Creating an e-commerce brand can help your business survive in extremely competitive industries. Having a successful e-commerce presence also means that you can potentially enable more customers to know your name and, in turn, spread the word of your business online, on social media and through product reviews.
With that said, the e-commerce frontier is constantly changing. It's important to be able to adapt and ensure your brand has a competitive advantage, no matter the size of your business. Below are a few of my tips for getting started:
1. Provide unique value to your target audience.
Instead of trying to stock an online store with various products, find your specialty. Larger corporations like Amazon already provide seemingly endless general retail options, and trying to compete with everything would eat your small business alive.
Specializing allows you to find your niche and what only you can provide to your customers. This doesn't mean you only bring a tangible benefit; your brand can bring about emotional ones as well. For example, you can bring joy to your audience.
As an added benefit of specializing in one type of product or service is that you can find your competitive advantage. A competitive advantage is an element that your company has that beats your competitors. If, for example, you make a USB that can prevent flash media and data corruption, that is your competitive advantage because other USBs might run that risk of losing your information.
2. Show authentic branding.
What is authenticity? Authenticity refers to when a brand is true to its intention and what it delivers to consumers; every action, product, service and advertisement serves a common message. Whether your intention is to deliver organic facial washes to help people with sensitive skin or to talk about a course related to learning user interface development, consistency is key.
Consider Dawn dishwashing detergent: One campaign by the company featured the soap being used to help clean up animals after an oil spill. To me, this showed authenticity because the brand's marketing appeared to be displaying not only Dawn's values, but also the effectiveness of its product.
You can do something similar with campaigns related to your products or services. For example, if you sell running sneakers, you might sponsor a run or athletic competition in your community.
3. Deliver high-quality content on all fronts.
For small-business owners, delivering low-quality content is not an option. Consumers these days have more choices than ever on what and from whom they want to buy. You need to convince them that your product or service is worth ordering, as opposed to getting from a corporate giant.
The same goes for the content on your website and on marketing fronts. Make sure that you have useful information on every category page and blog post. Use proper spelling and grammar, and ensure your text is broken up into paragraphs to avoid the dreaded blocks of endless words.
If you're leveraging mixed media, create a schedule for videos or podcasts. One added benefit of podcasts and video series is that you can reach consumers who might not otherwise know who you are, which can ultimately increase people's awareness of your brand.
4. Post content regularly.
Once you've created high-quality content, it's important to share it regularly. Establish a schedule to help ensure you're sharing material often and to build your SEO rankings. This schedule should also have categories that help you keep track of pages you want to create, boost with extra text or revise.
Your audience (and customers) will notice when you share thoughtful content with them regularly. This is what builds your reputation as a relevant brand.
5. Find communities interested in your products and services.
You don’t have to limit yourself to only advertising using cost per click and SEO; you also need people to properly survive and grow a target market. Instead of doing all of the grunt work alone, you can reach people who will help you grow organically. Word-of-mouth is potent and reliable.
One way to find out your audience's whereabouts is by taking a simple look at your statistics. Identify the demographics of those who are buying your products and where the reviews are placed. Run a Google search to see where you are popular and what you can leverage.
When you want to lean into an existing audience, you can cultivate a community that supports your brand (similar to how sneakerheads support Nike or Adidas). You can also consider hiring an influencer (if you have the money to do so) who will promote your product to their followers. An influencer is anyone who has a significant internet following. They can exist in any industry and share tutorials, streams, web content and more. If your brand aligns with theirs, you can reach a new potential market.
Building a brand within e-commerce does not have to be difficult. You simply need to prepare to grow during the long term. With the right focus, your brand will thrive.