The importance of brand identity
With an estimated 95% of purchases expected to be made online by 2040, it’s easy to believe that if you build an eCommerce site following some of the best practice guidelines, then selling your products will be straightforward. But as with almost everything in business, it’s not quite that simple.
The fact that so many companies are now selling online makes it increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd and that’s before we even start talking about search engine optimisation.
The reality is, for your eCommerce site to be a success, you also need a strong brand identity. As well as helping differentiate you from your competitors, it will also help position you as a professional, trustworthy business that people want to engage with.
What is a brand identity?
Many people make the mistake of thinking a brand identity is just about a logo and colour palette, but it’s so much more than that. As Seth Godin put it "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."
In other words, it’s about presenting your products in a way that resonates with your customers and potential customers and about how your company and products are perceived by them.
Apple is a great example. You could argue their computers aren’t any better than Dell’s or Microsoft’s but the image they project (their brand) is what makes them so desirable. Their brand identity positions them as sleek, creative, and innovative with an ethical focus. It’s this that makes them distinct and why so many people buy their products, despite the hefty price tag.
Benefits of a strong brand identity
Promoting how you are different from other companies comes with a number of clear business benefits.
Makes your company memorable
Like it or not, you will have competitors and unlike shopping on the high street, it’s a lot easier online for potential customers to research similar companies and compare options. This is where brand identity comes in. Even though you might offer similar products at a comparable price to another eCommerce site, how you present yourself will be unique to you.
For example, Mountain Warehouse and Go Outdoors sell the same type of products, but Mountain Warehouse focuses on family and design while Go Outdoors on price. This is evident both in the content but also in the designs of both sites.
It’s this difference that makes you stand out and encourages people to buy from you, and not your competitor.
Helps you understand your customers
If you know what your brand is all about, then you will already know the type of customer you are trying to attract. Whether they are young, old, male or female; what work they do, how much money they have; why and when they are likely to buy your products or services; what their values and ethos are.
This in turn ensures your messaging focuses on what inspires your customers the most while ensuring your eCommerce store provides the right type of products presented in the right way for your target market. Get these right and it will help with your sales. For Patagonia sustainability and activism awareness are key to their brand identity which they make clear throughout their site.
Filters out people you don’t want as customers
While this might sound counter-intuitive (surely any sale is a good sale?), the reality is you don’t want to do business with everyone. Instead, you want to attract people who are most aligned with your values as these people will be your best customers. They will be the ones who read your e-newsletters, take advantage of any discount codes and come back to buy products from you time and time again. In fact, existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more compared to new customers, so it makes sense to attract the right kind from the outset.
Builds trust and loyalty with your customers
How many of us have bought a product online at a slightly higher price, simply because we 'trust' one site over another? This could be down to how a site has been designed, whether contact details are clearly displayed or simply because we have heard of the brand before. And this is why brand identity is so important. Not only does it help your business look professional but also lets people know you genuinely care about your company, products and, by default, your customers.
A well-executed brand identity will appeal to people's emotions allowing customers to get to know you better, which in turn will increase their trust levels so they are more likely to buy more. It also means they are much more likely to tell other people about your business.
Makes it easier to launch new products
At some point, you may decide to launch a range of new products or services, but it can be tricky to be sure whether it will be financially viable. But if you have a strong brand identity, then it’s going to be a lot easier for you to create excitement and anticipation around a new product/service. This means you will need less investment and fewer resources than a weaker brand would need to have the same sales impact.
If you’re still feeling sceptical about whether a brand identity is really necessary, you could think about it as a business asset. While it’s difficult to measure, having a strong brand identity will benefit your company’s bottom line by helping you attract and retain loyal customers.