When it comes to retail branding, there has never been a more exciting time to build them than right now. While it’s true that competition is fierce with new direct-to-consumer brands emerging left and right, challenging the giants of retail, the explosion of digital solutions has drastically lowered the cost-of-entry to retail, and it is possible (at least in theory) to become a major player without having millions to spend on media and marketing.
What is the key to branding success? While there is no fast lane to dominating your market, becoming savvy in digital brand-building can help you get there faster by accelerating revenue and share-of-voice.
Read on to uncover tried-and-tested tips for building your online visibility.
From Owned Channels to Cohesive Experiences
For retail, one of the most critical steps to online branding is that of creating a cohesive experience across digital touchpoints. Instead of approaching your owned channels (website/e-commerce store, and social media channels such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest) as separate entities, think how you can apply your brand essence consistently across channels to convey what your brand is all about.
For e-commerce-first retailers, a well-designed website experience is a no-brainer, yet 50 percent of small businesses still don’t have a website. If you’re a retailer that falls into that half, your first step is to obtain your own website because it is the most surefire way to take control of your brand visibility online. With the many options out there, getting started is quite simple. You don’t necessarily need design skills to build a site when you choose a provider that offers ready-made templates.
Why are cohesive brand experiences important? All too often, retailers spend a lot of time and money producing content for the first customer touchpoint, such as an advertising campaign or an impeccable Instagram feed, but fail to continue the experience on the e-commerce or physical storefront.
Pay attention to the following branding elements for optimal results:
- Visual Language. Ensure your design guidelines are applied meticulously on your website, social channels, point-of-sale materials and marketing assets. Even the filters and content you use on your Instagram and Pinterest feed photos and videos should follow your brand guidelines. Pick a style that best represents your retail business and then stick to it.
- Tone of Voice. All retailers have – or should have – a defined set of guidelines to how their brand and company sounds like to differentiate them from competitors. Online, there are endless ways to injecting a little personality to each customer interaction. If your brand is playful on social media, don’t lose that uniqueness when the shopper is in the process of buying or checking out. These can be small copy tweaks, for example, compare “Stalk your mailbox – your order is shipped!” to plain old “We have shipped your order.” Which one conveys your brand better?
- Up-to-Date Information. With ever-changing sales, promotions and even new retail locations, there is a lot that can go awry with keeping important information updated across your channels. The purpose of a digital brand experience is to convey trust. If your website or social media include outdated information or are missing contact/address information, it reflects poorly on you. On the other hand, if you don’t leverage all your channels when you’re running a major campaign, that is a huge missed opportunity, too.
Retailers are well aware that modern consumers are all about researching products before they commit to buy. According to a 2018 Forbes study, 82 percent of smartphone users consult their phones prior to in-store purchases, while 45 percent read reviews pre-purchase. At first, it can feel like as a brand owner you have little to no influence on what customers are saying about your product online. Yet, that is not the case at all. By paying close attention to things like product quality assurance, check-out processes, ordering, shipping and customer experience, you’ll be nipping negative reviews in their bud, as often these parts of the customer experience are most prone to shopper scrutiny.
It is inevitable that at some point or another, you’ll receive a negative review. Be sure to always answer those, fix the problem promptly and reward the consumer for raising the issue.
In many industries, such as beauty and skincare or home products, sponsored influencer reviews can help to nudge shoppers to take the leap and try your product for the first time. What’s interesting is that conversely, niche influencers with smaller follower counts (say, 5,000-10,000 as opposed to hundreds of thousands) are perceived as more trustworthy compared to the larger Insta-celebrities. In fact, micro-influencers are becoming all the rage in online branding. Look to your community to find people with a decent following who already are enthusiastic about your brand and offer them the opportunity to become brand ambassadors. It’s more affordable than hiring the big-ticket players and is likely to yield better results, too. Just make sure to have them clearly indicate sponsored content and ask them to post truthful reviews that ring authentic.
Conquering the Inbox
Email is the bread-and-butter channel of digital marketing but here’s why all retailers benefit from it: it’s very affordable and incredibly effective. The ROI for emails is 30 percent versus the mere seven percent direct mail generates, for example. Think of email marketing as the ideal channel to tell your story. Instead of just pushing promotions, think of ways to add to the experience by telling stories around your product and brand. Email is also great for driving foot traffic: organize in-store events or exclusive sales that are only available to your email subscribers.
About the writer: Christine Goos is an award-winning marketer and copywriter with a decade of experience in advertising, tech, and digital marketing.
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