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Ecommerce branding explained: How to build a brand with staying power

Oct 29, 2022 - Nicole Kofman
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At the pace ecommerce moves, you may have noticed that brands tend to have more staying power. Getting this sense of secure growth for yourself isn't hard, but it does take careful time and planning.

What is ecommerce branding?

Branding in ecommerce uses stylized elements and strategies like designed logos, mission statements, and themes to build dynamic, positive perceptions of your business. A good ecommerce branding strategy can help you stand out from your competitors and build a loyal customer base, especially in fields where competing products are highly similar.

Your brand gives them continuity across your different channels. As a result, if you have a brand, your customers expect your tone to stay consistent in all your communications. If you ever rebrand, you'll also need to change your logo and styling across every channel.

Why branding is essential for an ecommerce business

Since ecommerce customers can't pick up or touch a product before they buy it, branding is crucial to make them comfortable giving you money. It lets them know that you're a professional business, not a scammer and that they can expect anything they buy from you to live up to their expectations.

Branding for ecommerce also helps you overcome the low barrier to entry. Since it's relatively easy to set up an online business, new competition constantly pops up. If you've established your brand and built a loyal customer base, you'll have an edge against anyone who enters the market down the line. It could even serve as a safety net against competing prices.

How to build a brand that lasts

Building a lasting brand is difficult but possible as long as you take the necessary time to develop a solid plan.

Create your brand's visuals

Your brand's visuals are your most striking unique feature. People will imagine them whenever they discuss your company. As a result, it's vital to spend some time making sure that your visuals represent your brand exactly the way you want.

Brand name

A successful brand name communicates something about your company to your customers. It should be:

  • Meaningful. It should conjure an image of your brand's essence and builds a positive emotional connection
  • Distinctive. It should be unique and memorable, standing out against competitors
  • Accessible. It should be easy for people to understand and say it — and type it into Google
  • Protectable. You need to be able to trademark your name and get the domain so that you legally own it
  • Future-proof. Your title should be able to grow with the company while staying relevant
  • Visual. Since people respond better to images, your brand name should be easy to communicate through designs, including icons, colors, and logos

If you need to pick a brand name but can't think of one, start with your brand's vision and mission statement. What sets you apart in your field? Then, you can brainstorm ideas using prompts like:

  • Write down any adjectives you can think of that describe your business or offerings
  • Describe how you want customers to feel after using your product
  • Try free association starting with any names you've listed

If you like a brand name from a different field or company, you can also analyze what you think makes it successful and design your own around those successful elements.

Once you have a list of a few options (ideally 15 to 20), search the United States Patent and Trademark Office database to determine which ones you can use. If a name appears available, you should have a legal team thoroughly vet it to ensure there are no problems. You should also make some sample designs, so you know the name works visually.

Brand logo

Your brand logo is often the first touchpoint someone has with your business. If it can catch someone's eye, they'll recognize your brand much faster. As a result, it needs to be appealing and distinct while communicating your business's identity.

To come up with ideas for your brand logo, start asking yourself some questions about your brand identity. For example:

  • Why did you start the business?
  • What makes it unique?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?

Then you have to figure out your design. As with your brand name, it helps to brainstorm design choices. What would someone in your audience find interesting? You could also try to isolate and incorporate elements that you like from different companies' logos — but make sure your final design doesn't look too similar to a trademarked logo.

It helps to think about the type of logo you want to use. Each type combines typography and images differently and works best in different situations. Here are the seven logotypes to consider:

  • Lettermark. This logo is made of letters — usually your brand initials — to make your brand more memorable, like HBO or NASA. If you're not an established business in your field, add your full business name underneath so people can learn your company's name. As you grow and your initials are more recognizable, you can always reduce the name to your monogram.
  • Wordmark. This is a font-based logo like those Google and Visa use that focuses on your business's name. This is useful when your name is compact and distinct. The font you choose determines the feel of a logotype, so try out a few to see what fits best.
  • Logo symbol. A logo symbol or a brand mark is an image emblematic of your brand. For instance, Apple is synonymous with its logo. Because this type is just an image, it can be hard for new companies with low brand recognition to use.
  • Abstract logo mark. This is a pictorial logo that uses an abstract geometric form, like the Pepsi logo's divided circle or the Nike swoosh. As with a logo symbol, the image you pick represents your brand, though abstracts don't carry the cultural associations tied with a recognizable image. As a result, the form and color you choose are crucial.
  • Mascot. A mascot logo involves an illustrated character, like KFC's Colonel. They're often colorful and cartoonish, making your brand feel more fun while giving it a unique face.
  • Combination mark. This combines a wordmark or lettermark with the pictorial and mascot logos we've already discussed, like the Doritos and Lacoste logos. If you want to use a pure logo symbol, it can help to start with a combination mark and phase out the words with time. This type of logo is also usually easier to trademark since it combines two unique elements.
  • Emblem. With this logotype, you place the font inside a symbol or icon, like the Starbucks or Harvard logo. These are common in schools and government agencies because of their traditional appearance. Because they integrate the name and symbol so rigidly, they're less versatile than other logotypes.

Brand Slogan

A slogan is like your company's catchphrase, helping you build brand awareness. Like "America runs on Dunkin" and "Finger-lickin' good," an effective slogan builds positive connections with your brand. It works together with your logo to give people a vigorous idea of your brand image before they've even looked at your content or offerings.

To make your slogan memorable, keep it simple. Most famous slogans use between four and six words so people can repeat them easily. You should also use simple words — usually a fourth-grade writing level at most, so even children understand.

