Finding the e-commerce balance between brand identity, and selling

  • 1
  • August 9, 2011
Felicity Crouch

Felicity Crouch

Marketing Manager

Customer loyalty and brand trust are crucial aspects of a successful e-commerce site, and contribute to building up a returning customer-base. But equally as important, is that the customer can simply and quickly navigate their way to a sale.

Many e-commerce sites find getting the balance right between creating a brand identity and selling their products tricky, with most focusing on one more than the other. With so much choice and opportunity to shop around on the web, communicating the right brand message to your users and giving them the best user experience whilst making a sale, is vital.

Why is it important to create a brand identity online?

However widespread or popular a brand is; unless this is transferred successfully to the online world, their web presence won’t be as significant. A website is a platform for connecting with customers; and if they can’t work out what the brand is and what it’s about; not only are they unlikely to purchase from them, but they’re also unlikely to return.

This is fairly straightforward to implement on a company website; but when it comes to an e-commerce site; it’s a bit more difficult. This is because the focus falls with making sales, and increasing those all-important conversion rates.

Whilst this is good, it’s important that a brand conveys ‘who we are’ as well as ‘what we do’. This contributes to the overall brand experience, and helps create return customers. The customer service, the products, and the general order process all contribute to brand identity, and define reputation.

Burton:

Popular worldwide for being a leading manufacturer for snowboarding equipment and clothing; Burton have created a modern and well-designed website with a heavy emphasis on the world-class snowboarders who endorse the products.

The Burton website - July 2011

Whilst the site is very well-made and extremely informative, little attention is paid to the e-commerce side, with only a small ‘shop online’ link in the top right-hand side. Any customer going to their site to purchase their products would find it quite hard to locate the online shop; confused by the lack of shopping categories in the navigation bar – as has become standard for most e-commerce sites.

Louis Vuitton:

Reflecting its refined and luxurious clothing and accessories; the Louis Vuitton site is sophisticated, with endless rolling pictures of their fashion shows. In the right-hand corner, the ‘e-shopping’ link looks like an after-thought.

The Louis Vuitton website - July 2011

Luxury brands have been much slower than others to embrace selling on the internet; wanting to keep that distance between the brand and the customer, reinforcing their superiority and unattainability. Whilst this is exactly the impression given from the site; it may not be an entirely effective approach when it comes to sales.

Iceland:

Unlike its food retailer counterparts; Iceland has decided not to have an e-commerce site, instead using their website as an information point; giving prices, history of the brand, and a store finder. Because food shopping online has become so commonplace, users will go to Iceland’s website expecting to be able to make an order, and become frustrated when they can’t find where to do this.

The Iceland website - July 2011

Morrisons:

Similarly to Iceland, Morrisons still don’t sell online, despite the opportunity to make billions of pounds. As well as losing out on sales, the brand reputation of Morrisons may be tarnished slightly every time a user lands on their web page expecting to be able to order food.

The Morrisons website - July 2011

Burberry:

The Burberry website is an example of a brand which has the balance right. Burberry’s homepage is a montage of high-fashion and catwalk photographs, telling you immediately what kind of brand they are; and when you click-through; you can buy the product in the photo, making it a functional e-commerce design.

The Burberry website - July 2011

As you can see from the picture below, Burberry didn’t always sell online. Being a luxury brand, Burberry didn’t acquire the e-commerce aspect until 2006, but now they’ve embraced the benefits of an online platform and provided great brand interactivity with their customers, as well as making product sales clear and simple.

The Burberry website - September 2004

Converse:

Converse also has an effective balanced site. They’ve created an interactive site with hints dotted around as to what they’re about and what their shoes are for. The navigation bar includes options for ‘Music’, ‘Basketball’, ‘Skateboarding’, ‘Style’; giving you a strong idea about the brand’s style and purpose, whilst still being an effective e-commerce tool.

The Converse website - July 2011

Why it’s important to get the balance right:

Although the overriding focus of an e-commerce site is to make a sale, this isn’t necessarily only achieved by simple navigation and a clear user-journey. Creating a brand identity ensures there’s that something extra or different from the other retailers, setting a brand apart from its competitors.

When a customer lands on a website, not only do they want to buy something, but they’re looking for some engagement from the brand. A good brand experience leads to trust and brand loyalty, which in turn leads to a good customer-base who will return to buy from the site again.

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