In Building an eCommerce Brand Part 1, we laid out some important concepts in order to start viewing your fledgling eCommerce business as a brand, and consequently how to differentiate your business in a competitive market. We also asked you to write down a list of observations about your business, with a view to thinking about how each one might affect a customer’s perception of your store and brand.
In the second part of our mini-series on building an eCommerce brand, we will address our own fictional list of business observations that may very well mirror similar issues affecting your store, and in turn, analyze how each one either directly or indirectly affects a customer’s perception of your brand.
1. We discount too much
This question can lead to many more questions. Do you think you are discounting too much because profitability is being hit?, or because of the impact on your brand? If it is the first scenario, you probably already know why you are having to discount, and if it is the second, discounting is only a problem if you don’t want to be perceived as a budget, slash-happy store.
If your aim however is to be perceived in a better, less discount heavy light, then you need to address the multitude of reasons why such discounts are necessary in the first place, which leads us to the second point..
2. We don’t stock anything a customer couldn’t find elsewhere
Perhaps the greatest reason for heavy discounting is because as a store you have to price match against the competition. With online customers more price diligent than ever, selling a like for like product at a higher markup is nigh impossible, especially if your sector has a well developed online market offering a variety of attractive, easy to use sites with high customer service levels.
The answer then is to be different, and a rule of thumb here is to be at least 10% different in your inventory against the competition in order to increase profitability, reduce discounting, and enhance the perception of your store. Whatever your niche, sector, or even mainstream, mass appeal market, finding products that are not well represented is as easy as doing your research, contacting suppliers and making deals.
Whatever your success rate in sourcing new, untapped suppliers, the net effect will be a distinct upswing in how your brand is perceived in a crowded and competitive marketplace.
3. Our logo is really great!
Recognizing your store’s good points is essential, because knowing what to build from, and what to discard, can be the difference between eCommerce success and failure.
If your logo is universally liked, then use this building block to solidify the tone and look of your brand. Work with a designer to make sure every font and color is consistently represented across your site; not forgetting of course your store’s email marketing. Did you know that one of the main reasons a customer will unsubscribe or ‘junk’ your email is because the branding does not match the website’s design, leading the customer to believe they have never subscribed in the first place?
The benefit of all of this of course is that a recognizable brand is more likely to be remembered and returned to, far more so in fact than a thousand other ‘me too’ stores selling the same, or similar items.
4. We answer emails really fast, but sometimes don’t go the extra mile
Umm, why not? Going the extra mile is simply obligatory for eCommerce businesses, because in increasingly competitive times, there is no excuse not to do your level best to make sure that the customer is completely happy with your service.
If you are too busy to properly take care of this area, then why not look at using an enhanced level of organization or automation to handle some of your workload in order to free up some time? Mailbeez for example can fully personalize, automate and email all of your customers over a whole range of topics, from review requests, right though to winning back older customers after a pre-determined time span. For day to day customer service emailing, companies like Zen Desk offer the small to mid sized business owner competitively priced ticketing systems that make sure every customer receives a timely reply.
For your business, the effect of a more dynamic and vital customer service department is clear, and is an extremely easy and low cost way to stand out from the crowd.
5. Our customer base has grown over the past 6 months
Give yourself a pat on the back, and take an hour to think about what you want the next 6 months to be like. By taking charge of the direction your business is heading in, and by setting quantifiable targets, you create a conscious expectation of both revenue, growth and for the subject of the post, branding, that whether you realize it or not, you will begin to make reality.
6. We worry a lot more than we’d like to admit about cash flow
Cash flow is am issue for businesses both large and small, and one which has the potential to become a point of incredible stress for a business owner.
Like any obstacle in your way, cash flow issues must be tackled head on before it is too late. Our recommendation would be to employ the services of a 3rd party book keeping firm who can provide you with detailed cash flow analysis, management and profit and loss reports. If you are growing, these reports will both highlight problem areas, and if your business does require extra capital, satisfy the demands of banks or investors keen to understand more about your business.
If you do not manage to secure extra working capital, or fail to get a grip on your cash flow, you might well find that a revenue boost though extra sales is the only answer, sales that will be created though slashing prices. Once again, excessive discounting will seriously undermine your efforts to create a credible, desirable and in-demand brand.
7. We never have enough time for email marketing
Luckily, you don’t have to devote much time to email marketing these days, and instead can rely on increasing automation, personalization and a true ‘hands-off’ approach to meet your marketing aims.
From winning back older customers and delivering personalized offer coupons, to automating product review requests, birthday reminders or harvesting store feedback reviews, a system like Mailbeez has the power to really revitalize the way your business interacts with its customers.
Presenting a more professional face to your customers through attractive, dynamic and personalized email marketing will rocket your brand to the front of the eCommerce queue to your customer’s door, with all of the benefits that will ensue.
8. What the hell do we do with social media?
A good question, and one that many online stores are asking, especially in the face of research that suggests customers do not actually want to interface with brands on social networks.
Our advice would be to ensure that the branding of your Facebook & Twitter page matches your website, and that you respond quickly to any comments, and interact on a twice weekly, but certainly not daily basis with your followers. Other than that, the benefit of social media to eCommerce stores is a real elephant in the room, and one that quantifiable evidence for or against is impossible to come by.
Hopefully you have found this mini series useful, and either directly or indirectly, can see how a multitude of business issues can have a powerful effect on how you develop your brand, and in turn, how that brand is perceived by your customers. *