2022 Guide to Branding for Ecommerce Sellers
Jan 6, 2022

2022 Guide to Branding for Ecommerce Sellers

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Estimated reading time: 19 minutes.

branding for ecommerce stores

Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.”

  • Steve Forbes, Editor-in-Chief at Forbes magazine.

It is estimated that there are somewhere between 12 and 24+ million ecommerce stores online.

With no “passers-by” like you might have on the street, ecommerce sellers need to do a bit of extra work catching attention and building recognition. 

And branding is a fundamental way to do that.

It’s the backbone of successful modern businesses, defining who you are, what you’re about, and how you interact with your customers. 

There’s a lot to it, so in this guide, we’ll break down the key factors ecommerce sellers need and how to put them into practice.

In this guide to brand building for ecommerce sellers:

First, let’s dive into the basics.

What Is “Branding”?

“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

  • Seth Godin.

Branding is something that personifies your business, tells your story, attracts your target customers to your store, retains them, and much more.

For ecommerce stores, a strong brand is especially crucial to sustainable business growth. 

Without a physical store in place, branding is how you will set your website or sales channel apart from the competition.

“Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organization. Branding is about shaping that perception.”

  • Ashley Friedlein, CEO and Founder of Guild.

Here’s how customers feel about businesses with their own identities:

Establishing a memorable and impactful brand identity is key to growing your business.

In this guide, we’ll show you exactly how to do that.

What Goes Into Brand Identity 

“Identities are the beginning of everything. They are how something is recognized and understood. What could be better than that?”

  • Paula Scher, American graphic designer.

A strong brand identity is made up of many parts.

“Creating a brand” once meant paying a designer to make up a fancy logo and brainstorming a catchy slogan to go with it.

Times have changed.

Now, branding encompasses everything you do as a business - from what you sell, to marketing and advertising, to the way you package your goods and speak to your customers.

Your brand identity is an alignment of efforts to distinguish your ecommerce store from others.

Four core components of brand identity

  • Product

“Profit is not the legitimate purpose of business. The legitimate purpose of business is to provide a product or service that people need and do it so well that it’s profitable.”

  • James Rouse.

The products you sell are vitally important to your brand identity. 

Everything needs to align so that it’s easy for your customers to understand who you are, what you’re selling and why, and how it will make their lives better. 

These things should dictate all the other facets of your branding. 

Think about the following relating to product as you build your brand:

  • Your industry, competitors, and their brand identities.
  • The benefits of the product(s) you’re selling.
  • The real-world application of these products and communicating this.
  • How they’re made, where, and the materials.
  • How you are different from others selling similar things.

Think of your product or products as the foundation of your brand.

What you sell determines who your target audience is.

Who you’re selling to determines everything else, so product should come first.

  • Face

Your brand’s face is what you see on the surface; its aesthetics. 

It is the most direct and least subtle form of branding and often provides the first reaction a consumer may have to your business.

Your brand’s visual impressions are important as they may mean the difference between attracting or discouraging a potential customer.

All of the following contribute to the face of your brand:

  • Its logo.
  • The color palette used.
  • Shapes or illustrations.
  • Fonts and typefaces.
  • Sizes of text and images.
  • Layout and design.

The look of your brand can quickly earn you credibility and respect, or just as quickly eliminate them altogether.

Balancing professionalism and creativity is key, which is where a designer might be worth the investment.

  • Personality 

If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

  • Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks.

Branding goes deeper than aesthetics. It forces you to ask what your company stands for, and how it demonstrates this.

Brand personality boils down to how a business is perceived by the public on a deeper level.

It can also be conveyed by the things you don’t say; topical issues or important matters that you choose to remain silent on may equally affect how your audience considers your brand and, ultimately, whether or not they choose to become (or remain) loyal customers.

All of the following contribute to the personality of your brand:

  • Its core values and ethics.
  • How it communicates and upholds these.
  • Its tone of voice.
  • Its attitude and approach to contemporary issues.
  • Who it employs and how it treats them.

For example, your business might have environmental values. As a result, you might give a percentage of proceeds to a related cause, and talk about this on your website.

You might also offer carbon offset packages at checkout, compostable packaging, and recyclable products. 

This is just one example of how company values can (and should) extend throughout its operations. Because today’s consumers are discerning, and they may check! 

Find out more about this in our guide about what consumers want from brands on social media today.

