Building better branding for Shopify ecommerce

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Branding & The Cut

Since 2009, branding has been a focus for how we work with businesses. The Cut have always specialised in branding and the design of more effective communications, visuals and campaigns for businesses. These core skills have high value when done right for ecommerce.

As we have developed our specialisation in Shopify, we have found that almost every conversation we have with online store owners includes a discussion about their branding and how their business looks and communicates.

Often, our ecommerce clients come to us with a specific request to review their logo, imagery and messaging because they know it is not right, and they understand the value of getting it right.

In short, good branding will help your ecommerce business engage with more of the right people, your ideal customers, keep them on your site for longer, increase the probability of converting them to a sale, and also optimise the opportunity of turning them into a loyal customer who returns to buy from you again.

What is Branding for ecommerce?

Good question. It’s a broad and often mis-used term, and to be fair, it can and does mean different things to different people and the different companies who deliver brand-based services.

In this article, we’ll clarify our version of branding, for ecomm, and give you some high value and super interesting insights to help you audit and assess your own branding and make positive changes to your ecommerce website.

While we can’t speak for everyone, we can define branding and what it means for The Cut, and more specifically, what it means for the work we do with branding for online stores.

So, what does ‘branding’ really mean?

How does it help to engage and convert customers?

In ecommerce branding sets the foundation of what a customer understands your business to be, because it helps explain your main offering quickly, which is very important to hold their attention and encourage them to explore your site further.

Your brand will define how a person engages with your business, or potentially, why they choose not to. Branding makes the first impression, and the process of ecommerce has made that first impression more critical than ever before. Online shoppers are impatient, and they will scroll to the next option in a heart beat if your website isn’t telling them what they want to hear and showing them what they are searching for.

For us at The Cut, ‘branding’ means the logo, the fonts and colours, the opening statement and key messages, the photography, the graphics, the colours, the language and the tone of voice.

And crucially, how clear and consistently those elements are delivered right through the website and the journey a customer takes from your home page to making a purchase, and beyond.

Branding Break Down

The section above covered a lot of territory, so let’s break down the basic elements in simple terms here. You can use this checklist to start to assess your own business’s branding. This will be useful for ecommerce stores, and other businesses and brands too.

Your Logo

This is your business name, and the way that name looks. It should be simple, distinctive, easy to read and as unique as possible. This goes everywhere with your business and should be memorable to the people who arrive on your website.

Brand Identity

We define a Brand ID as the logo, plus the fonts, supporting graphics, colours and even photography styles. In short, the Brand ID is the whole package, the ‘look and feel’ of your business, and it should be clearly defined and consistently executed in all media

Type & Graphics

Your logo will be created using a certain font, or fonts, and then the rest of your type / text / copy should use universally acceptable fonts. Plus, brands almost always need graphical elements that can include icons, avatars, illustrations or graphical patterns.

Photography

Good photography is so important in ecommerce. Your brand photos should be awesome, because these show the personality and ‘lifestyle’ characteristics of your business. And the photos of your products have to be excellent, for obvious reasons.

Niche

Make your niche clear as soon as possible. Make a statement about what you do, and how you make it awesome for your customers. This is all about your products how your brand is different and the benefits your experience offers.

Attitude & Tone

And finally, make the attitude and personality of your business clear in the way your brand communicates. Again, this is so important in ecommerce because it improves the customer experience Give people something to engage with, and remember, don’t be beige.

Branding in Ecommerce

Let’s look at why branding and communication is so important in ecommerce. In basic terms, the reason is simple - Because there is no direct human engagement in the sales process. So your website has to do all of that work for your business. Your customers are alone with your website, it’s just them and your site. So, is your site working as hard as it could be to hold that customer’s attention with the right messages?

Of course, it’s also more complicated than that, because the process of online shopping is different. It’s shopping at hyper speed, with impatient customers, who all have a million alternatives to your brand at their fingertips. Literally.

Let’s take a look at some of the key factors here, and how they relate back to your branding.

Impatience

Ecommerce customers are fast moving and impatient and let’s face it, in digital environments, we all are. We browse quickly, our attention spans are short and getting shorter.

We scroll, we click ‘Like’, we choose predictive responses, we send emojis. We get it done, fast.

People shopping online want to find the right information, and products, quickly. If they don’t, they move on, quickly.

To grab attention and engage, your business needs to make the right statements quickly, on the home page. The right photography, headline and positioning statement or benefit offer can achieve this, when they are right, relevant and short and simple.

Is your website making it quickly clear what your business offers, and why you are awesome?

Attention

Good branding and communication has always been about grabbing people’s attention when your business doesn’t have much time to do that.

It used to be print advertising, when a Billboard had 3.4 seconds to be read by a person passing by, or a press ad had 1.2 seconds to capture the attention of the Saturday morning page-turner.

Now, it’s scrolling, smart phones, the internet and customers with millions of product and content opportunities right at their busy little fingers.

Ecommerce means that capturing customer attention quickly is more important than it ever has been before. And your brand has the potential to attract that attention, from the people who are most likely to love your business and want your products.

To make this happen, you need to make sure that the images and statements we mentioned above are developed based on an understanding of your best potential customers, and what they want from your business.

Engagement

Now there’s a word that’s over used in a big way. In ecommerce, engagement is crucial, and for us it simply means grabbing the visitor’s attention with direct and relevant messaging, and then bringing them further into your website to learn more, browse products, and hopefully, to purchase.

Your brand is central to the engagement that you will, or will not, achieve with potential new customers.

