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E-Commerce and e-Branding
Branding is the process of creating a unique image and message for a product (or collection of products) in the consumer’s mind. It is most commonly accomplished by marketing and advertising with a consistent theme. Branding’s main goal is to establish a product’s unique ability to meet the consumer’s needs.
E-commerce is the conducting of sales via electronic devices such as computers.
E-Branding is a combination of branding and selling products/services via the web.
A critical piece of all this is the collecting and analyzing of data about consumer activity.
The Internet as a Storefront
Early in the history of the Web, businesses recognized the potential for selling products online with lower overheads (costs of doing business).
Amazon began in 1995 as on online bookstore. While it took many years to see a significant cash flow, they have grown to attract over 600 millions visitors to their worldwide websites annually. Users of Amazon.com enjoy a powerful search feature, and a collection of retail products unmatched on any other website. They allow users to sell products as well, and take a small percentage of the sale.
One of their most popular features is customer reviews. Many consumers make purchase decisions based on the star ratings and reviews for a product. They can also learn what products are related to the one they are viewing. This helps generate more sales for Amazon. With its streamlined return policy, free shipping on many purchases, and now with streaming movies and music, it is one of the most trusted brands on the planet.
Pets.com: Failure in Spite of Fantastic Branding
On the other hand, the original website at Pets.com did not fare so well. As a notable example of the “dot com bust”, Pets.com spent $60 million in advertising but generated only $22 millions in sales. They had great brand awareness but a weak business plan. They had not conducted any market research nor developed a unique niche. They overestimated the demand for pet food, toys, and accessories via the Web in 1998-2000.
Consumers loved the ads by TBWA/Chiat/Day, but were not ready to embrace online purchases for their pets.
In a bit of irony, you can purchase your own Pets.com sock puppet on Amazon.
The Pets.com sock puppet was so popular that the rights were later purchased by 1 800 Bar None.
The Long Tail and the New Marketplace
Due to lower overhead, online merchants can often afford to take advantage of consumer purchases long after the products were initially popular. While brick-and-mortar stores need to constantly calculate what to put on limited store shelves, retailers like Amazon can sell thousands of products that need not be on physical display. This ability to capture latent sales or minimal sales for a broad range of products is called “the long tail“, a term invented by Chris Anderson of Wired magazine.
The New Marketplace
Because it lowered the cost of making more products available to more people in more places, the Web marketplace makes the long tail consumer an economically viable target market. This is a boon to consumers who want hard-to-find items.
Have you bought anything online that is impossible to find on store shelves any more?
WordPress and WooCommerce
It doesn’t take millions of dollars to open a Web storefront any more. Thousands of businesses are selling products online using free software such as WordPress with the WooCommerce plugin (some extended features do cost a small amount of money).
Watch Intro Video [3:00]
Welcome to WooCommerce, a powerful WordPress E-commerce plugin that helps you sell anything beautifully.
WooCommerce allows you to easily manage and edit your existing products, or add new products using familiar WordPress editing tools.
Create just about any type of product you can imagine, including virtual, or even downloadable products.
Easily add variations of products for attributes like color or size. Add specific details for each variation, and even upload different images—enabling your customers to preview and choose the product that best fits their needs.
Fulfilling orders in WooCommerce is a breeze, with instant access to order details, notes, and other common actions. View and edit order details with just one click. Update the status, and even ad customer or private notes.
With the gorgeous built-in reports in WooCommerce, you can get a bird’s-eye view of your store’s performance, or drill down to view more detailed information about your top-selling products and categories.
Create promotional campaigns using coupon codes with a variety of discount options for specific products, categories, and more.
WooCommerce includes inventory management and comprehensive tax options with precise control of specific rates. And—you’ll find support for just about every type of shipping method, including flat rate, free, international, and even local delivery.
Out of the box, WooCommerce includes support for some of the most popular payment gateways, with more than a hundred others available as WooCommerce extensions.
You customers will enjoy a simple, beautiful shopping experience, with detailed product descriptions, customer reviews, and related products. The integrated social features encourage sharing with friends, and you can even incentivize sharing buy offering discounts via Share Your Cart.
