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Developing a strong brand name and image has always been important for any business. As Simon Sinek said in his famous TEDtalk, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Consumers don't just buy products, we buy stories to tell ourselves.
This form of brand recognition allows a business to grow and thrive in new environments. Therefore when the Internet came along, established high street stores were able to make a smooth transition to online powerhouses without abandoning brick and mortar shops. Having established trust offline, they simply needed to mirror brand values online.
For newer ecommerce stores that operate exclusively on the Internet, this form of longstanding trust is something of an impossible dream. They have to build their brand from the ground up. This is achieved through canny marketing, consistent customer service, clear unique selling points and, just as importantly, competitive pricing.
Establishing Brand Loyalty Among Consumers
Visibility isn't always enough; you also have to develop familiarity. Whilst ecommerce stores can enjoy decent sales figures from one-off, impulse buys, it's returning customers that provide long-term solidity. After all, if you have a positive experience at a store (including good service, low pricing and ease of purchase) it's likely that you'll return. However, more than this, you may also tell friends and even follow their social profiles and interact with the brand on a regular basis.
This was perfectly demonstrated in a recent piece on Econsultancy, which identified the top 20 retailers on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ in the UK market. Whilst this study only used follower numbers, discounting other useful metrics such as interactions and direct sales, it gives an indication of those ecommerce stores that are succeeding in social and branding.
When it came to Twitter, only three exclusively online brands featured in the top 20 - ASOS, Net-a-Porter and Amazon. As mentioned earlier, this shouldn't be a huge surprise and perfectly demonstrates the value of a name that consumers identify with.
Offline Prestige V Online Branding
The inclusion of brands like Harrods, Selfridges and Marks & Spencer would appear to back this up. These are prestige names, with long-established reputations for quality; arguably attracting a natural following of consumers who are seeking that ongoing association with them.
It's a similar story on Facebook and Google+, with the old guard establishing huge audiences organically. However, the likes of ASOS show that it is possible to mix it with the big boys, even without the advantage of a high street presence. They have created a clear brand and have succeeded in a crowded market, primarily targeting younger, style-conscious fashionistas.
Whilst it may have taken them 12 years to get to this stage, ASOS is now recognised as the UK's leading online clothes store. This success is further evidenced by the social network figures, which show that they are second in followers on Twitter and Facebook (Topshop being first on both) and leading the way in Google+ (almost doubling the followers of second-placed Topman).
The Importance of Multi-Platform Marketing
This highlights the need for ecommerce stores to work on building their audience across a number of platforms. Your website is only the start of your sales and marketing efforts. As we have previously discussed, it's important that you open it up with social media and become an active user on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube.
With more companies piling in to take advantage of the growing online market, recent start-ups can find it difficult to get seen. However, with the search engines giving more credence to social factors and personalised results, having a strong brand with a core following will become increasingly important. After all, if search results are dependent on what people within your social circles view and share, spreading the word about a positive experience will become easier and have more of an impact - potentially helping smaller, customer-focused online stores.
The way in which consumers search for products and interact with brands is changing all the time. Therefore to succeed, you constantly have to evolve and adapt to the changes in behavior. However, regardless of changes to Google's algorithm and other marketing innovations, the strength of a brand and your name will always be critical - possibly to an even greater extent.
Becoming a Recognised Name
If you're the first name that people think of in any niche, you should almost be able to guarantee success. But to achieve this, you have to build your customer-base and visibility, as well as ensure that you continue to get the basics right (price and service). Whilst this isn't easy, the rewards speak for themselves, as consumers will consistently be able to find you wherever they choose to search online.
A weak presence and no discernible unique selling points will do nothing to assist your online ambitions. If you don't have the support of an offline presence, then the onus is on your ecommerce site to deliver. Casual keyword-led search traffic will only get you so far, particularly as we move towards semantic search. So whilst you might wonder what's in a name? The simple answer is that a name is at the core of brand, and it's this, along with service and other attributes, that consumers really remember and relate to.
Even if somebody stumbles across your site or is recommended by a friend, it is the strength of your name and their experience that will encourage them to return. Failure to effectively resonate with your target audience could well lead to failure for your ecommerce venture. So the message, in short, is to get seen and be memorable.