BlogWhat makes an ecommerce brand powerful enough to scale?

What makes an ecommerce brand powerful enough to scale?

In the early days of an eCommerce business, it’s easy to see ‘brand building’ as an optional extra. Sure, you get the occasional founder that’s marketing savvy and knows how to grow a social following. But for most, the immediate focus isn’t on growing intangible value – it’s about shifting product. 

At a certain point though, branding is no longer a choice. Few eCommerce businesses can truly scale purely on the merit of their products; they need to establish genuine loyalty and connect with their customers on an emotional level. They do that by building a brand.

In this article, we explore the five key elements that make a great eCommerce brand – and how you can improve them.

1. Consistency

Brands grow because people connect with them. And people can’t connect with a brand that changes every five minutes. Whether it’s how you communicate, the colors you use or key design elements, there needs to be a recognizable, consistent ‘core’ to any great brand. In fact, a consistent brand identity can increase revenue by 33%.

This isn’t about staying the same: it’s about having a clear identity that informs any changes you make. If Amazon suddenly made its main site background bright purple, it would be extremely jarring. But if it used the brand’s signature orange – you probably wouldn’t question it.

How to stay consistent:

  • Develop a signature color; it can increase brand recognition by 80%.
  • Create a ‘brand bible’ that defines every element of your brand.
  • Only entrust executive roles to people who understand your brand.

2. Differentiation

Plenty of businesses grow purely by offering better – or cheaper – products. But there comes a point where growth will slow if you are not sufficiently differentiated from competitors. This is one of the central purposes of effective branding.

The point of a brand isn’t to create pretty designs or fun copy – it’s to make your business stand out. Imitating brands you like is a fine jumping off point, but to truly scale a brand needs to have its own unique identity. This isn’t just about avoiding costly lawsuits; it’s about ensuring your brand brings about growth – not comparison.

How to create differentiation:

  • Research your competitors carefully to avoid similarities.
  • Experiment with graphic styles unusual for your industry or market niche.
  • Ask your customers why they choose you over competitors – and emphasize those factors in your brand messaging.

3. Engagement

There’s no way of getting around it: brands grow by being seen. For a lot of businesses, that means pumping a lot of money into advertising campaigns and content. But it doesn’t have to be expensive. 

Brands that actively engage with their customers become more visible and grow faster. Every touch-point is an opportunity to engage and delight – from the copy on your website to your customer service. More than anything, this is about personality; your brand should feel like a person that customers know, recognize and enjoy interacting with.

How to engage effectively:

  • Post frequently on social media and industry forums.
  • Partner with influencers and create your own organic content.
  • Encourage your consumers to talk about your brand – 79% of consumers say user-generated content impacts their purchasing decisions.

4. Owning an audience

The most powerful brands don’t just get their audience to engage – they get them to identify with the brand. This can’t be faked, and has to emerge from genuinely understanding your audience. That’s why customer feedback is so vital for eCommerce brands.

Many founders think scaling is about widening your audience, and that can certainly work. But it is often more impactful to zero in on the core audience ’type’ and really drive them to become advocates. Because word-of-mouth is more effective – and efficient – than any other form of advertising.

How to own an audience:

  • Generate as much data on your audience as possible, to understand exactly how they see you and what they want.
  • Focus on improving the experience you offer existing customers, rather than attracting new ones. 
  • Encourage your customers to tell their friends about your brand.

5. Standing for something

A great eCommerce brand stands for something clear in people’s minds. This isn’t necessarily about speaking out on a social cause – though plenty of brands are built around that. It’s about connecting with people and representing something clear and meaningful in their minds. 

Your brand might stand for ‘social progress’, but it might simply stand for ‘being kind to myself’ or ‘having fun’. The key is to stand for something you genuinely believe in and can embody; 88% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding whether they like or support a brand.

How to show you stand for something:

  • Spend time really thinking about what you authentically want your brand to represent.
  • Action speaks louder than words. Show what your brand means by doing things, whether it’s supporting charities or running fun online events.

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