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Building brilliant branding in e-Commerce

Screengrab of Three-brains Shop - headline says "merchandise to raise your game"

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Why read this? : We explore the benefits of branding in e-Commerce.  Learn how it helps you connect with customers at each stage of their journey. Read this to learn how branding in e-Commerce helps you grow your online sales. 

Traditional marketers and those who work in e-Commerce clearly see the world differently. The marketers like strategy and high-level thinking. But they struggle with the fast and furious transactional nature of e-Commerce. Meanwhile, e-Commerce teams often spend so much time firefighting that they don’t have enough time to think and plan for the future. 

However, one area where these different perspectives occasionally meet is branding. Smart marketers recognise that e-Commerce is a key “place” in their marketing mix. It’s somewhere they can bring their brands to life. And e-Commerce practitioners recognise that their stores need branding of some sort to stand out from the crowd. 

With that in mind, this week’s article dives into the benefits of branding in e-Commerce.

The benefits of branding

As per our recent why brands matter article, there are 3 main reasons to prioritise building brands. 

First, stronger brands command higher prices.

People pay more for Audis than for Fords, for example. Strong brands are more profitable and sustainable in the long run. Their pricing is more robust. They’re less subject to pricing pressures from retailers and competitors because they have a more loyal customer base. 

Front on image of the bonnet and grille of a black Audi car

Then, there’s also that strong brands occupy more space. That’s both physical space in stores and mental space in customers’ minds. Stronger brands get more facings on the shelf and more prominent and visible merchandising because retailers know they drive more sales. That comes from the customer knowing and trusting the brand, and so being more likely to choose it. 

This leads us to the final branding benefit which is customer connection. Strong brands make it easier for customers to buy by supporting their specific needs. They perform better, last longer or look more stylish. 

These tangible benefits then reinforce the brand’s intangible benefits. For example, helping customers feel confident they’ve made a good choice or helping them show off their status with their brand choice. Branding creates the memories that help customers intangibly remember you based on how they tangibly experience you.

Tangible and intangible brand assets

Our brand identity guide goes into detail about how you build brand assets.

To keep it simple, in e-Commerce terms, those branding assets are normally split into :-

Tangible brand assets – e.g. your logo, colour palette and typography. These become a recognisable “mark” of your brand and provide sensory cues (what it looks, sounds, feels like etc) that identify your brand.

Brand identity

Intangible brand assets – e.g. your brand’s purpose, values and personality. These are more abstract concepts that govern “how” your brand acts. They drive the choices it makes and how it talks to customers with its tone of voice, for example. 

The role of branding in e-Commerce

As per the e-Commerce planning process, there are many different ways to sell online. From simple models like marketplaces and print on demand to setting up your own store.

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) gives you the most control over your online selling (though it’s also the most complex) channel). For that reason, we’ll use it as the basis for our review of the benefits of branding in e-Commerce.

However, many of the ideas we cover will also work in other channels, especially selling via online retailers.

e-commerce planning process - 5 key steps in e-commerce experience

Traffic

The first job to do is to get customers to visit your product page or store website. They can’t buy if they’re not on a page with a Buy Now button. 

This is usually driven by digital media e.g. search, social media and banner ads. Branding plays a key role in each of these channels. 

For example, most e-Commerce search traffic is driven by either category searches e.g. find new shoes or by branded searches e.g. buy new Converse trainers.

Arrow shaped sign on a brick wall saying entry

With category searches, your brand name helps you stand out among competitors who are all fighting to get noticed. A strong brand name can drive significant traffic as customers search directly for it.

Branding also drives your social media impact. You share relevant branded content to gain likes, comments and followers which grows your reach and engagement.

And for more direct banner advertising, it’s your branding that makes the advert stand out and lets customers know that it’s you.  

In terms of branding in e-Commerce, there are 3 key areas it helps with to drive traffic. Branding helps introduce your brand so customers know what it is and what it does. It identifies your brand so customers can find it more easily. And it differentiates your brand so that it stands out from competitors. (See also our brand logo vs brand no go article which reviews how logos help in these areas). 

