Many small business owners are familiar with branding—a concept historically connected to brick-and-mortar locations and print advertisements—but as more small business retailers move online, branding elements play an important role in the customer experience. When it comes to branding a small business ecommerce site, logos and products are just the tip of the iceberg.
In this article we discuss important elements of small business branding including
- Nurturing your reputation
- Cementing your identity
- Connecting with consumers
- Taking a unified approach
Small Business Branding: Moving Beyond Logos
Andrea Wagner, head of design at Bigcommerce, says that entrepreneurs who lack a visual or branding background may think that branding is limited to fixed components, such as logos and trademarks. But that's only part of the story.
"In modern consumer culture, your brand is almost synonymous with your reputation," says Wagner. Small businesses thrive on their carefully nurtured reputations. Branding must remain a priority in the ecommerce realm, because you're no longer physically present to talk with your customers. "When you're not able to control that conversation—because it's happening overnight or in other countries—your brand elements will help build your reputation online," Wagner explains.
"Branding is absolutely essential to help your business stand out in the extremely crowded ecommerce marketplace," says Sarah Matista, marketing communications manager at Vistaprint. Developing a clear identity for your small business helps differentiate it from competitors.
Launching a small business ecommerce presence gives entrepreneurs another platform to continue building their brand. But without a clear branding strategy, Matista says that ecommerce businesses may actually be at a disadvantage.
"In the past, brick-and-mortar retailers competed primarily with stores in their own geographic areas," says Matista. "Ecommerce stores potentially pit themselves against millions of other retailers—big and small—around the world." A strong brand resonates with customers across this broader arena.
Small Business Branding: Ecommerce Strategies
Two keys to small business ecommerce success: telling your brand's story and cementing its identity. Small business etailers "need to make a quick and strong connection with distracted, on-the-go digital consumers," says Matista.
Tell your ecommerce shoppers who you are immediately; it will help connect them to your brand and shape their shopping experience. That's the power behind "a strong story and identity," says Matista. "The company name, logo, shopping experience and marketing strategy should follow from the story."
Although big retailers dominate much of the online world, small business ecommerce sites have one big advantage: a highly personal customer experience. Look for ways to build a connection with consumers as soon as they hit your landing page.
The two most important pieces of brand equity that a small business owns are its name and its logo. These are particularly important online, because those branding elements move around the most. "They'll be shared through social media, forwarded to people by email, and discovered through search results," says Bigcommerce's Wagner.
Maximize your ecommerce presence by preparing your business logo for prime time exposure. "Make sure your logo is both high quality and high resolution," says Wagner. If small business owners don't tackle this step up front, they may find their logo enlarged to sizes that render it unreadable, or that it doesn't fit with the template colors they've chosen for their ecommerce site.
Small Business Branding: A Unified Approach
A common mistake that entrepreneurs make, according to Matista, is failing to have a unified small business branding strategy across all their channels. "For example, a company's Facebook page should be a direct extension of the site's shopping experience, not just the online equivalent of a Yellow Pages entry," she explains.
The content shared across those channels is also an important aspect of the branding strategy. "Build out a blog that combines both useful and promotional content. Sharing that content across all social channels fosters that sense of unique identity," says Matista. Every online asset and ecommerce connection that echoes the company's story will increase brand recognition and equity.
Wagner says entrepreneurs shouldn't overlook the importance of visuals when it comes to the branding elements on ecommerce sites. As Wagner points out, shopping is a visual experience, whether a shopper makes a purchase or not. Small business etailers can use that to their advantage.
"If people come to your website and see consistent imagery and tone-of-voice, they sense that you present your products in a thoughtful way, and it will prompt them to come back," says Wagner.
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.
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