Please forgive this long post but bear with me as I believe it can add some value to small brands who are struggling in terms of sales and maintaining loyal customers. Whilst I appreciate the importance of a sales focus there is an underlying element that most companies are neglecting and one which they need to rectify ASAP. This key element that I believe they are forgetting is the BRAND.
Gaining high web rankings and generating sales used to be easier than it is now. 18 months ago you could set up a website and combine Google Adwords with some low cost advertising to gain visitor clicks and the sales would follow. If you had good online marketing budget then you could work out your conversion rates and achieve your sales numbers with ease. This is no longer the case.
The online landscape now is very different with price no longer being a deciding factor. The sheer number of fashion brands out there means that you have to work harder to get noticed and to maintain customer loyalty. Possessing good product and a nice looking website/web shop is no longer enough. Now, you have to think about how to market your brand in the right way to create a ‘desirability factor’ that makes people want to engage with your brand, interact with it and then buy your product. I believe this is where many online store are currently very weak.
Creating Brand Desirability
Desirability needs to come from within the company. Rather than relying on product to sell a brand you need to develop and project the personality of the brand’s core values and origins. For example, young fashion shoppers are not entirely led by price. They are led by emotion and the fact that they must own an item of clothing for a specific emotional reason – because it makes them feel and look good.
There are many brands out there that have poor product and a rubbish website but they have an avid following because they spend time and effort engaging with their customers and delivering exciting ways to keep them interested and stimulated. In short, their fans and customers want to be a part of their company and a part of their ‘movement’.
The retailer Jack Wills had a formula that mesmerised it’s audience. The clothing was good quality and premium priced BUT they knew how to create that buzz and desirability through the lifestyle side. Jack Wills created a demand for their product by presently the ultimate lifestyle which every teenager and student wanted, through music, parties, skiing, travel, etc. Much of it was elitist but that gave the brand an distinct ‘desirability factor’ that made people want it even more. Not everybody liked it and they received a lot of negativity but that ‘take it or leave it’ attitude created a divide where advocates defended it and others hated it. In some cases, people who initially disliked the brand, eventually became advocates. I guess what I am saying is that they didn’t want to be a brand that just ‘sat on the fence’. Any negative press they received always made them stronger and drove more people to the stores and the site.
What do small brands and companies need to do?
To grow a successful business online you need to tap into your audience and find a way to inspire them. I don’t want to preach to much but there is a famous Steve Jobs quote where he says “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. With the success of Apple and the iPad he was obviously right. He changed the way people surf the web.
For example, students and the younger shoppers have more time and more disposable income on their hands and they are online more than anyone. They are always the early adopters of technology and fashions which means you have to be seen to be the same. They are not stupid so if you try too hard to be ‘down with the kids’ or try to replicate what has been done in the past you will fail. If you push sales messages down their throats you will fail. There are many brands out there who are trying to copy the Jack Wills and the Abercrombies that have failed and the failure has been an expensive mistake. The answer is to be unique, edgy and stick to your company’s core values.
Key drivers for young shoppers have always been fashion, music, partying, sport and events. In my opinion you need to come up with a formula where you can tap into all of these areas to create a lifestyle that they want to be a part of. You need to be seen to be edgy and not afraid to take risks. You then need to project this lifestyle through your website and social media channels to create the buzz around the brand, making people engage with it to create repeat visitors and promote customer loyalty.
I am not say that this is going to be easy and but any brand can grow to become a huge brand if you take the time to do this right. Rather than market the brand externally, brand owners and marketers should invest in creating exciting and engaging content from within, in the form of visually stimulating blogs and videos which markets the brand effectively. Good content becomes shareable and viral which then in turn creates repeat visitors, increased visitor traffic, more inbound links, higher rankings in Google and more revenue generation.
The technical side of ecommerce is still very important but even the best websites cannot convert if people are not engaged in your brand and your products do not have the desirability factor. On the SEO side, website popularity is now more than ever focused on creating quality inbound links from other websites and Google is also looking at the ‘social footprint’ of brands. If you can start to grow in social popularity through good content then it will enable you to drastically increase the number of inbound links from other quality sites. Inbound links are like endorsements to your site. Without these, it is impossible to be at the top. If you start to get these then increased visitors and sales will follow!
Examples of successful small online brands
There are number of small brands that most people have never heard of and who understand and engage with their customers successfully. Rather than throw money at paid advertising or tempting people with too many product offers, they have developed a content strategy that projects their brand in a way that people react to.
Here are a few examples where you can learn a lot.
SANUK (Shoes and Flip Flops)
DOLLAR SHAVE CLUB (Razor Blades)
INCASE (Bags and Technology Cases)
CREATURE SKATEBOARDS (Skateboards)
Take a look at their blogs and social media channels to gain a feel for what these guys do. They stay true to their brand but they encourage interaction on a massive scale and the sales follow.
The cost of creating great website content can be very low. You don’t need to spend a ton of cash on creating great content. If you have no budget there do not fear. The quality of the camera on many phones is perfect for You Tube and web usage. You can also edit and add some great effects to content online for free with the likes of Pic Monkey, Instagram and Magisto.
For inspiration, look at the brands I have mentioned above and also look at the Pintrest and Google images because you will find some very creative people on there who have managed to make even the dullest products look inspiring. Give it a go and you may even fine you are a natural. All you really need is time!
Every online brand should be looking to create great content to keep their customers engaged. This is nothing new but it is now more important than ever to make the effort to do it right. Good content should be easily shareable, be viewable across multiple platforms and not necessarily be sales focused. The aim of create content is to stimulate an ’emotion’ in your customer. By doing so, you will form a bond with them, they will gain confidence in your brand and you will then have a loyal customer under your wing.
Be clever, be creative and stick to your brand values.