What is Branding?
Branding is the process of creating a strong, positive perception of a company, its products or services in the customer’s mind by combining such elements as logo, design, mission statement, and a consistent theme throughout all marketing communications. Effective branding helps companies differentiate themselves from their competitors and build a loyal customer base.
Why is Branding important?
First and foremost, a unique brand can have a huge impact on your business by giving you a competitive advantage over your rivals and helping you acquire and retain customers at a much lower cost.
In eCommerce, where new businesses (and therefore, new competitors) are springing up every day, an established brand can be an invaluable asset in bringing customers back time after time and generating profit. Regardless of whether you’re investing time and effort into crafting a compelling brand or paying no attention to it whatsoever, your business still has a brand, however, it may be completely different to how you intended to be seen.
By carefully constructing your brand through stories, relationships, marketing messages and visual assets, you have the opportunity of shaping your customers’ expectations for your business and creating a unique bond that goes beyond the buying-selling relationship.
Brands that manage to take a step further and establish a special, long-term emotional connection with their customers become lovemarks. Essentially, lovemarks draw on three key elements: mystery, sensuality, and intimacy. Mystery is infused by tapping into dreams and the powers of inspiration, building on the value of icons and myths, and exploring the ideas of past, present and future. Sensuality relies on the five senses to locate touchpoints with consumers, whereas intimacy is achieved through empathy, passion, and commitment. Transitioning from a strong brand to a lovemark can have a tremendous impact on your business, as you not only create customers for life, but they also become your greatest evangelists, promoting your products/services and driving continuous sales for you.
Good branding is strategic, while marketing is tactical. When you establish the higher objectives and clearly define your brand promise, you can start crafting a marketing plan that’s geared towards achieving those goals.
The importance of Branding in eCommerce
Branding is a complex process that requires careful planning and calculated approach. Ideally, you should have your branding strategy worked out before you launch your online store to avoid working backwards to try and get your business aligned with customer expectations. A strong brand is easy to relate to and draws on values that resonate well with the target audience. For an eCommerce shop, a strong brand can also be the safety net protecting a business from having to compete on price.
So how do you go about building a brand for an online shop? Here are the key steps in eCommerce branding:
- Understand your customers. To communicate effectively, you have to identify the elements that influence your target customers and focus on leveraging them. What do they like? What motivates and attracts them? What do they like about your brand?
- Define your brand persona. A brand persona is the personality of your business in which you will deliver customer experiences. It will be strongly influenced by the insights you manage to gather about your target customers. What tone of voice will suit this audience? What type of language will have the greatest effect? What images will attract their attention?
- Crystalize your brand promise. What is the ultimate promise you’re making to your customers? How will your products/services make their life better? How are you going to deliver this promise?
- Perfect your visual assets. Online shoppers don’t have the luxury of touching and feeling the products they buy, so the visual experience is extremely important. A brand’s visual assets are all the front facing elements, such as the website design, fonts and typography, color palette, logo and ad designs as well as the packaging and unboxing experience you create. It’s a powerful branding tool that reaches its peak when all the different moving parts are consistent and work harmoniously.
- Refine customer experience. Although you have little control over how your customers will ultimately feel about your brand, you should do your best to make sure every interaction and touch point you have with your customers is aligned with your brand promise and follows your brand guidelines. This will encompass everything from your return policies to shipping arrangements to email marketing communications and more.
- Remember to give back. Something as simple as saying thank you to your loyal customers can go a long way in strengthening your brand image. Show gratitude by running special loyalty programs or promotions, offering occasional free gifts or extending discounts. It’s a surefire way to build long-term relationships with your customers and humanize your brand.
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