  • Actions

Consumers crave transparency. They want to know what you’re doing, when, and why.

Whatever moves you make outside of the production and sale of your goods will contribute to the larger picture that is your brand identity.

Consider the following actions of your brand and how to manage them:

  • Customer service interactions, the language used, and conflict resolution.
  • Delivery options, fulfillment, and issue resolution.
  • Treatment of any employees if applicable.
  • Any causes or charity support if applicable. 
  • Handling of political issues or controversial topics. 
  • Any partnerships with influencers or other companies, their identities, and what aligning with them would mean to customers.

As demonstrated, brand identity comes from the overall impression made by a multitude of factors. But don’t be overwhelmed by the individual elements.

Building your brand using our step-by-step guide below, you’ll have a strong foundation for each of the four core components of brand identity. You can use this basis to inform your decisions around each element that contributes to those components.

Pretty soon, you’ll have a sustainable and unique brand identity that can be easily applied to everything you do.

Let’s get started then, shall we?

10 Steps To Build Your Brand 

By following the steps below, you can leapfrog any competitors that have made the mistake of ignoring the importance of brand development.

10 steps to a strong brand identity

1. Identify your target audience.

2. Research your audience, industry, and competitors.

3. Choose the product(s) you’re going to sell.

4. Create the face of your brand, starting with colors and fonts.

5. Design your logo.

6. Identify your unique selling proposition.

7. Establish your brand’s positioning.

8. Decide how you’ll communicate your brand.

9. Develop your brand story.

10. Integrate your new brand identity with your online store.

It’s a great idea to keep returning to some of the above steps as your brand evolves. That’s not only natural but the best way to keep it fresh and relevant. 

So let’s delve deeper into the steps above and what to consider along the way. 

  • Selling the right products

Our first three steps above are all to do with product selection.

What you sell will determine how you approach every other step in this guide.

Here’s how to select the right products for your store:

  1. Identify your target audience

If you’re opening an ecommerce store, you likely already have an industry or product in mind.

Before you start selling, you’ll want to find out who your target audience is - a.k.a., what sort of people are buying those products. You may discover that the people you’re targeting are more interested in a new type of product or an alternative solution for the same problem.

To identify your target audience, look to your (future) competitors.

Who’s buying their products? What are they using them for? Where do they hang out online?

The more you know about your target audience and their needs, the better equipped you’ll be to provide them with a product they love (in a way that no one else is already).

  1. Research, research, research

Once you’ve figured out who your ideal customers are, it’s time to find out what they want.

Additionally, you need to research where the industry is going and how your competitors are establishing themselves in this space.

To do this, there are a few approaches that you may find helpful.

  • Firstly, search the internet for brands that are selling products like the ones you have in mind. Take note of similarities, strengths, weaknesses - anything that might be relevant.
  • Go through the purchasing process for items similar to yours to see how your target audience might experience buying such products.
  • Check subreddits and other online forums where your target audience is hanging out. Eavesdrop on their discussions to learn what else they might be interested in and what language they use.
  • Create a buyer persona for your ideal customer based on your competitor and industry research. Who are they, how old are they, what might they do for a living, what do they care about? By forming a “real” person in your mind, it will be easier to imagine talking to them as your brand, and appealing to their needs and wants. 

For some, research might be a bit tiresome - particularly when you just want to set up your brand and start selling as soon as possible.

But if you’re methodical and patient, it will pay dividends later on.

  1. Choose your product

When you’ve assembled all the information about your industry, audience, and competition, it’s time to put it together. This is how you choose which products you’re going to sell.

Most importantly, you want to choose a product that will solve a problem for your target audience.

Beyond that, there are a few points you may also want to consider:

  • How are these products made, and where - will this sit well with your target audience? If not, is there an alternative that will?
  • What is the lead time (if you’re not making the products yourself) to get them from your supplier?
  • How will you get your products to the customer (shipping costs, logistics, packaging, etc.)? What effect will this have on your profit margins?

All of this information will be important later on when designing the messaging for your brand, and ensuring that everything aligns. 

Once you’ve sorted out what you’re selling, it’s time to focus on the look of your brand.

Designing the face of your brand

Our next two steps are all about designing the face of your brand.

The face of your brand is what will attract customers directly to your store, so it needs to be specifically designed to perform its function the best it can.