The first point of contact that happens on your home page is crucial of course, but so is the consistent presence of your brand on every page and at every point of communication you have with people.

The aim should be to make it very obvious that it is your brand that the customer is dealing with, right through to the confirmation emails, and the packaging that arrives at their door.

In this sense, it is your branding - the colours, look and feel, imagery and language - that defines the ‘experience’ your shoppers have with your business.

We all know how important that is, because really it’s all about delivering great customer service, online. And that service delivery starts with engagement, and ends with engagement. Make it easy for your customers to feel connected to your brand and products by being easy to love, and relevant to them as people.

How can you do this, or audit your site to see how it is performing in these areas? Take a look through your site with fresh eyes.

Are your brand colours and imagery consistent throughout?

Are the photos good quality, and always crisp and clear?

Is the language and tone of voice of your business clear and consistent?

Is it right for the type of people who are most likely to be your new customers?

What do your products look like when they arrive at the customers home or office?

Is your brand clear there, and is there an extension of your great customer service? A welcome message, a joke, a smile, a thank you and we’re happy to be helping you?

And of course, you have your metrics to review, they can help you understand where your weak spots might be based on the points where visitors are leaving your site, the feedback you receive and etc.

We could write a whole new article on metrics and measurement, and probably will, but for now, those questions, if you put your own ecommerce site to the test based on them, they will help you find the weak spots.

Ecomm Branding Checklist

We’ll finish up with some more detail around your brand checklist.

These key points will help you take a look at your brand with fresh eyes. And remember, try and place yourself in the position of your potential customers - understand who they are, appreciate their POV and assess your branding, communication and experience from where they are sitting.

Logo

At the very least, your logo should make your brand name easy to read, that is a minimum requirement. And it should be easy to read at all sizes. Because remember - You want people to know the name of the business they are visiting.

Make sure your logo is simple, clear and distinctive. Avoid over complicated and script-style fonts, avoid including complex graphics and images as part of your logo. Less is more, it really is. Simple is best because it is visible, legible and will work at any size and scale.

Brand ID

Your branding is much more than your logo, it is the overall ‘look and feel’ of your business, and if you want to stand out and be remembered, the Brand ID will play a key role.

We won’t go right into the process here, but your Brand ID should be derived from the design of your logo, and extended from there to include supporting graphics, fonts and colours.

Make sure your brand colours, fonts, typography and graphics are defined and documented and then check that they are consistent throughout your website, on every page, and in every communication. It is so important that your customers know that they are engaged with your business at all times.

And as soon as you can, get your branding into your other channels, like social media and customer emails.

This is about making sure your customers always know who they are engaging with and buying from.

Photography

The old saying is right, pictures are worth thousands of words, so make sure your photos are saying the right things and avoid generic photography, please.

Just take a little more time to think, investigate and choose photography that can do some great work for your business. Choosing basic stock photography can often make your business look very much like a hundred others.

Choose photography that says something specific about your brand and products, or both.

When you can clearly show a new visitor to your website what you specialise in, and what you are offering them, they are far more likely to stay and want to find out more. That means you’re taking them closer to your products and closer to turning a visitor into a customer.

Language

The first thing to check is your homepage. It really helps customers to engage with your rband when you make a short, punchy statement that encapsulates what you offer and makes your niche clear.

With all of the text on your website - give it some personality! Write it from the heart, and show people that your business has real people behind it who love the products you deliver.

The text and tone of voice on your website should be warm, welcoming and engaging, and most of all, full of your businesses personality and right for your brand. If your brand is edgy, be edgy, if your brand is about beauty, write beautifully.

And, very importantly, the words on your site should make it as clear as possible, as soon as possible, about the things that make your business and products unique.

And that brings us to your niche.

Niche

A clear niche or specialisation is a great starting point if you want to be successful in ecommerce.

Your niche is the clear specialisation and focus for what you offer. For The Cut, our niche is Shopify ecommerce. Go figure.

Your branding should reflect your niche - And it is ideal if you can deliberately build up your brand around your product niche.

To give you a couple of recent examples of Shopify Merchants we have been speaking to.

At Pedal Mafia, their niche is custom cycling apparel that’s edgy and affordable.

At eniQ, their niche is hydration and recovery nutrition made from natural ingredients.

Ecommerce isn’t about offering more, it’s about offering specific things, and being known for that. Some of the most successful and fastest growing ecomm businesses have very few products, but they have a highly focussed niche, they become known for that niche and dominate and even define a whole product sector.

Here are some significant local Shopify success stories that give more good examples of clear niching:

  • The Quick Flick - A new way to do eyeliner
  • Flat Tummy Co - Herbal teas to beat the bloat
  • Bamba Swim - 80s inspired bikinis
  • Joys Delights - International confectionary

In these businesses, the niche is very clear, and each brand is very much about the niche. A niche makes your business easy to understand, and that makes it easier to engage with.

When you achieve engagement, with the right people, you’re only one step away from converting a new client.

Wrap Up

Ecommerce is making branding more important than ever, so step back and take a look at yours.

Think about your logo - It should be strong, clear and easy to read your business name.

Create a unique or unusual look and feel to your website with defined colours, fonts and photos. It will make your business more interesting and memorable.

Look at how your business is speaking to customers with the text on your website. Get some personality and passion in there and very quickly establish what you offer and what you stand for.

Be niche if you can. Go with a special focus because it is so much easier for a customer to remember and engage with a company that do one special thing or offer one type of product. More is not more. It’s often less, and there are so many ecomm success stories where fast growth and big profits have been built off the smallest selection of products.

And please, always remember to Shopify ‘til you dropify.