How to Build an eCommerce Brand That’s Valuable in Its Own Right
What Is an eCommerce Brand?
There is no hard and fast definition of the eCommerce brand notion per se, but below, informed by all our expertise in the field, is how we see it at Zoolatech.
With the evolution of online sales, the meaning of the term has shifted from being a very niche concept to an omnipresent one.
There’s hardly much business left out there that survives solely on the brick and mortar model of selling, with many retailers transforming into etailers.
The share of online sales in retail is growing, eating up offline sales, but is still just 14.5% [18% up from 2019] in as mature a market as the USA.
This fact alone – how quickly the segment expands and how small the share still is – signals that “eCommerce brand” as a term is still one in the making.
When we see professionals and users alike utilize this term, it usually refers to 3 major concepts:
eCommerce Brand Is or May Mean:
1. A digitally-native brand with a narrow line of specialized products with distinct branding, a well-defined social media presence, and a unique value proposition.
Examples: AllBirds, OneDollarShaveClub, Bearaby
Connotation: in this meaning brand is in focus, as the products offered by these eCommerce stellar brands are a modern or niche interpretation of already existing items with a huge emphasis on identity &/or social responsibility. The brand in this case triggers an association with a product or a specific line of products.
2. An online platform or marketplace that sells multiple items from different vendors, serving as an aggregator for individual retailers to sell their products.
Examples: Think Amazon & Walmart
Connotation: in this case the word eCommerce has a foundational meaning, as these brands define the evolution of eCommerce as such. The brand in this concept is associated with the technical platform for purchasing different goods, its usability, credibility, etc.
3. Any business with an initially strong brand offline that started selling its products online and has a vast web presence in terms of social media and online store sales.
Examples: Hoover, Samsung
Connotation: in this interpretation of the term eCommerce brand, both of the words have similarly significant weight: the initially strong brand managed to garner huge recognition and brand mentions online, precipitating online sales as well.
For the sake of this article, let’s review how to build an eCommerce brand in its first meaning. In this instance, a user will automatically envision a product or a specific line of products upon hearing the name of such an online store.
The Ingredients of the Brand’s Identity
Any brand is founded and framed by the 4 Vs for the founder, stakeholders, and customers alike:
Vision is the ultimate goal of the company's existence, which is less operational than mission but more aligned along with the future overarching objectives of this business entity.
Voice of the brand, sometimes also referred to as TOV (Tone of Voice) is defined by your target market, your product, and your vision. It can be friendly, authoritative, casual, joking, formal, official, warm, retro, girlie, down-to-earth. Communicating in a consistent voice across channels is a critical part of the brand’s identity.
Visuals can be as basic as throwing a couple of fonts together and picking a few colors to be used in your logo, or as extensive as a dozen-pages long chapter in a brand book. If you are only starting in eCommerce, hiring a talented designer is key, whereby such a person will be able to produce the kind of amazing graphics, without much theoretical foundation, that marketing agencies charge top dollar for.
Values will help your brand to mold the team as well as find the customers who share your values. They are closely aligned with the vision & your user persona beliefs.
While the above-mentioned pillars of the brand are essential, they are not what you begin building an online store brand with. Let's first consider the initial steps on the path of developing a brand in the eCommerce segment: ideation and research.
Developing an eCommerce Brand from Scratch: Ideation & Research
You may be one of those founders who is the canonic user of their invention and conceives the idea based on your own need and desire for a product.
In this case, ideation happens naturally and if research confirms its viability, you have a green light to proceed with the implementation of your concept.
Serial eCommerce brand creators may be inclined to reverse the seemingly natural course of action and create a product based on a gap in supply in the market. Gretta Rose Van Reel has conceptualized a few eCommerce brands with SkinnyMeTea, The 5th Watches, Drop Bottle, and Hey Influencer among them.
Gretta shares her practical tips in a series of videos on the Fundr channel.
Her top pieces of advice to budding etailers are:
1. To consider creating a product or line of products that will solve the problems faced by potential clients in everyday life.
This is why she started her research for the ideal niche to create an eCommerce brand around market needs or a product series that may be improved significantly.
(Consider Bearaby, which had entered the busy market of weighted blankets but managed to grow their successful brand by improving them through transitioning to organic and natural materials).
2. To further narrow down the search for an idea by running it through the filter of eCommerce viability, the product should be:
- Lightweight, so it can ship cheaply
- Not fragile, so you can limit breakage
3. To differentiate your unique value proposition, as you further refine the idea of a product that you want to engineer your brand around.
Below are the dimensions that a product may be differentiated according to:
- Design (can it have some unusual colors or designs? Chateau Mouton Rothschild's red wine has labels drawn by different artists for every vintage, like Salvador Dali, Picasso, for example)
- Function (can a product be used differently or have easier functionality than what exists on the market?)
- Price (do you want your eCommerce product to stand out in one of these categories: premium, mass market, value-for-money, limited edition?)