These tips will help you design the face of your brand:

  1. Choose your look

“By choosing fonts that reflect your brand’s values—traditional or quirky, fun or formal—you can attract the right kind of customers.”

Your brand’s face, or look, should be immediately recognizable by those who already know your brand, and attractive to anyone in your target audience that doesn’t.

Three of the biggest factors contributing to the look of your brand are:

  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Imagery

You need to develop an outline for each of these that can be consistently applied to everything consumers see related to your brand, from the products themselves to your website design and advertisements.

During your competitor research, you may have jotted down a few similarities in the way other brands in your industry appear on a visual front.

For more inspiration, consider the sort of emotions your brand, story, and products instill in consumers. Then check out this color emotion graph that demonstrates how those emotions can be reflected in the colors of a brand:

Source: The Logo Company.

A similar approach can be taken to font choice and imagery; if most of the popular brands in your industry use sans-serif fonts and cartoony images, it’s likely there’s a good reason behind it.

Be sure to balance what works in your industry with what best reflects your brand’s overarching identity. This is where you can find that unique look that sets your brand apart.

When you know how you want your brand to look, it’s a good idea to create a design style guide to refer back to and ensure your brand face is consistent in everything you create.

  1.  Create your logo

If you’ve put together a design style guide, or at the very least, formed a solid idea of how your brand should look, then creating your logo should be quite easy.

Use what you’ve learned about building the face of your brand and apply it to the design of your logo.

However, there are a few important things to consider when it comes to a logo:

  • It needs to be memorable, as it will often be the only element of your brand visible to consumers.
  • It should be a design that can be manipulated to appear everywhere your brand will go - in website banners, on product packaging, as a social media avatar, etc.
  • If it’s too complicated, it can lose impact when shrunken down; too basic and it will fail to stand out. Try to find that sweet spot in the middle.
  • Logos can be words, objects, letters, symbols, or simply abstract designs. Each comes with its own positives and negatives - you’ll need to find the choice that’s right for you.

Think about some of the biggest brands in the world today. Nearly all of them have one thing in common: An easily identifiable logo - with or without text.

Famous logos

Source: AllLogoPictures.

Whether it’s something basic, like the Nike tick or the McDonald’s arches, or something abstract like the Google Chrome wheel - the goal and the result are the same: Recognition.

Developing your brand personality

Now that we’ve covered product and face, the next four steps are all to do with personality.

It’s time to start humanizing your brand.

What that means is connecting the dots between what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, and what your brand believes in.

  1. Identify your USP

Finding your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is key to leveraging your brand in the eyes of the consumers. 

So what is it?

USP is the thing that makes your business unique among all your competitors. 

Perhaps you’re the only bicycle tire store that ethically sources all its materials. Maybe you’re selling cupcakes specially made for diabetics. If you don’t have something that makes your brand distinct, you’ll struggle to sell yourself over competitors.

What will you focus your ad messaging on?

Here are a couple of tips for identifying your USP:

  • Think about your mission, your core values, and what you’re trying to achieve beyond selling products.
  • Then think about the things your target audience cares about and why they’re buying your products in the first place.

That inner part of the Venn diagram is where you will find your USP. Use your USP as the outline for your brand personality.

  1. Establish your brand’s “positioning”

“In a competitive, crowded world market, it’s the well-positioned brands that stand out!”

  • Bernard Kelvin Clive.

You should now have a pretty good idea of who is buying and selling products similar to yours, and where.

Your brand positioning could come next. This is the space that you want your brand to take up in the mind of your customers. 

How do you want them to think of your brand? 

Do you want to position yourself based on benefits, price, convenience, values, location, quality, customer service, delivery options, or something else? 

Here’s Amazon’s positioning statement, as an example:

“Our vision is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

  1. Decide how you will communicate your brand identity

It’s time to express yourself.

If you haven’t already come up with a business name and slogan, now’s the time to do it.

Hopefully, during your research, you were able to pick up on the tone of voice and language used by your target audience. Try to match it as you create your own distinct form of communication.

It may help you to develop a communication style guide - something you can run any future messaging by to ensure your brand voice is consistent in everything you publish.

Check out these examples of how Starbucks communicates the personality of their brand in everything they produce:

Starbucks ad

Starbucks ad

Can you see how the most popular coffee chain in the world speaks in a recognizable, casual, conversational voice?

