You need something to help a runny nose, so you ask someone to pass you the Kleenex. Why? Because of an extremely effective brand strategy.
And yes, that’s actually the brand name and not the name of the product they sell.
With brand loyalty on the decline for the third straight year, building a strong customer base is more important than ever before.
The Internet has turned people into savvy online shoppers, and the power has shifted from business to consumer. Often, shoppers bypass the idea of brand loyalty if the product is available at a lower price somewhere else.
So how can you combat that?
In this post, we’ll take a look at ways to build a powerful brand strategy for your ecommerce store. We’ll go over actionable ideas you can implement straight away, and take a look at some phenomenal examples.
Let's get into it.
What is a Brand Strategy?
Simply put, your brand strategy will help define how your customers see your business and product. It’s figuring out your positioning or “winning-difference”. Most importantly it’s what helps you stand out from the competition and avoiding having to compete on price.
Building a brand strategy for your ecommerce store is also a powerful marketing, customer retention, and loyalty technique and is necessary for any new or established ecommerce business.
It’s important to determine your brand strategy and positioning before branching out into any other aspects of business. Otherwise, you might find yourself working backwards to try and get your business to resonate with customers.
The Basics for Ecommerce Branding
Before we dig into some examples of successful brand strategies, it’s good to get a better understanding of your own business. You can start by doing a mini brainstorming exercise to uncover what makes your brand remarkable:
- Does your ecommerce business have a mission?
- Is there a problem your product solves?
- What do your current customers think of your business?
- What do potential customers think of your business?
- What standards do you want customers to associate with your business?
Ideally, you want to be able to answer these questions without too much thought. It’s even better if you’re able to promote these messages on your store. For example, a philosophy page to show your brand’s message, or a customer reviews page to show what customers think of your product.
Next, you’ll want to do a bit of market research. Try to to get inside of your customer’s heads to know what they think about your business. You can do this by emailing a quick survey to your current customers, or, implement a survey functionality within your store.
Bonus Tips for Immediate Better Branding:
- Get a great, recognizable logo designed by someone with branding experience
- Integrate your brand into every social media outlet you use, by using the same profile picture on all platforms
- Be consistent with your tone and style across all platforms
1. Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition
Determining a unique selling proposition is a foundational step in any good brand strategy. The goal is to differentiate your brand from your competitors, and give your customers a reason to purchase a product from you.
It should highlight a story, philosophy unique aspect or goal of your business and product.
What makes your ecommerce store or product unique?
The Mast brothers hand make chocolate in New York City, and their shop is one of the few shops where bean-bar chocolate is produced in house.
Not only is their chocolate delicious, but the way they make it is very unique – especially in a mass-produced world. They use that to leverage their unique selling proposition.
Rather than using the industrial methods of larger companies like Nestle or Hershey, the Mast Brothers produce all their chocolate bars by hand using old school techniques like a stone grinder.
If you’re producing a handmade product, much like the brothers are, consider using this story as an initial way to uniquely position your brand. A recent study by HBR showed that nostalgic, artisanal and disrupted technology goods are making a comeback.
Not only has there been a big comeback in buying handmade, artisanal goods, but there’s quite a few benefits from customers buying handmade products that they might not even consider.
Try highlighting these following points to leverage the handmade product you’re selling:
- They’re helping by contributing to a new economic buying model
- The creators enjoy making their wares by hand, and aren’t mass produced
- Often, craftspeople are using recycled material
- Handmade is often made with love
2. Distinguish Your Brand on Product Quality
Using your brand’s product quality as a marketing tool is an extremely effective way to build brand loyalty.
Nowadays, if the product you’re selling is not built or designed with quality in mind, you won’t see returning customers. Or, even worse, you’ll start to see customers express their dissatisfaction across the many social media platforms available to them.
If you’re consistently able to overdeliver on the quality of product, no doubt you’ll have lifetime customers. Even better, if your product is known as a “buy it for life” product - you’re set.
Casper has nailed this brand positioning strategy. They make their product quality and features the most important part of their product page by listing it right under the title. It’s immediately visible to a potential customer.
The Casper promise is a fantastic way to promote the quality of their product. They offer a 100 day money back guarantee, which is their way of saying “Our product rocks. You’ll love it. We’ll bet on it”. This is a risk removal tactic, which helps build consumer trust.
