Whether you’re in the process of creating a new brand, or you’re keen to spice up an existing one, it’s worth bearing in mind that a strong brand is more than just a name, a logo and a company color scheme. Creating a recognizable eCommerce brand that consumers view as real and trustworthy is a serious undertaking – but one that reaps plentiful rewards if done well. Ask yourself, what makes your business compelling? How would your customers pick you out of a crowd? Building a successful eCommerce brand is as much about the human aspects of listening, storytelling and finding a purpose as it is about having the perfect font. How will you create an e-commerce brand that feels authentic to your customers in 2017?
No-one is as deaf as the man who will not listen
Trust begins with listening. This applies to all kinds of human relationship, including that between a customer and a business owner. Would you trust a merchant who doesn’t answer your queries or concerns? Would you spend money with them? Likely not. All successful eCommerce business owners understand that they need to be available to their customers, whether that’s by phone, by email or through live chat. If you can answer a visitor’s query while they are still in the mind to buy, you are much more likely to convert them.
Customer service is a biggie, and it says as much (if not more) about your brand than how it looks and feels. People appreciate being listened to, and having their customer journey made easy for them. If you want your eCommerce brand to come across as authentic, be there for your customers when they need you. Word of mouth travels fast, and if customers know you can be relied upon, they will return to you time after time – and likely recommend your business to friends and family too.
Marketing is about the stories you tell
In business and marketing (and indeed life) stories are one of the most powerful persuasive tools at your disposal. Today’s consumers have no time for boring, faceless brands. Stories give your brand personality, and even more importantly, they foster trust. In the game of eCommerce, gaining the trust of your target audience is everything.
Humans are born storytellers, and our brains respond to stories in deeply affecting ways. They offer much more than a simple ad or sales pitch – they connect to our values and emotions. So consider the story of your brand. Why does your brand exist? In the answer lies your story – and through your story, you make a connection with your audience. But here’s a tip: any old story will not do. It must be your story, told with a flair and personality that aligns with your brand identity. For best results, keep it simple. Simple stories are shareable and more likely to stick in the reader’s mind.
TOMS is an example of a business with a winning brand story. Created by Blake Mycoskie, an altruistic entrepreneur, its business model is based on one simple idea: for every pair of shoes purchased, another pair goes to a child in need. It’s not difficult to understand, and the outcome is a positive one. Even better, when a customer buys from TOMS, they become a part of that story.
Find your purpose to give your brand meaning
The best and quickest way to get to the root of what your brand is all about is to ask yourself: what is your purpose? What are you trying to change, and what needs are you trying to meet? An authentic brand knows what it’s fighting for – or against. With a compelling mission, you are more likely to inspire others to adopt your mindset. If your purpose as a business is nothing more than making a profit, this doesn’t give you much to work with when making brand decisions. A strong eCommerce brand embraces its beliefs and wears them on its sleeve.
Let’s take a brand most of us have heard of Innocent Smoothies. Their whole deal – their ethos – is sustainability. From their ingredients to their packaging, their mission is to do business in a way that benefits society and the environment. But let me guess, you already knew that? That’s because their brand is doing its job.
So ask yourself, what is the purpose of your brand? And how can this factor into your branding decisions, so that your customers get what you’re all about?
Consistency is essential
Which of your friends do you trust more? The level-headed friend who you can always count on, or the flaky friend who is constantly reinventing themselves? It’s a leading question – we already know the answer. In life and in business, consistency forms an important foundation of trust. On some level, we already understand who our real friends are.
As your customers come to know you and your store better, they will start to anticipate how your business is going to behave based on their previous experiences. If a customer has a positive experience shopping with you and they come back a second time, they will be expecting the same positive experience. And if they don’t get it? You’re deflating their expectations of you. With so many flaky brands out there, consumers really value those that live up to (and exceed) their needs.
Consistency is also about recognition. At the outset of creating your brand, think about how you want to position yourself – and stick to it. This applies to everything from how you respond to customer service requests, to your tone of voice, the imagery you use and how quick you are to handle order fulfillment.
- Keep your tone consistent across all of your website content, from your about page to your product descriptions. If you’re cheeky, be cheeky. If you’re geeky, be geeky. Don’t give your website a split personality
- Use complementary imagery that sticks to a theme. For example, if you like your product images on a white background, have them all on a white background. Keep camera angles in sync and aim to create a signature style in your photography. If in doubt, keep it simple – it’s easy to overengineer your imagery
- Do your product photos accurately represent your products? This is very important – it’s akin to using a 10-year-old photo of yourself on a dating site – the risk of disappointment is high. Make sure that when your customers receive their purchase from you, it looks and feels as they would expect
Commit to content marketing
People instantly feel a closer bond with websites that provide quality content. Why? It’s obvious really – great content acts as proof that your store really knows its industry. The benefits of content marketing are varied and numerous, but many eCommerce store owners find committing to a content strategy offputting, since it requires a substantial investment of time.
The thing is, if you’re serious about creating an authentic, authoritative eCommerce brand that people trust and want to talk about, then content marketing is essential. It offers far more customer value than traditional marketing methods (which are also more expensive in the long run), and you still reap all the benefits of social sharing, better SEO and increased networking opportunities. What’s more, you can turn users’ tendency to research products before buying to your advantage – by being the research source they find in the first place. Good content marketing enhances the authenticity of your brand in almost every way.
Let’s look at the example of Gilt, a fashion website created using Shopify. Gilt is an eCommerce store, but it markets itself (very effectively) with its sister site GiltMANual – a content-led site that provides a resource for men who want to develop their personal style. GiltMANual has become a media outlet and fashion authority in its own right, which in turn is a huge advantage when it comes to promoting Gilt menswear.
So how to create an authentic eCommerce brand? At the end of the day, you can’t fake it. Consumers are intelligent, and they are conditioned to know whether a store is the genuine article or not. For the best chance of success, you need to embody your brand. Tell a compelling story, act in accordance with your values and maintain a consistent, responsive image that your audience will grow to know and trust. Which of these elements is your brand missing right now?
I’m hugely passionate about all things eCommerce, from strategy and website builds to branding and marketing. I write for Ecommerce Tips, as well as for various guest publications worldwide.