18 June 2024, 17:21
By Jason Thomas Aug 08, 2014

The importance of branding when selling online

It can be easy to get caught up in the creativity of a branding exercise – choosing a logo, defining your primary and secondary colour palette, your fonts, tone of voice and your imagery – but at the core of every brand should be a very clear message that appeals to your target market.

The best branding isn’t just about logos or designing something beautiful because it’s on trend. It’s about creating a cohesive online and offline presence that portrays the essence of what your business is about, from logo to font style, right through to tone of voice and photographic style.

In the world of ecommerce, where customers can’t touch or feel your products, branding has an even bigger role to play. It needs to bridge the gap between your in-store and online experience, instilling trust and confidence in your customers, as well as communicating the quality of your products. But where do you start?

Understand your audience
Think first, design later. To make sure your branding hits the mark, first you need to know exactly who you are talking to, and what they want to hear. Before getting into the design, fully define your target market. Who are you trying to engage with? Where do they currently shop for their furniture, and what values matter to them most? Do they choose a product based on price, quality, trends, or something else entirely?

Now ask yourself, ‘what can I provide that is different to my competitors?’ Once your target market is defined, and their key buying behaviours noted, you should use this information to guide your branding decisions. Audience is everything – a sophisticated and high-end brand would have a very different look and feel to a ‘stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’ counterpart.

Keep your design consistent
Now comes the fun part – designing your branding. I would always recommend enlisting the help of a creative agency at this stage, even if it is just for consultative input, as there are a huge number of factors that require creative direction, stretching right across your online site and into your offline space.

When planning a visual representation of your brand you need to ensure that this translates just as well online as it does offline, especially if you are venturing into ecommerce for the first time. The branding that may have worked well in-store might need rethinking to perform successfully in a digital space – especially the way in which your products are presented.

Product photography can often be overlooked during the branding process, but it is such a vital part of customer perception in ecommerce, and needs to be fed from the same brand guidelines. If you are appealing to a luxury client base who appreciates quality investment pieces and fantastic craftsmanship, then your product shots would do well to include a zoom feature that allows customers to hone in on the finer details of your stock.

Likewise, if you are after a younger, trendier type of customer who wants stylish pieces at affordable prices, then lifestyle shots of products in trendy settings will help you to increase consumer desire.

Define your tone of voice
The most memorable brands are usually those that have a unified image and brand tone of voice. It makes sense that if you have chosen to go with playful branding, then your copy, product descriptions and product photography will also need to support this. Having a consistent tone of voice is vital for a business to develop a brand personality.

Think about how your customers would want to be spoken to. If you already have physical stores, consider how you can recreate the feel of your shop and the type of customer service you deliver in your brand copy. Tone is important here – you want to make sure a customer would be comfortable reading your copy, that it appears honest, trustworthy and genuine.

That said, don’t feel obliged to follow the crowd. It can be daunting to break the mould and add a cheeky twist to brand copy, but it can really help strengthen your brand identity.

Be true to your brand
Once you have defined your brand image and voice, you need to implement it with conviction. Consistency is key, so, to help you remain 100% true to your vision, draw up a set of brand guidelines to be distributed to company employees. This will set the standard for all brand interactions with customers. You’ll need to get your whole team to live and breathe the brand if you want customers to love what you have created.

Create an emotional difference
Branding is more than a quirky logo and a cool-looking font. It is what visually defines your company. It’s what your customers buy into and can make or break a business, so it is worth taking the time to get it right.

In the furniture industry, where numerous companies sell different variations of the same product, brand differentiation becomes even more important. If you are part of a saturated market then you might not be able to differentiate on price or quality – but intelligent branding can help you create an emotional difference that will give you the advantage over competitors, build trust, and, ultimately, convert sales.

Jason Thomas is creative director at creative ecommerce agency Red Hot Penny, based in Windsor, Berkshire.

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