A study by Quick Sprout showed that when stores added a money back guarantee to their products, a 21% increase in sales was seen. Of that increase in sales, only 12% of customers asked for their money back.
Another outstanding way for Casper to use quality to position their brand, is by including Instagram pictures right on their product page. The pictures are from happy customers who have given the mattress an outstanding review.
You can implement that sort of functionality through embedded services like Instagrammy.
Here’s a Google Trend that shows how important product quality is to consumers these days. This is a search for the term “buy it for life”.
Here are some examples of qualities you can highlight on your store to position your brand appropriately:
- Where was your product made?
- Does it meet any specific regulations?
- What material is it made out of?
- Where is the material sourced?
- If it’s a food product, is it organic?
Note: One common mistake that you’ll want to avoid is confusing quality with luxury. Just because something has a high price, doesn’t necessarily represent its quality. Only brand your product from a quality angle if your product is actually high quality, or you might have a hard time dealing with upset customers.
3. Change the Branding Rules
A daring, but potentially explosive brand strategy is to change the rules of the branding game. Taking risks can sometimes bring new attention to your ecommerce store.
If your product is quirky or unique, why not position your marketing efforts around that?
By finding a custom that exists in your consumers and completely shattering it, you might just see a loyal customer base start to develop.
The goal here is to make space for your brand in an unconventional way to get people talking.
Without a doubt, the “party game for horrible people” - Cards Against Humanity has done this.
Cards Against Humanity is not only a ridiculously fun game, but part of the reason they’ve gained so much attention is through their brand positioning.
“Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people. Unlike most of the party games you've played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.
It’s not often that we’ll see a brand insult its customers.
Cards Against Humanity is notorious for having fun with their customers. In fact, this past Black Friday they sent 30,000 customers cow poop. Yes, 30,000 people are so loyal to Cards Against Humanity that they bought poop at $6 a piece.
This wasn’t their first stunt, as in previous years their Black Friday sales included things like increasing the cost of the game by $5.
It’s important to mention Cards Against Humanity when looking at brand strategies, because its so vastly different than what most of us think to do. They’re going against the grain by doing something so unique and unheard of, and it has only worked in their favor.
Here’s a Google Trend for the term “Cards Against Humanity”. It shows how a unique, popular product and a unique brand vision has helped maximize their growth.
4. Personalize the Customer Experience
Have you ever ordered something online and received a product that completely blew you away? Beautiful craftsmanship and detail went into every aspect of the ordering experience, right down to the customized packaging.
Chances are, the store has done their research by aligning themselves to ensure that they’re marketing to people who match their brand’s identity.
For instance, let’s say you’re 30-something, wear plaid shirts, appreciate craftsmanship and the qualities that go into making something by hand. You look online to buy a plaid shirt and come across a brand that hand sews all of their shirts locally. After purchasing the product, it arrives beautifully packaged, customized with a handwritten note on the inside and a screenprinted hanger tag.
That’s a personalized customer experience. They’re nailing their product branding down to the finest details, just like their physical product.
A great example of a company that does this with user experience in mind, is Loot Crate - a monthly subscription box for gamers.
Not only are they using custom packaging, but they include a fun little activity for their customers to do that actually promotes their brand.
Loot Crate’s corrugated shipping box is a direct reflection on our brand. It shows our attention to detail; it’s really cool and sleek-looking (black exterior and bright orange interior), and is a key part of what we do"
If you’re thinking about going this route, be sure to take a look at some of these resources to get some custom shipping boxes made.
5. The Spirit of Giving Back
Brands are able to position themselves well in a busy online space by getting in the spirit of giving back to their customers.
No matter how many sales you have for your ecommerce store, there’s always an opportunity to share your gratitude with your customers. You’ll want to make sure that you take some time to go above and beyond to thank your customers for their business.
Not only does this position your brand as being thankful and recognizing the support of your customers, but it’s a surefire way to get a customer for life.
Helpscout’s 25 Ways to Thank Your Customers provides some fascinating ideas on this topic.
Here’s a few other ideas that would be easy to implement:
- Donate a percentage of your sales to a charity related to your product
- Build a loyalty program for your store
Now that you’ve developed a strong foundation for your ecommerce brand, it’s time to get selling.
Let us know in the comments if there’s any other phenomenal examples of branding strategies that you’ve seen!
About The Author
Tucker Schreiber is an ecommerce entrepreneur and Content Marketer at Shopify. Get more from Tucker on Twitter.