The thing about having a brick and mortar online store is that you can skate by without much personality if you have other things working in your favor. Here’s a great example: if you have a prime location in a busy area and your prices are at least competitive, shoppers will head in and purchase some products due to the convenience even if you have no notable brand.
Online, well… things are different. The closest equivalent to having a prime location is having a ranking at the top of the results in search engines for a high-demand search term, and not only is that far from being as impactful, but it’s also impossible to simply buy. If you have the resources, you can just rent the perfect retail plot. Rankings must be earned slowly and steadily through quality.
And even if you have great rankings, your eCommerce store can still be overlooked if you don’t have a recognized brand identity. Put an unknown company in position one and a dominant rival in position two and you’ll see the latter get all the clicks. Due to this, you need to make a strong commitment to establishing a memorable and positively-regarded brand.
In the modern digital landscape, this calls for using various channels to spread your message and set the tone. Here are some tips for defining your eCommerce brand in this way:
Choose the most relevant channels to target
We’re talking about multiple channels here because it’s neither wise nor practical to try to cater to every channel. You only have so much time to commit to this effort, and diluting your resources will only ensure that the work you do get done will prove ineffective. I recommend selecting a maximum of four channels to focus on (including social media). You can occasionally address others, certainly, but don’t make them core to your overall strategy.
Which channels you should pick will depend on the nature of your online store. What are you selling online? Whom are you targeting? Where does consumer attention in your niche tend to gravitate? If a social media platform, like Facebook dominates conversation, for instance, then you should think carefully about how you’re going to make the most of it. But if a given channel seems to lack value, then don’t bother using it at all: better to avoid it entirely than to do a half-finished job of positioning your brand.
Attempt to forge omnichannel experiences
A key part of an eCommerce business concerns how it engages with its customers (existing or prospective), particularly when it comes to cross-channel activity. Imagine someone happening upon your Pinterest page, sending you a DM on Twitter, then venturing to your eCommerce websites: if they don’t have a good experience engaging with you, they’ll view you in a negative light.
The reason I talk about omnichannel experiences here is that they’re ideal. Where multichannel effort can simply involve having a decent but distinct experience for each channel, the point of the omnichannel approach is to create just one mostly-seamless experience that spans all targeted audience. Ask a question on one channel, follow it up on another, etc. If you can bring all your channels together in this way (using the same data), you improve customer experiences.
Set and follow comprehensive brand guidelines
Before you can define your brand on any channel, you need to define it internally: after all, you can’t tell people what makes you unique if you don’t actually know. And since one of the ingredients of a memorable brand story is consistency, it isn’t enough to simply have a vague idea regarding your USPs. You need to know exactly how to represent your brand, online and offline.
A useful set of brand guidelines will encompass everything from some high-quality logo variations (for different formats and aspect ratios) to tonal guidance (whether your brand image is sarcastic, light, calm, flippant, etc.). You may have different employees handling conversations on different channels, so they need to have matching styles — though they can differ in some notable ways, and we’re next going to take a closer look at how.
Play to each channel’s unique strengths
As noted, consistency really matters, so a compelling brand that prides itself on enthusiasm should be enthusiastic everywhere. This doesn’t mean that the execution can’t change, though, and indeed it should change to suit the context. Suppose that your brand has a flourishing industry blog featuring industry advice and digital product recommendations, but you want to start making inroads into the influential world of Instagram. How should you proceed?
Well, the worst thing you can do is try to move our blog post style diatribes to Instagram. Though you can include text, it’s a visual eCommerce platform, and that’s where your focus should go. It’s understandable if the notion intimidates you (perhaps you’re not accustomed to photography), but you’ll only make the most of it if you throw yourself into it and learn as you go.
Take inspiration from other brands
You could just as easily put this step first, but I’m putting it last because it first gives you a chance to think deeply about what your brand should be without comparing it to others. When you think you’re ready to go, check up on what’s out there. How are your main rivals approaching different channels? What are they doing differently?
While doing this, you might notice some tactics that work very well, or be warned away from trying certain things because they evidently prove disastrous. It’ll give you the opportunity to make some last-minute tweaks before you get started with your new strategy.
Defining your eCommerce brand is mission-critical if you want it to have any hope of becoming familiar domain names and picking up a lot of repeat custom, and embracing the existence of numerous channels should be a matter of some urgency. Follow these steps to get moving in the right direction.