- Time (the criteria vary here. THE:5TH watches are only available to purchase 5 days a month. Yep. That creates a sense of scarcity as well.
- The other differentiation point example that involves time is Zippo lighters, which first offered a lifetime guarantee).
(CUUP, for example, produces underlined bras, that fit the lady’s curves, not the other way around).
4. To define your target market and get cozy with those buyers.
Ms. Van Reel stresses that no brand on the Planet can sell to everyone. However big your addressable market, to best mold your brand so that resonates with a specific group of people, an entrepreneur has to be able to pinpoint some preferable demographics.
Once you can describe your ideal user in detail, it’s time to consider building an audience.
Even if you don’t have the product yet.
5. To start accumulating an audience before the product even comes out.
This is a secret ingredient of this serial successful eCommerce brand creator, and CEO of multi-million-dollar brands.
Instagram marketing is a powerful tool she used to propel her SkinnyMeTea brand to the heights of omnipotent brand awareness in no time.
Production: Helicopter view from eCommerce branding launch perspective
Production is one hell of an issue. There are so many alternatives and they all need quite a bit of input: your perseverance and belief in the idea at a minimum, plus capital and endless efforts to be successful.
Whether you are going to hand-make, manufacture locally or offshore, wholesale or dropship is a very big deal of a decision.
But at the end of the day, what matters are these two factors. Your product needs to be both:
- aligned with the expectations of your user market, and
- within your comfortable targeted price point to be profitable.
Scalability is also important, so take this into account when setting a price for your product and choosing the method of production. It is possible to switch from hand-making to manufacturing at any time, but this may need some investment and regrouping later in the process.
eCommerce Branding Strategies that Mold Firm Foundation
Choose Marketing Channels Wisely
Jack of all trades is a master of none. Choose your marketing channel based on thorough research of your target market. Is it Gen Z? Millennials? Gen X? Do they lean towards short viral TikTok or love the visual aesthetics of Instagram? Do they like the nerdy threads of good old Reddit or do they tweet 10 times a day on average?
Don’t rush to flood every channel with your promo. Focus on and own the ones most befitting your ideal user and then expand as needed.
Create Engaging Content
Things are visual, dynamic, and attention-grabbing in this era.
Create content that will align nicely with your brand identity and the essence of your core customer.
YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are a great trio for fashion & jewelry eCommerce, while Twitter and Reddit may bring more sales from a tech product standpoint. Naturally, your content should also harmonize with the channel you choose.
Make Your Brand Human
If you are willing to be part of the promo campaign – amazing. There’s nothing more trustworthy and human than a founder speaking lovingly about their product.
If you'd rather hang out behind the scenes and not be the face of your brand, ensure your team gets the spotlight in your media and communications. People trust people. People love relating to people.
Influencer marketing? By all means! For the best results, ensure you give them the freedom to provide their honest reviews. Censorship and bias will do you more harm than good at the end of the day.
Invest in SEO Early On
SEO is boring. But so are Google algorithms.
You may create all the funky vids for TikTok you want, but the minute you stop posting them, you will disappear from the radar of search engines.
Want a sustainable brand development? Abide by the SEO rules. Familiarize yourself with the main principles of Search Engine Optimization and see how it can help you create a strong eCommerce brand.
Embed Responsible Business into your brand DNA
It’s not important what was first: the chicken or the egg, as long as humanity can enjoy this rich source of protein: eggs laid by hens.
Similarly, lots of brands now donate to or support specific charitable causes. If they do it to garner more followers or if they do it because this is what the founder believes in doesn’t matter much.
What is important is that both the brand and humanity benefit from it.
If you want to support the environment, stray pets, or orphans – feel free to do as much good as your profit margin allows you – your audience may reciprocate for your kindness eventually.
Best eCommerce Brands 2020
People crave uniqueness.
Customers look disapprovingly upon the mass market.
Clients like the sense of belonging to a club or group of people with shared values.
This is why there have emerged so many successful eCommerce brands that offer a unique product unlike others.
Here are some of our favorite examples for you to check out:
Sleepyhead - DockATot® baby dock products that are natural and designed for travel.
Hawkers – the internet-exclusive Spanish sunglasses brand
TOMS – shoe ware & accessory eCommerce brand example with social responsibility in mind: for every purchased pair of shoes, they donate a pair to the needy.
ThreadBeast is a subscription-based brand that delivers stylist-recommended items personalized to customer’s liking.
Zoolatech – Custom eCommerce Development With Marketing Expertise
Zoolatech has been helping brands like Nordstrom build their eCommerce software and applications in the ODC mode successfully. We are well-versed in the intricacies of selling online – from UX / UI design to software engineering and testing.
Nonetheless, we place a strong emphasis on our programmers maintaining a current understanding of eCommerce marketing trends and perspectives. We have accumulated a portfolio of cases in retail & eCommerce software development.
If you are looking to build an eCommerce brand or create more depth and recognition for your existing online store – talk to the Zoolatech team about it. How can we help you? Email us or fill out a quick contact form.