service to them?
- Segment your list.
A segmented list helps you send customers personalized offers. Email sequences are great for this.
- Check customer data.
Check what your customers are buying, when they are buying it and how much they spend.
- Respond to queries.
When customers have queries or issues, answer their questions or solve their problems swiftly.
5. Establish your style
Shoppers don’t stick with your brand just because they love your products. They buy from you because of their experiences with your brand. Case in point, Mr Porter doesn’t only sell clothing or accessories, they sell a modern, millennial lifestyle.
Their app is available to all customers for an elevated, VIP shopping experience.
Everything, from your logo to user experience, from copy to colors must converge to form one distinct brand experience. That’s how to keep your customers coming back for more.
6. Focus on product quality
Emerging ecommerce brands are becoming more clever. Instead of launching with a myriad of products, they narrow their focus and start with one product, doing their utmost to make that single product the highest quality.
Why? Today’s consumers don’t tolerate mediocre products. Starting with a ton of products splits focus and can lead to a compromise on quality. As a result, consumers can desert your brand or suffer choice fatigue.
Focusing on one product of high quality can lead customers to become loyal to your brand and enhance your reputation.
Chubbies started off selling only retro shorts for men. Their hyper-focus on quality paid off and they exploded into an ecommerce giant.
7. Create diverse content types (podcasts, videos, infographics…)
Content runs the ecommerce ecosystem. Content grows your relationship with customers.
Create great content directly related to your niche. For example, Each Night Sleep, a mattress company has an entire section on their site featuring thought leadership sleep health content.
Pay attention to these high-converting 4 content types:
Some customers prefer listening to reading, so learn how to make a podcast, or consider sponsoring a relevant podcast for a couple of episodes.
Create vlogs, product demo videos, and explainer videos. Dollar Shave Club produces entertaining videos for their customers. This video, for example, got a whopping 5 million views in 90 days.
Break down content into digestible bits by working with a designer on infographics (or consider these infographic templates).
- Comparison content
Create comparison content to compare and contrast your products with competitors.
8. Speak their language
For your ecommerce brand to connect emotionally with your customers, you need to speak their language.
When your messaging dials into how your customers communicate, they will be more responsive to your marketing campaigns and will leave a positive impression of your branding efforts.
UK gifts company Not On The High Street knows how to speak their customers’ language. Warm conversational expressions like “I love you a whole bunch” show they’ve ditched corporate speak for a more relaxed tone.
Here’s how you discover your target market’s language:
- Dig into product reviews
Look for common expressions used by your customers and feature them organically throughout your copy.
- Revisit customer research
Check your consumer research and mirror the language used by your customers.
- Check on your competitors
Keep an eye on how competitors are phrasing their communications. You want to differentiate yourself, of course, but it’s good to keep in mind what your direct competitors are doing.
9. Share your story
Winning ecommerce brands have a gripping story. Consider making your customers the heroes of that story and it will resonate strongly with them. Weave your brand’s story into everything you do.
- About us page.
Share interesting details of your brand’s origin on your About Us page. A video from the founder can be especially compelling.
Share your story through product labels, tags, packaging, and every physical interaction your customers have with their purchases.
- Press release.
If you are a startup or launching a new product, a press release is a great platform to share your story. PR, in general, is a great way of reaching more customers.
Online retailer Overstock told their decorated long history creatively.
10. Be a part of something bigger
Customers love brands that engage the community and make the world a better place. Customers connect with brands that make them become part of a bigger cause. Studies show that 73% of customers believe companies must improve the communities they operate in.
For example, Toms shows customers the impact they are making.
When customers buy, they also support a good mission.
Seek out good causes and charities cherished by your customers and support them. For long-term impact, donate a portion of your profits to a specific charitable organization annually. And for greater brand recognition, collaborate with an influencer to expand your reach.
11. Reflect, refine, and get advice
Align everything you do to connect better with your best customers. You’ll end up with a stronger ecommerce brand. Here are some tips on how to do it:
- Create a value statement that shows what makes you different.
- Share a consistent message across all channels.
- Leverage new technologies and strategies in your marketing.
- Lean on user-generated content for sticky content.
- Use trendy hashtags so shoppers find your store.
Women’s clothing brand Aerie urged customers to post unedited photos of themselves in bathing suits.
Not only did they elevate their brand’s authenticity, they also raised $10k for the National Eating Disorders association.
12. Leverage social media and advertising
Successful ecommerce brands seamlessly integrate social media into their marketing, as Loganix points out:
“Building a great ecommerce brand requires advertising at some stage. PPC ads on social media and Google search are fantastic for not only direct sales, but also brand awareness and simply connecting with the right customers at the right time.”
Here’s how to maximize social media for branding and advertising:
- Communicate to your audience on their favorite platforms.
- Consider using social media for customer support.
- Listen to your customers.
- Sell your products, but don’t be spammy.
- Grow your following but prioritize engagement over follower count.
Fashion brand Velvet Caviar has a massive 969k followers on Instagram. They chose to prioritize Instagram as a visual platform perfect for their industry.
3 lessons learned from established ecommerce brands
Top ecommerce brands are market leaders for a reason. To grow your online store, learn some of their secrets:
1. Humans crave social proof before buying
As a business owner, you know people do what they see other people doing. Take advantage of this herd mentality to maximize profits. Team up with authentic influencers to build your brand. Make sure the influencer is relevant to your audience.
You can also post user-generated content on your social platforms. Research shows that user-generated content receives 4x higher clickthrough rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click compared to average ads.
2. Keep up with trends and cut through the noise
Big ecommerce brands are not static. They move with the times. One trend you should consider is posting ephemeral content on your channels. Ephemeral content is rich media content that’s available for only 24 hours and disappears.
Ephemeral content creates a rush to see your content. Instagram stories are a great tool to share your brand message in exciting ways.
3. Better customer experiences lead to more sales
Want customers to love your brand to bits? Invoke positive feelings in them from the first time they engage with your brand until they leave as potential brand evangelists. Here’s how:
- Give them surprise extras. Everyone loves a nice unexpected gift.
- Make site navigation simple so they move around easily when they shop.
- Consider a custom app to make shopping with you convenient and fun.
- Produce 360 product photographs to showcase products fully.
Branding for ecommerce is vital to your store’s success. Without good branding, your company will be another brand nobody remembers. Good branding changes that.
If you position your brand and work on your brand experience for customers, good things happen. Products fly off the shelves. Profits soar. Your brand gains popularity and relevance.
Strategic branding produces more than customers, it can produce an engaged community of brand evangelists.
1. Data collected via online research firm Corus in June 2022 from 1,061 decision makers from small businesses with no more than 100 employees across North America, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.↩
About the author:
Beatriz Estay is a Small Business Content Marketing Specialist at BigCommerce and the fashion and lifestyle influencer behind The Letter Bea, an Austin, Texas based blog. She holds a B.A. in Communication and Sociology/Anthropology from Lake Forest College and specializes in ecommerce, marketing and merchandising strategies, influencer and branding work, and social media. When she’s not curating content, Beatriz loves to travel the world, share her journey with Type 1 Diabetes, and find Austin’s most Instagram friendly spots.
This article was originally published in 2020. It has been updated with new examples and information.