The importance of branding for small businesses beginning eCommerce.
You are your brand in the store.
Your present brick & mortar customers buy from you, in part, for your quality products, in part for reasonable prices, but more than anything else, because of you. You represent the face and the voice of the brand; you are the brand. In fact, what you’re selling is not wares at all; you’re selling the brand of trust, expertise, and a personality with whom people can relate. If you were not amicable, building relationships, embodying the brand through the customer service interactions; people wouldn’t buy from your store, even with the best prices. Likewise, they’ll gladly pay more because they know, like, and trust you.
The brand is the identity of the company. The quality of the brand signals to potential customers, instantly, if they trust this brand, if they want to buy from this brand, and if this brand is the best choice. Your current customers, who already know you, don’t care about your logo and they don’t need your business card. The people, who’ve already made up their mind to go to your store and are walking in the door, don’t care about your logo on the window. The people who don’t know you, your lost potential customers, you may never know, because the brand didn’t instill confidence in them or they couldn’t identify with it.
Your brand represents you online & to potential customers.
As you’re transitioning into having a serious eCommerce site, one thing, to which most are unaccustomed, is the need to focus on the image of the brand. The aesthetics may seem superficial, or talking about the company identity may seem like hogwash for boardrooms of big corporations; but it’s what grows companies or keeps them small.
Those on your website may never meet you. They might live in Montana. They are making up their minds about trust and quality in less than three seconds, based almost entirely on the aesthetics of the brand. Online and in all other communications besides with those who are already ready to buy, walking in your store, there is no opportunity to get to know folks. They instantly make up their mind before they even look at the text of an ad or site, based on the look of the brand.
If it looks professional, people judge accordingly. If the branding looks amateur, people judge the company accordingly. People expect that small business owners have small budgets and little to invest in marketing, so they don’t necessarily expect much from their branding, if they’re already in the door of the brick & mortar. They meet the people behind the company, who are friendly and personable, like you. Likewise, they have instant trust in companies with professional branding, because the company demonstrates quality. Sales are about trust and identifying with the company. Before they meet you, the face of your brand is your logo and the brand is the personality of your company. You don’t get to meet them, to prove the worth of your products and demonstrate your charm, if they never walk through your door.
To compete online & take local market share, you need a strong brand.
In order to take market share from your big, local competitors and then move in on the national eCommerce market, the company needs a brand that looks professional, that instills confidence, and that says “this company is big enough and serious enough to hire a high-priced marketing firm, so lots of other people must trust them for good products and services.” They don’t have to know you hired a freelancer, with Fall Dev, for a tenth of the cost. To grow your company locally and to succeed in eCommerce, you need to get the attention and trust of all the potential customers, whom you’re presently not reaching. That’s done with a professional brand and with marketing.
Coming up: Web presence on a tiny budget, cookie-cutter websites, content management systems, when and how to get a designer, phantom competition, what web presence costs and should cost, posting social, and responsive design.