You should also try to incorporate power words or phrases which invoke emotion. These are words like "happy" or "do," which carry emotional connotations with them. There are generally seven types of power words, according to the emotion you want to instill:

  • Fear
  • Encouragement
  • Lust
  • Anger
  • Greed
  • Safety
  • Forbidden

Hone in on your target audience

An essential part of building brand loyalty is to make people feel like you understand them. Figuring out your target audience can help you learn more about the kind of people following you so you can break them into different groups to focus on.

Demographics

You can collect demographic information with census data and analytics software on your different brand touchpoints to learn what your audience looks like. For instance, you may discover their:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Job
  • Income

All this information can help you identify common problems and needs across large segments of your target audience. You can address each component better by targeting different ads at their corresponding demographic.

Geographics

Your website should let you know where visitors come from, so you generally need much less personal data to target customers by their location. Once you know where your visitors are from, you can learn about situations affecting them and people in their neighborhoods. Addressing these builds a deeper connection with your target audience.

If you have international customers, you can also customize your page to reduce the work they need to do on your site. For instance, your site could automatically change all prices to the visitor's currency, so they don't need to convert prices themselves.

Customer buying behaviors

Learning your customers' buying behaviors helps you serve them better. You can do this by tracking data like how long it took for someone to make a purchase and the number of site visits before they bought something, looking for common trends. There are generally four categories of buying behaviors:

  • Variety-seeking. These people try to stay aware of all options available, regularly visiting your site and your competitors' sites to learn more about the current items people are selling.
  • Dissonance-reducing. These people are never satisfied with their purchases, so they need a lot of reassurance to justify that they made the right decision. Once they believe they've got the right product, though, they'll likely return to the same one repeatedly.
  • Habitual. These people buy the same product out of habit. They're generally not too interested in other options — they know that the specific brand serves their needs, so they're happy to keep using it.
  • Complex. These people do as much research and comparisons as possible before buying something to make sure they make the right choice.

As you identify different people's buying behaviors, you can target them with marketing materials and products that address their specific behavior, making them feel like you understand their needs.

Develop a fool-proof marketing strategy

An effective marketing and branding strategy for ecommerce helps you reach more people with your branding. Here are some channels to consider to build a strong strategy that deepens brand relationships.

Unique selling proposition (USP)

This is what makes your business stand out against others in your market. Making a deliberate USP helps guide your marketing strategy.

To make your USP compelling, ensure that it's:

  • Assertive but defensible. It should take a specific position that forces you to make a case against products rather than something generic
  • Focused on your customers' values. Your customers need to feel like you're providing more value than your competitors
  • More than a slogan. While your slogan needs to communicate your brand's core values, this should focus on the benefits you give to customers

Content Marketing

The type of content you choose to make heavily influences how people perceive your brand. For instance, if you write a lot of well-researched long-form industry content, people will feel like your brand is educational. In contrast, if you primarily report on recent events in the industry, they may consider you more journalistic.

The topics you choose to cover also reflect the areas in the industry that your brand believes are important to shine a light on. This means that if you want to raise brand awareness with a certain market segment, you can create content around topics they care about.

Social Media Marketing

Consumers spend more time than ever on social media platforms, making them a great avenue to communicate your brand to people and drive traffic to your ecommerce store.

Since people usually expect brands to sound stiff and corporate on these platforms, social media marketing can make your brand more personable if you use it appropriately. Make sure you use the right emoticons and hashtags and try to make videos and images that carry your brand's feel while fitting with other content on the platform.

The way you interact also influences the impression you give. For instance, if you offer helpful advice to someone facing a problem in your industry, you show people that you pay attention to their needs.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a great way to deepen your relationship with customers. They've found your content to be valuable enough to sign up for your email list, so now you need to show them they've made the right choice.

One way to do this is by segmenting your email list according to their needs. Then, you can target the needs of each segment separately in different emails, making all of them feel like you're paying more attention to their concerns.

You can also personalize your emails further by:

  • Adding a first name field in your subject line and greeting
  • Including region-specific information, if appropriate
  • Only sending emails about the last interaction a lead had with your brand
  • Writing about relevant or personal events, like their birthday
  • Ending emails with a unique signature
  • Using a call-to-action offer that the reader will find useful

Be authentic

It has to be authentic if you want people to connect with your brand. Your mission and values can help you figure out exactly how to show authenticity.

Your brand's mission

Your mission statement outlines your business's purpose for your employees and customers. It should focus on what your brand wants to do, helping you set goals for the business.

Your brand's values

Your brand values must show integrity while setting yourself apart from competing brands. It should show qualities you find important in your business culture, guiding your decisions to benefit your company and customers.

Build trust

Customers expect good service when you're trying to get money from them. To build trust, you must show them you still uphold your values when you don't have an incentive.

Customer reviews

Since many people read online reviews while researching your company, you should try to keep up with what people say about your business online. When you get negative reviews, responding to them lets people know that you hear their complaints. Make sure you respond positively, trying to understand the problem so you can ensure it doesn't happen in the future.

Return policies

People know that businesses want their money, so they often don't have high expectations from businesses after they've made a purchase — much less if they want to return their product for a refund. A good return policy shows them that you prioritize customer service and a good customer experience over their money, making you more trustable.

When you draft your return policy, make it clear and concise and place it somewhere easily accessible so readers know you're not trying to hide anything. Make sure that your teams are up to date with the policy to avoid any miscommunications. You'll also have to take responsibility for upholding your return policy. But, as you continue to do all of this, you'll build strong brand loyalty.

Data-driven marketing that keeps your brand front and center

Once you've established your brand, each marketing piece you put out further strengthens it, helping it entice even more potential customers. Connect with Cart.com to learn how we can help you run data-driven marketing that keeps your brand front and center, so you can keep expanding your reach.

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