Tell Your Story: What Is Branding & Why Is It Important to Your Online Business?
Branding is nothing new. For more than a century, Western ranchers have branded their cattle to protect these valuable four-legged assets. Nowadays, a well-known brand is one of the biggest assets for online businesses. By helping retailers build a distinctive identity in the market, branding can increase both sales and profitability, providing the foundation for eCommerce success.
At ShipStation, we talk about branding A LOT: with our Branded Tracking Page, customizable labels and packing slips and emails, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to get your brand in front of your customers at every stage of the buying process.
But what exactly is branding? Why do we put such a heavy focus on it? On one level, branding is all about creating a consistent visual identity for customers and prospects, as well as your sales and marketing team. That includes your store’s logo, slogan, website, social media pages and email messages – every potential “touch point” with your customers.
On a deeper level, branding can shape the entire customer experience, including responsive personal service, shipping options, return policies, warranties, and guarantees. This broader view of branding builds positive relationships, based on trust, that lead to repeat sales, greater loyalty to your store and enhanced customer lifetime value (CLV).
Another aspect of branding is telling a story about your store, including your history, mission, values and contributions to society. It allows customers to identify with your store, so you don’t have to compete on price alone. It also encourages customers to fill their baskets with different kinds of products, knowing they are backed by your brand.
There are many good sources of branding advice, including consultant Matt Ward, who offers branding tips for online retailers, and Richard Lazazzera, founder of “A Better Lemonade Stand,” who has a free downloadable branding guide. Here are five powerful suggestions for developing a successful eCommerce brand.
- Build on your store’s history. Why did you establish an online business and what did you hope to achieve? Going back to your roots can help you craft an effective branding “story” for your market, even if your store has evolved since its founding. For instance, Apple has been known for easy-to-use, well-designed technology products since its early days in the 1970s.
- Create an emotional connection. Give your customers a great experience that makes them want to return for another purchase in the future. Branding is the key to fostering that powerful personal connection to your store.
- Understand your customers. If you know who’s buying your products – and your best prospects – you can offer them a brand that has solutions to their challenges. For instance, one group of consumers might respond quickly to a brand offering “affordable home furnishings” while another might jump at the opportunity to shop for “unique hand-woven tapestries for the home.”
- Make your store matter. Think about what’s important to your customers beyond their purchases, and incorporate that into your branding. If you sell cosmetics, healthcare or educational products, for instance, you may want to contribute to a relevant charity. Even better, you can become an advocate for an important cause, and incorporate that linkage into your branding. This approach can create win-win-win situations that help individuals and communities, as well as your store.
- Deliver a clear, consistent message. Once you have determined your branding strategy, stick with it. As with any form of marketing, consistency is necessary to build awareness and increase the trust. Keep your message as clear and simple as possible since consumers’ attention spans keep getting shorter.
Remember that branding is the key to creating those powerful emotional connections that keep customers coming back to your store rather than the competition. Make your store more about the experience to entice customers. If you tell your story well, customers will not only return, but they can also become your brands (un)official affiliates and evangelists. Customers trust other customers, so use that to your advantage!