In the second installment of the “How to Start an eCommerce Store” series we will cover branding for your business.
You’re probably thinking that branding is something you’ll do later. After you’ve started your business and are ready to launch a marketing campaign. It’s not important enough to be the second step. But I want to offer you a different view of branding and how I went from believing branding was only for corporations and not for people like us.
It’s basically a story of how I was wrong.
As a new business owner, I thought I knew it all. I had the confidence that only a 23 year old can have. Yet, I had no idea that I was branding the entire time.
Because I am my brand. And you will be yours.
Everything you do, say, publish, tweet and sell is your brand. It’s not your logo or even your products. It’s the intangible perception that consumers have of your business. It’s the most elusive concept in business. It’s both priceless and unavoidable.
And you will be branding your business every minute of every day. That’s why you need to understand why branding is essential from day one. Because branding is the only part of your business that will happen regardless of whether or not you believe in it’s power.
Sounds completely crazy, right?
Let’s say you love social media. You’ve got a ton of followers and friends who love to hear your quirky posts. So you always chime in about the latest political scandal and freely share your opinion about controversial issues. You think you’re charming.
And maybe you are to some people.
The rest think you’re completely obnoxious and rude. Many believe you over-share or don’t care if you’re offensive. And some block you because they simply don’t want to listen to anything you have to say anymore…
You’ve branded yourself as that person. Now imagine the damage an unmanaged business can do to their brand.
You have an idea of what your business should be. Something that’s uniquely yours. Maybe you want to be innovative and edgy. Or maybe you want to stand for quality and dependability. Perhaps you want to be a thought leader in your industry. Or maybe you have no idea because I’m throwing around a lot of information and it’s only Part 2!
Don’t worry. Today is about understanding how essential branding is to your business. It’s about creating awareness now, not later when you’re doing damage control. It’s about building your brand from the bottom up. With the exact image you want to showcase to the world.
Here’re a few concepts to think about when designing a brand for your new eCommerce store:
How to Start an eCommerce Store: The Power of Pricing
Let’s play a little game called Can You Spot The Most Expensive Plain White Tee?
I completely failed, as they all look the same to me. But here’s the winner with a price tag of $290!
And here’s the Hanes version from Target. A steal since a six-pack is only $24.99.
I have no idea why some people would ever pay $290 for a plain, white t-shirt. Yet, Rick Owens “Small Level T-Shirt White” has something many others don’t have: the power of a luxury brand.
Although pricing is a complex part of your new business, the branding aspect is simple. You have three basic choices: economic, midrange and luxury. This decision helps to create every other part of your brand image.
Think about the difference between Walmart and Macy’s. Walmart wants to be known for stocking cheap products. No one believes that Walmart sneakers are quality, long-lasting products. They are cheap and ultimately disposable. On the other hand, Macy’s carries many luxury name brands like Calvin Klein, Estée Lauder, and Ralph Lauren. The perception of these brands has nothing to do with being cheap. They all ignite something in the buyer that motivates them to spend a lot of money for something because they have someone’s name on the label.
Base this decision on your realistic ability to communicate value to your potential customers. Let’s say you want to sell business advice. Tara Gentile is a well-known business speaker, author and business strategist. She has the skills, talent, and credibility to charge whatever she wants. And she has the testimonials to back it up.
No one starts off being an industry leader. It takes time effort and true talent. Think about where you want your business to be in five years. Don’t try to jump ahead of what you can actually deliver. Choose the price that reflects the value of your product and gives you room to grow.
How to Start an eCommerce Store: Communicate Your Tone in One Second
Pretend you’re scrolling through Facebook. You stumble on a sponsored post of a pet bed. How long would you look at the ad? One second is probably too generous. You would either know you liked it immediately or your brain would file it under “don’t care” and you would continue scrolling until you found something appealing to you that instant.
Like uncovering who your ex-boyfriend is dating…
That’s life in social media. Marketing works the same way. No one reads your sales page unless they are interested. And your job is to connect directly to your perfect customer. Block out the 99% of consumers who will never be interested in your product and focus only on that one person. Let’s call her Sam.
What image do you want Sam to envision the instant she sees your Facebook header? What draws a person like Sam to your products?
Let’s say you’re opening an eCommerce store called Paws & Claws. This first header conveys a few things to me immediately. The font is professional and stylish, while the adorable dog (some people will find this dog adorable!) is being pampered. Perhaps your vision of Sam is a person who loves upscale dog products and her purebred pup is spoiled rotten. She’ll spend a ton of money on Princess Sophie.
This next header conveys an entirely different tone – fun and whimsy. Maybe Sam is the type of person that would throw her rescue dog a birthday party. And invite all her friends. Sam will buy any silly costume and loves bumper stickers that say “My Dog is Smarter than Your Honor Student”. Neither of these headers are wrong. It all depends on the brand image you’re trying to build and the consumers who are most likely to buy your product.
Start thinking about the tone you want your business to have. You have a million to choose from. But keep the same tone throughout every aspect of your business. That’s how you build a consistent, well-understood brand.
How to Start an eCommerce Store: Mission Possible
I don’t know what’s motivated you to start an ecommerse store. Maybe you just need a job and want to make some money – that’s perfectly normal. And I’m not suggesting that you have to turn into a “do-gooder” if you’re not already passionate about social or environmental issues. That’s fake and insincere, and consumers will see right through you.
But if you already have a passion for saving endangered animals, supporting war veterans, or finding a cure for cancer, there’s a way you can combine that with your new business. Not only will you be doing a great thing, you’ll also be branding your business as something special.
According to a recent study by Neilson, “55% of global online consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact”.
Social responsibility comes in many forms and it’s certainly not for corporations only. You can donate a percentage of your sales to different causes like Sevenly. Or you can build your entire business model in the “buy one, give one” model like Toms. You can donate your time or simply share events, posts and videos on your social media channels. There isn’t one way to be socially responsible. Just choose the best way to weave social responsibility into your brand in a genuine and sensible way.
How to Start an eCommerce Store: Live by Your Brand’s Blueprint
I told you that this was a story about how I was wrong. Granted, I could probably write many books on the subject “Liesha was wrong”. However, I haven’t made a bigger business mistake than my belief that branding wasn’t for businesses like mine.
I overlooked branding and just winged it. That’s never a good policy for new business owners. Thankfully, my business survived my inexperience.
Instead of leaving this essential step to chance, start consciously creating the brand you want today. You already have an idea of what you want your business to look like. All you need to do is flush out those ideas and create a brand blueprint. Then live by those guidelines like your business depends on it.
Because it does.