by Dan Conboy
In my last blog, I talked about how eCommerce can present some fantastic opportunities for your business, whether you operate in B2C or B2B. However, identifying the opportunities is one thing - achieving commercial success is another story of course!
There’s no doubt that eCommerce is still an under-utilised channel for many businesses (particularly smaller businesses), but despite this, it can be fiercely competitive.
Customers can scour the web for price comparisons in seconds and large eCommerce brands like Amazon and eBay have created hugely price-driven markets in some industries. This is excellent news for consumers who benefit from great value, but can be a challenge to businesses who, to exist, need to achieve a certain margin.
So how do you thrive and take advantage of the opportunities of eCommerce in such a challenging climate? How do you stand out from the crowd and become known? How do you reach customers and rise up the search rankings? How do you make the most of social networks to build and connect with your customers?
The answer is to do what any good business does - create a strong brand.
Why focus on brand?
Why do people buy a BMW instead of a lower cost vehicle like a Kia? Why do people queue for the latest Apple iPhone whereas others are quite happy with their Sagem smartphone? The answer is largely about brand. These consumers see positive characteristics in these products. There may be an element of design, service, innovation and quality that makes up this view, but it’s the composition of these elements which creates brand advocacy.
It’s this strong connection to a business which drives sales and loyalty. It allows the business to transcend the almost impossible forum of competing purely on price (although a small number of brands do this well and make this their own USP, seldom can they maintain this in a sustainable way - particularly smaller companies who can’t buy as competitively as their larger counterparts).
If you build a brand for your eCommerce store, you provide a point of difference - something which will help you to attract and retain your ideal customers, those who will buy from you because you appeal to their own personal values and beliefs. When this happens, the customer will often be happy to pay a premium and will shop around less, thereby providing you with the opportunity to maximise your revenues and margins.
Creating a brand plan
When thinking about developing your brand, it’s important to consider a number of elements:
- What does your business stand for?
- What should your product range look like?
- What are your drivers and ethics?
- Who are your ideal customers?
- Do your values align with theirs?
- What is your tone of voice?
- How will you communicate with your audience? What channels will you use?
Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list and it will vary from business to business. The approach to brand for a startup is likely to be different to that of a long established business.
However, the principal remains the same - to put up a mirror and objectively consider your business and how it engages with your audience. You need to develop a story and a narrative to connect with your audience which is reflected across the business and in everything you do.
Being true to your brand
Authenticity is key. Customers are sceptical by their nature and, with the proliferation of social media, can sniff out inauthentic brands and - even worse - will ruthlessly expose them to others.
Follow the rule of being true to your beliefs - say what you mean, do what you say. Developing a brand is not about designing a logo - it’s about creating a belief framework across your whole organisation. At every touchpoint, your brand needs to be consistent.
So if you say you’re environmentally friendly, but send all of your waste to landfill, don’t be surprised if the customers who you’re trying to connect with don’t engage with you. Or, if you pride yourself on outstanding customer service, but don’t invest in hiring and training the right people, don’t be surprised to see negative reviews on social media about poor service. Quite simply, practise what you preach.
eCommerce is a great commercial opportunity, but creating a strong proposition and point of difference can be a key factor in standing out and driving success. Customers are inundated with marketing communications now and are actively seeking relevant and authentic organisations who align with their own lives and values. That’s why creating a strong brand can be such an asset for your business, to help you reach and connect with your true and ideal customers.
I hope this blog has provided you with some good initial thoughts on brand. Over the months ahead, we’ll continue to provide a range of articles on a variety of eCommerce topics - all with the aim of helping you to grow a successful eCommerce business. Why not sign up for our newsletter to ensure you don’t miss out on any future posts? As always, we’d love to hear your feedback so please feel free to contact us on Twitter @Statement.