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How To Build An Online Brand

How to create a great brand experience with your online business. Learn how to create an online brand with your online store or website.

Building an online brand is all about creating a digital persona that people can trust and do business with.

Now lets say you just started this new greengrocer in my neighborhood. I walk in, there's a box of nice big oranges in there with a price card on top. I pick up the oranges, turn them over, sniff them, decide I like them, pay for them and leave.

Next day we go a bit further, talk about the weather, crack some jokes and before you know it, I'm a steady customer and come back every week. What's more, I even tell my friends about your store and bring you more business.

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Building An Online Brand

Now how do you recreate this same experience online? Sure, in real life you're a geat salesperson or just great at what you do and generally cheerful with your customers. How do recreate this persona with your online store or website of social media? People can't touch and feel your products or try them out. And they don't know if you can be trusted to deliver or give a refund in case they want to return your product. How do you create this trust and breathe some life into your digital property?

Popular Online Brands

Look at Gmail, or Facebook, or Amazon. Lots of people carry out all their business correspondence over Gmail. Some would trust it over their own proprietary business mails. Same with Facebook - you put up all your birthday and wedding pics on there, all your friends are there, you chat up members of the opposite sex and share jokes with friends. Half your life is there. And Facebook makes sure about creating a safe environment where you can hang out and chill with your friends.

What about Amazon? You trust them with your money and buy products from merchants you never see. You know you will receive your delivery (within 2 business days, no less...) and be able to return stuff you don't like and get your money back without any worries.

Crafting An Awesome Online Brand Experience

These are huge brands. It has taken them years to build this reputation. They invest in software development, brand building, delivery mechanisms and deploy business policies that benefit their customers. So how can you inspire confidence with your tiny little online store and your box of oranges? It would seem impossible that you could ever build that level of trust across The Great Firewall and get someone sitting far away, maybe even on the other side of the globe, to whip out their credit card and make a purchase. Or even send you an email query.

Sounds impossible, right? Its not. Its hard, incredibly hard, building trust online but with some steady work you can get to that level.

Solve Brand Experience Problems

Oddly enough, it is companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon who have helped break online barriers amongst people across the globe. A couple of decades ago you wouldn't dream of making a payment online to someone you did not meet physically. Global tech firms and ecommerce companies have helped make online shopping popular and the process of interacting with a dumb computer screen less daunting for all.

However, newbie companies take time to get to this level of online nirvana. Badly-designed websites, poorly-worded content, dodgy-looking images, lack of consumer protection or clear refunds policies and sloppy customer care will scare away even the most battle-hardened online shopper. And that is just step one. Step two is shipping goods on time and handling refunds efficiently. Step three is online reputation management, when disgruntled customers wage war on your company on social media over a pair of socks or something stupid like that.

Building an online brand is about solving all these problems and then doing them so well that your customers treat you as a virtual friend and come back for more and more.

What Is An Online Brand?

An online brand is the complete brand experience offered online by a company via their ecommerce store, website, social media and electronic correspondence such as phone, chat and video messaging. It starts with visual elements such as your logo, site colors, banners and other imagery, goes on to your content such as your site copy and brand messaging, videos and other sales messages and extends to all the interactions you create with your customers via social media and electronic messaging.

What is your brand character? Is it trendy and playful, business-like? Sales-oriented? Tech-oriented? Futuristic? Trustworthy? Do you deliver on time? Are you known for your customer support pr your reliability? Are you known for your environment-friendly activities and other social causes? Are you innovative? These are all your brand characteristics, the way you do business and the reason your customers relate to you.

Your online brand should also be in sync with your off-line brand. Does your online experience mirror your in-store experience or is it just a sloppy and neglected sibling to your brick-and-mortar operation? Is your packaging in sync with your smooth marketing messaging (Is it full of plastic - big, big ZERO!!)?

Your brand is HOW you do business, not just the way you look. Your brand experience should flow seamlessly across all your business activities, online and offline. Bigger companies have brand managers who keep a tight ship running as far as brand experience is concerned. You should also take time out to ensure all your brand elements (mentioned above) are running in sync with each other.

Here's a few steps to take care of while building an online brand:

1. Craft a likeable brand identity

Your online customers cannot see you smiling or shake your hand. So create a persona for your online store that will inspire confidence and help your customers relax. Learn how to create a brand identity >

2. Polish your online content

Sloppy content is a no-no. Content is everything that goes into your online properties - text, images, video, brand messaging. You may be a great team builder and a good business person but sometimes it pays to bring in the expertise of a professional content developer or marketing specialist or pro copywriter to go over your site content. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, poorly-worded product descriptions and bad text formatting builds up over time and can give your online store or social media a poor appearace. Get someone to tighten up this area. Text also winds up in Google searches so see if you can get an SEO-specialist to optimize your store for search engines as well while polishing up your site content. Get a pro photographer and check out our website photography and image guide. Product photography is everything - dark, dingy, badly-cropped images are a no-no. Get feedback from your friends and test buyers.

3. Respond promptly to customer queries

Customers often send emails and drop messages or comments on your social media. Reply promptly and respond positively to negative feedback - your audience will see you are eager to do business the right way.

4. Run an efficient ecommerce department

Make sure your product prices, tax rates, shipping rates are correct. Make sure your delivery and refunds policies are clearly-worded and cover all possibilities. And then LIVE-UP to these documents. These documents are your online brand when it comes to ecommerce. Ecommerce is all about delivery and making sure customers are happy with their purchase. Making a refund 3 months after the purchase is a no-no. Tighten up your dispute-resolution process - one bad review on social media can wipe-out your online reputation and goodwill. If you do get a bad review, respond to the irate customer with a positive response - this is also your chance to show your entire audience that you are in business for the long-run and go the extra mile to learn from your mistakes.

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