Guest blog by MicroStartups: In an online world full of thousands upon thousands of stores and online sellers, your brand singles you out and brings people in. What is the fate of an eCommerce business without a brand? To be an anonymous supplier behind an endless selection of renamed products on international marketplaces — never getting credit, never finding followers and never being able to charge a top-brand premium.

But building a strong brand is much easier said than done. It’s a challenge, to be approached with great thought and determination; a long-term investment to be achieved incrementally. To make it, you need to have a plan — and to help you get started, here are six branding principles that every eCommerce business should be following:

1. Target emotions

We buy for various reasons. Sometimes you’ll place an order after logical contemplation that it’s the sensible thing to do. But more often than that, your buying decisions are driven by emotion. You feel sad, so you buy clothes to cheer yourself up. You feel happy, so you embrace the good times by indulging in some retail frivolity. Emotion rules eCommerce – in fact, it’s believed that 95% of the decision-making process takes place subconsciously.

So when building a brand, you must take steps to target emotions. When people hear (or read) about your brand, what should they feel? Are you selling premium items that provide rare but intense joy? Can your products fix problems, resolving frustration? Or are you a consistent brand that relieves panic or anxiety?

Think about how big brands go with simple emotional messages. The now-classic McDonald’s jingle is as basic as it gets, telling you that — quite simply — you’ll love the food. Or what about the  “Share a Coke with…” campaign that played upon the core human desire to share experiences? Emotion sells.

2. Use a brand bible

Maintaining a brand demands consistency. Whenever you change something (intentionally or by mistake), you undermine your previous efforts by confusing your audience. They thought your colour was green, but now it’s red — they associated you with round shapes, but now you’re using squares. What are they supposed to think?

Sticking to simple brand outline is easy when you’re running a solo operation and handling all branding work yourself, but what about when your business grows? The bigger your business grows, the more employees (in-house and freelance) you need to help you — and the more people that get involved, the harder it is to keep everyone on the same page.

That’s why you need a brand bible: a set of branding guidelines accessible to everyone working on your branded materials. It should encompass everything relevant, including (but not limited to)  your logo, fonts, colour schemes and tone – keeping all of your materials aligned.

3. Stand out from the pack

Just because it’s obvious, doesn’t mean that everyone does it. Most businesses owners are aware of the need for their brand to stand out from the crowd, but many wrongly assume that they already stand out or that they just can’t stand out.

Standing out isn’t a conceptual goal like “believe in yourself” or “reach for the stars”. It’s a fundamental requirement for how you present your businesses. Look at what your competitors are doing — how they come across, what products they sell, how they communicate with their audiences — and then find a way to do it differently and better. (With an emphasis on better – 60% of branded content is considered to be clutter.)

4. Use all relevant channels

The internet is a huge digital ocean, and if you want to catch plenty of fish, you need to do better than cast your bait into the same small patch every day. Advertising (whether through content marketing, influencer marketing, or paid ads) must be multi-channel — as must your products.

Any potential customer should be able to find and purchase your products no matter where they are, and only then will your brand get broad attention. Multi-channel eCommerce software makes this simple by integrating sales channel(s), shipping carriers, reporting and Xero into a central dashboard to handle everything from, with ease.

Think of it this way: whenever someone out there learns about your business but can’t find you on their sales channel of choice (for example, they always shop on Amazon because they pay for Amazon Prime), you’re missing out. They’ll forget your brand and find another solution – something that you desperately want to avoid.

5. Keep your logo simple

You’ve decided to redesign your logo, and you have so many ideas for the new design. You want to work in a hint of blue (because that’s your favourite colour) and some yellow (because the first product you sold was a yellow shirt), and 3d effects, perfect! But what about the texture? And should you rotate somewhat?

It this going to help your brand? Not really. Your logo might be meaningful to you, but your target audience isn’t personally invested in your logo – all they want is a simple and memorable design. Take Amazon, for example, one word, two colours and an arrow showing that they sell everything from A to Z. What more needs to be said?

6. Always suit context

We’ve looked at how vital it is to take a multi-channel approach with branding and to maintain a consistent message, but there’s another element to factor in: context. Sales channels have different requirements – a quirky and informal brand story might sell well on Instagram but be wholly inappropriate for LinkedIn.

Likewise, your efforts in one region or country might not replicate well in different areas, cultures or countries. It’s important to understand the audience for each of your sales channel(s) and locations – taking and adapting your core message appropriately.

These six branding principles will help you to establish a brand that sticks in people’s minds – bringing in fresh and relevant traffic. Start working them into your brand strategy, and see where they take you.

About Micro Startups

Micro Startups is your online destination for everything startup. We’re dedicated to spreading the word about hard-working solopreneurs and SMEs making waves in the business world. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the globe. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

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