Build A Brand, Not Just A Store
In this post, I will be discussing how to create an eCommerce brand. In the last few years, I have founded several eCommerce businesses. I have learned that there is a fundamental difference in eCommerce, namely the difference between creating an online store and creating an online brand. Many aspiring entrepreneurs do not understand the importance of ‘brand’ or even what a brand is.
There is more to it than just a name, a logo, or even a product. Brands only exist in someone’s mind. A brand is a perception that is influenced by both experience and association. It can be either factual, such as the product comes in a yellow box, or emotional, such as I am happy to receive it. As the founder of a digital marketing agency, I have had the unique opportunity to work in the same space as some of the world’s top digital branding agencies and been mentored by them. The company has worked with leading brands such as Groove and 22Apps, so when I was preparing this post I turned to Drinda, the creative director at the company, and asked her why it is important to have a brand. She replied that a brand is something that can be sold even if there are no products or services available to sell. When you do not have equity in your brand, something people believe in, buy into, and value, then you do not have a brand.
Tai Lopez is a great example of this. In recent years his companies have bought old brick-and-mortar brands like Pier1, Linens N Things, Dressbarn, The Franklin Mint, MentorBox, The Book People, FarmersCart, and other eCommerce brands. He bought them solely for the brand and turned them into dropshipping stores.
Drinda’s answer was excellent. Just what I was looking for, as it illustrates the importance of building a brand when thinking about an online store. For that store to be of any value, it must contain products. If you simply want to make some money in the short term, then run a store, make some sales and sell other people’s products. Although I realize that it is perfectly fine, it just does not excite me.
I wish to build a longer-term and more sustainable organization. In a few years’ time, if I wish to sell it, I would like to be able to create brand equity and goodwill that will skyrocket its valuation. So if you are like me and you wish to achieve this, you will need to be aware of your brand. Now that you are aware of why it is important to build an e-commerce brand, we can discuss how to construct such an eCommerce brand. When eCommerce startups are thinking about brand, Drinda stated that not all businesses require a comprehensive brand strategy.
eCom Business Builders
Recently we launched a new brand of our own, eCom Business Builders so branding is very important to us. eCom Business Builders will create entire eCommerce stores with branded merchandise. We recently sold off our previous website design business, Spider Web Design Company, and made a strategic decision to create a business to focus on creating branded merchandise stores. Spider Web Design had a strong brand and allowed us to sell it for a nice profit less than a year after launching it.
Businesses need a clear understanding of what, why, and how they plan to achieve their goals. Any successful business is defined by ideas and action plans, and these need to be as succinct and distinct as possible.
ECom Business Builders offers entrepreneurs what we call brand 101, which is designed to be short enough to be understood, concise enough to clearly differentiate your business from the competition, and flexible enough to include what may be relevant to your business. What elements should you be considering for your brand 101? Personally, when I create a brand, I always start with the four V’s, brand vision, values, voice, and visuals, and the way these elements need to be communicated must be consistent. It is the ultimate goal to create a meaningful relationship with your customers, so with this in mind, let’s quickly cover how we can go about determining means for your brand. The brand vision of your organization is the long-term goal of the organization that extends beyond your bottom line. You should be proud enough to share this information with your friends and family and of course consumers.
Your Brand Vision
Always keep in mind that your product should be a solution to a problem, so think back to the original problem that your product sought to solve. An example of your brand’s product could be a reusable coffee cup or travel mug, and the challenge your brand hopes to solve could be the negative impact of everyday disposable items on the environment. Consequently, your brand vision might be to promote the use of reusable items in order to reduce consumer waste caused by everyday disposable items and protect the environment for future generations. Consider what is truly important to you as a founder, to your brand, and to your audience when determining your brand values. In terms of our reusable coffee cup example, some of these values could revolve around the environment, transparency, and the customer.
In particular, I like Warby Parker’s core values, such as treating others the way you would like to be treated, fostering an environment where employees can think big, have fun, and do good for the community, and that green is good. Research other brands you love and identify what resonates with you most strongly when it comes to establishing the tone of your brand. Again, I would begin by considering your brand’s personality. Every brand has a personality. It is not a brand if it does not have a personality, it is just a logo.
According to the Millwood Braun Index, human characteristics are broken down into twenty different traits, which can be described by certain brand archetypes. So there are ten brand archetypes ranging from the Joker to the Dreamer, to the Friend to The Seductress. Make sure you study these archetypes and choose one to represent the brand as a whole. This will, among other things, help guide and direct the tone of voice for your brand. Finally, we come to the fourth and final V, visuals, which refers directly to your branding. The logo, typography or fonts, colors, packaging, and visual branded content all play a role in creating a brand. A couple of great places to start are 99 Designs or Canva, so do some research around these tools.
Otherwise, you can always work one-on-one with a graphic designer or a branding agency, such as eCom Business Builders which includes the brand logo in its packages.
Prior to concluding, I would like to discuss your brand positioning and creating a unique value proposition. There are a number of ways in which you can differentiate your brand from a sea of others on the market. A brand’s positioning can be thought of as the way in which you design your company’s offering to occupy a distinctive position in the minds of your target audience. A great way to think of this is by creating a unique value proposition (UVP).
It consists of a single, clear, compelling message that communicates why your brand is different, well worth buying. For example, at Digital Papercuts, we give away free stuff to people visiting our website. So you will need to determine your point of differentiation within the market and then express exactly what that is to your target audience. What you should consider is the problem that your brand is trying to solve and how you can solve it in a different way. There are several areas where you can highlight your point, or a difference, such as your products, their design, their function, its price, and the time period it is available. Consequently, when it comes to design, some trends to take note of could be personalization or customization trends like adding your customers’ initials to your design when you are modifying the functionality of their products to meet their needs.
If you regularly drop your phone, a protective phone case would be appropriate, or if you take a lot of selfies, a case that creates effective lighting would be appropriate. Consider whether you’re planning to utilize a lower direct-to-consumer price point that is more accessible to the masses or a more exclusive higher price point, so consider how your brand is unique and how you can communicate this to your target audience. So this is a quick overview of how to create an e-commerce brand.