Starbucks wants to be perceived as hip, energetic, enjoyable, and of course delicious. And their copy (text and messaging) reflects that in a manner that seems effortless.

This level of coherence across all communications is what you should be striving for. 

Ideally, your customers will be able to recognize you based on your voice, whether your logo is there or not.

  1. Develop your brand story

“Your brand needs to exist and remain consistent wherever your customers interact with you, from the theme you choose for your website, the marketing materials you produce, all the way to how you package and ship your products.”

It’s time to develop the story that ties everything together.

Your story isn’t just your mission or how you and your co-founder became pals; it’s everything you are doing, have done, and will do as a brand.

A brand story is holistic.

Create a strategy that outlines how and where you will tell the story of your brand. Be sure to take into account your target audience and the best way to reach them, whether that’s on Facebook or at a live seminar - let your research guide the decisions behind your strategy.

Consider the following as you begin to weave together your brand story and present it to the world:

  • What spaces (digital or physical) are best suited to your USP?
  • Are there areas of your business that feel disconnected from your brand identity? How can you tie them together?
  • What impression do you want to give your target audience?

In this step, your goal is to flesh out what you’ve already outlined.

You’ve laid down the foundations for what your brand identity represents, how it looks and sounds, and where it will be found. Your job now is to create cohesion by using any tools at your disposal.

Take what you’ve got and amplify it.

Put it all into action

By following the above steps, you will now have a strong brand identity for your store.

The next step is application.

  1. Integrate your brand identity across your business

“Consistency is what can make or break a brand identity.”

This is important: Your brand must be consistent across all your touchpoints. These might include your store itself, and anywhere else it shows up - like social media, or additional sales channels.

Consistency builds trust and conveys professionalism. It’s the thing that lets customers know you’re a legitimate business.

If your online store is a website, every page needs to exhibit the same style of communication and visual presentation. They also need to be telling the same brand story with the same values and mission.

And don’t forget: Consistent brand identity isn’t just a matter of what people see or read online.

Think about how you might embed your brand philosophy into every element of your business, from the way you package and deliver your goods to the things you do outside of selling products.

Don’t just build a brand; be the brand.

What’s Next?

The wrong answer: Stagnation.

Just as our technology and the way we see the world continue to evolve every year, your business needs to adapt and evolve too.

That means staying on top of industry trends, keeping up with the current values and interests of your target audience, and ensuring that your brand and your products continue to meet the needs of your loyal customers.

Additionally, you must make sure your brand stays true to its identity even as it evolves.

Here are a few ways to make that happen:

  • Create a brand book that outlines the key elements of your brand identity: Tone, emotions, ethics, look, personality, etc.
  • Keep the brand alive among staff by informing new employees of what it means to be a part of your “brand”.
  • Create fail-safes - such as checklists and style guides - to monitor the consistency of the things you produce as they pertain to brand identity.
  • When changes or evolutions are made to your brand identity, inform all staff and consider posting a press release so that your customers are equally aware of any new direction you might choose to take.
  • Be flexible. Allow yourself permission to test new products and ideas, or try different directions if it makes sense to do so. As Bruce Lee once said, “Be water, my friend.”

“Your employees should be living your brand each and every day. They should not have to overthink about what your brand stands for, what your brand promise is and how they can be a contributing and positive part of your brand story on a daily basis.”

Don’t have any employees yet? Well, you’re an employee. So keep this message top of mind regardless.

Now that you’ve built yourself a unique brand identity for your business, you can start diving into some of the more technical areas of running an online store.

Are your accounts set up for success?

Without Robust Accounting, No Branding Will Save Your Store!

Managing your money properly is essential to not only thriving but just to staying afloat. 

Ecommerce businesses have a multitude of costs to consider and balance, but platforms will just send you one lump sum as payment on a regular basis. 

Most established ecommerce sellers will tell you that a key accounting challenge they have is understanding what income and expenses each of their bank deposits actually include.

How much did they collect in tax? Spend on shipping or fees? Lose on returns? 

This information is critical, but without A2X, it’s missing. 

By integrating A2X with your accounting software and ecommerce platform, each bank deposit will be automatically calculated for you. You’ll see a journal summary detailing all income and expense lines for each deposit, posted to your accounts for quick reconciliation.

Your books will be organized via the accrual method which is ideal for ecommerce, and you’ll have accurate, reliable numbers with minimal manual calculation or human error. 

Try it for free today!

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