Conversion

If your digital media has done its job properly, it will bring interested customers to your product page or store website

However, given the average conversion rate of visitors is usually only around 1-2% (see our online store benefits article for more on this), your branding still has to get customers to buy

This works at 2 levels. 

First, it’s about building trust with the customer that this is a “safe” place to buy.

Screenshot of the range of T-shirts available in the three-brains shop

They’ll be handing over their credit card details and expecting prompt delivery and no issues. Strong branding reassures them that nothing will go wrong. 

This means getting the basics right. Your URL should reflect your brand name. The website should feature your brand’s logo, colour palette and typography clearly and consistently throughout. The design style and tone of voice should all reflect your brand’s personality. You want to remove any friction points so that it’s easy for customers to complete their purchase. 

Then, it also means thinking about how to use your branding to persuade customers to buy. For example, you can use more advanced e-Commerce techniques like adding extra entertaining or educational content. You could demonstrate how the product works. Show happy customers enjoying it. Share endorsements and reviews from other customers who’ve bought before. 

These are all common approaches used by online stores to strengthen their branding in e-Commerce. They’re aimed at “browsing” customers who need a nudge to get them over the line. 

Payment and delivery

This part of the customers’ journey is often where many marketers check out as they hand over responsibility to finance and supply chain teams.

However, from a customer point of view, they still see this as part of their brand experience. So it’s vital the branding continues through this part of the e-Commerce journey.

For example, think about how your pricing and payment setup reflects your branding.

Person holding a mobile phone with an e-Commerce page on screen and a credit card in the other hand

If you’re an expensive luxury item, you shouldn’t offer price discounts or payment-spreading options as those don’t reflect your brand image. However, if you’re a mainstream brand but with a high ticket price, you should consider price offers and options to make the purchase easier and more accessible.

Your branding also affects whether you offer extra services like subscriptions or exclusive products only available through your store. 

You should also consider the delivery as a further extension of your branding experience.

For example, your communications to the customer to share their order’s progress should be in your brand’s tone of voice. You should also make sure your e-Commerce packaging reflects your branding.

The “arrival” of the product is a key experience for customers. When it arrives in a branded box, it helps them associate the delight of getting the product with your brand’s identity.  

A subscription model box branded with three-brains on a doorstep

Customer Service

The final step in the D2C experience is customer service. If everything’s gone well, this could be as simple as a ‘thank you’ email to remind them to get in touch with any questions. 

But if something has gone wrong e.g. a damaged or incorrect order, it’s your brand they’ll associate that experience with.

So, making sure you have reliable plans and processes to fix issues is a key part of branding in e-Commerce. It improves the brand experience. 

Customer service headset sitting on a desk next to a laptop

Make your contact details easy to find. Train your customer service teams on how to handle issues effectively. Happy customers become loyal customers. And not just that, they also tell other people about their positive experience buying from you. It’s in your interest to make sure that the brand experience you set up before the purchase follows through into all after-sales interactions.

Conclusion - brilliant branding in e-Commerce

Branding is a key part of marketing. And as we’ve shown here, it’s also a key part of e-Commerce. 

At each stage of the e-Commerce journey, there are opportunities to boost the brand experiences. From driving traffic with search, social and banner ads to driving loyalty with well-branded customer service

Branding reinforces the value customers see in buying from you. It reinforces your brand’s place in their minds as they remember the positive experience you gave them. When done well, it keeps customers happy and coming back for more.

That’s clearly what you want. 

Screengrab of Three-brains Shop - headline says "merchandise to raise your game"

Check out our brand identity guide and D2C experience article for more on this. Or get in touch if you need help optimising the way you use branding in e-Commerce.

Photo credits

Audi Car Bonnet : Photo by Velito on Unsplash

Brand identity : Photo by Patrik Michalicka on Unsplash

Entry : Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Online shopping with phone and credit card : Photo by PhotoMIX Company from Pexels

Doorstep delivery (adapted) : Photo by MealPro on Unsplash

Customer service headset near laptop : Photo by Petr Macháček on Unsplash

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