Building your brand as an online seller
Nikita Tilsley May 9th 2022 - 4 minute read
Whether you’re starting from scratch or you’re already an established online seller, it’s always a good idea to spend some time perfecting your brand.
What is brand?
At its core, your brand is how your audience perceives you. Some of this you can control – e.g. through design and copywriting – but ultimately it’s what your audience thinks that matters.
For that reason, brand goes beyond your logo and slogan. Everything you do as an ecommerce business communicates your brand to your customers.
When your brand resonates with your target audience, it’s a powerful thing. You’ll earn their trust and loyalty. And, having a strong, recognisable brand can really maximise your marketing efforts.
How to build your online brand
1. Research the market
The first step in building your brand is to research your competitors and your target audience. Along with your own goals as a seller, this is the foundation of both your business and your brand.
Hopefully you’ve already got an idea of who you’re selling to and who you’re competing against, but try to dig deeper and consider it from the customer’s perspective.
You can use search engines and social media to get an idea of the online landscape, and talk to your target audience or visit online and offline stores to see things through your customers’ eyes.
Take notes on:
1. Your customers
- Who are they?
- What do they care about?
- How do they talk?
- What do they engage with?
- Where are they (both on- and offline)?
2. Your competitors
- Who are they?
- What are they doing?
- Is it working?
- How do they set themselves apart?
- How are you different?
Keeps these notes handy and refer back to them through the entire branding process.
2. Define who you are
Next up, it’s time to home in on what’s important for you and your customers, and how you’re going to frame this. This will help you make sure your brand is authentic and position it within the competitive landscape.
One useful thing to do is come up with some key values. These are the ideals at the heart of your brand that resonate with your audience. Aim for three to five values, and make sure they’re authentic (e.g. don’t make ‘Sustainability’ one of your values if your eco-credentials aren’t up to par).
Another similar exercise is to think about what your brand would be like if it were a person. Would it be serious, goofy or wry? Would it be calm and polite, confident or even have a bit of attitude? Again, pick three to five words that describe your brand’s character.
This is also a great time to come up with a value proposition or mission statement. See if you can boil down your target audience, what you offer them and what makes you unique into one or two simple sentences.
If you haven’t chosen a name yet, use the outcome from the above exercises to help. There are many different ways to approach picking a name, so have a play around until you find something that feels right.
3. Design your visual identity
Once you’re happy with your personality, it’s time to think about how you can represent it visually.
The three key elements of a visual identity are colour, typography and logo, but you also want to consider web design, photography, and illustration.
Your colour scheme will help to communicate your brand’s character and set you apart from the competition. Use a colour wheel to explore different pairings and see what works. It’s also useful to make a mood board with colour combinations you like or ideas inspired by similar brands. With the latter, just be sure your choice stands out from others in your competitive landscape.
As for typography, tools like fontpair can help if you’re struggling to choose the right typefaces. Often it’s best to match a serif typeface with a sans serif.
Of course, you’ll also want to consider your logo. While you might have some ideas about how you want your logo to look, it may be best to work with a graphic designer.
A designer could also help you with the rest of your visual identity, but there are heaps of free tools and guides online if you want to give it a go yourself.
4. Find your voice
You can also communicate your brand through the way you write, or your ‘tone of voice’.
If your brand is relaxed and sociable, you might use more informal words; if it’s serious and dependable, your voice should reflect that. You should also consider where the copy is appearing (for instance, the tone on social media tends to be relaxed).
As with visual identity, working with a professional can help, but it’s not essential. A skilled copywriter can help you find your voice and even craft a guide on how to write in a way that’s on-brand.
5. Be consistent
Finally, with all these elements of your brand, you want to make them consistent across every audience touchpoint. This is what builds up the trust, authenticity, and recognition you need for a successful brand.
It’s important to bear in mind that consistency means more than applying your voice and visual identity across all your communication channels. The way you run your online store needs to be consistent with your brand as well.
For instance, if you’re trying to portray your brand as friendly and warm, make sure that comes through when you interact with customers. Again, you want to demonstrate your brand’s authenticity. If the audience’s experience of your brand jars with how you’re trying to come across, it can be off-putting. So, keep it consistent.