Customers will check out quickly and efficiently with our distraction-free, one-page checkout process that’s been proven to increase conversions. And—your customers will love the personalized account dashboard, which provides instant access to status updates, and details about their recent orders.
WooCommerce is an open source plugin, which means you can contribute features and fixes, or build your own extensions and themes. There are hundreds of WooCommerce extensions to choose from, and dozens of beautifully-designed themes. But you’ll also find detailed online documentation, including snippets and tutorials, and even a dedicated support forum where you can get answers to your questions.
So, find out more about WooCommerce. Then, set up your shop and start selling—today.
There are an awful lot of things to consider when selling products online!
Online as a Branding Opportunity
By the mid-2000s, companies began transforming websites from static destinations for brand information and simple purchases, to multi-faceted brand experiences. They have many layers of content (deep) as well as a broad range of segmented targeted audiences and subject areas (wide).
E-commerce sites need to be built with three key goals in mind:
- Consistency: the brand message is always the same, and the site provides the same level of quality and brand experience throughout the site.
- Integration: the brand message crosses multiple platforms, across all traditional and digital media.
- Flexibility: the website takes full advantage of its special capabilities to enhance the consumer experience.
e-Branding Pitfalls and Pratfalls
When e-Branding marketers get it wrong, it’s almost always because they underestimate the complexity or the connectivity of the Web. A place where consumers can connect with each other provides them with a lot of power to inform each other about a brand. And you never know what may have preceded your new brand unless you complete a mountain of research.
In 2009, Mars candy company chose to launch a new low-calorie chocolate bar to target women consumers. They did a great job of branding and might have become very successful. However, they did not detect that the website located at fling.com (rated R) was an “adult personals” site. The Web was abuzz with news of the branding gaff, and the brand is lost to the sands of time.
The Branding Process
Branding is never as simple as designing a logo. It is a comprehensive system of problem-solving. Here is the process in short:
- Decide what you’re branding. What are you offering? Is it your company’s only offering, or one of several?
- Research. Study your product, its possible customers, the marketplace in which it will compete, and its competition.
- Position the brand. What makes your brand unique? How will it fit into the current marketplace? How do you want consumers to think of it?
- Define the brand. What does your brand stand for? What unique benefit does it provide? What does it promise to consumers? This system of messages should permeate everything that to consumer experiences, from marketing to product design to customer service.
- Develop the brand identity. Create a collection of marketing pieces, including brand name, logo (in all its iterations from print to media), tagline, and related resources.
- Launch the brand identity. Introduce your brand in-house (within your company) before announcing it to the public. Make sure everyone in your company understands the brand message.
- Manage the brand. Deliver a consistent brand experience. Understand and grow your brand’s value. Develop and nurture a fan base. Protect your brand with usage rules and legal rights.
- Monitor, evaluate, and update the brand. Keep your brand relevant and credible in light of changes to the marketplace and your business.
Building Great Brand Websites
Here are seven key criteria for creating brand engagement with your target market on your website.
- Branding: Delivers the brand image in a way that is consistent with other advertising
- Completeness: Takes advantage of the opportunities to provide both depth and breadth of information and brand experience; it should provide everything a consumer could want to know or experience about your brand.
- Functionality: Has vast amounts of content that are logically organized and easy to navigate.
- Interactivity: Gives the user a chance to get involved and offer input, which can be anything from posting a simple bit of feedback to engaging with others in online games.
- Visual Stimulation: Offers opportunities to view attractive and dynamic photos, videos, and animations.
- Relevant Advertising: Includes advertising or cross-promotion that is consistent with the brand’s subject mater.
- Community Connections: Allows customers to connect with each other, whether it be straight-forward product reviews or fully dimensional conversations.
Websites that follow these seven principles tend to become “sticky“. That is, users stick around the site for a while, and return regularly. Stickiness is a reflection of consumer engagement. One metric of stickiness is brand engagement hours—a formula that multiplies the number of people who visit, by how long they have stayed on the site.