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The importance of branding in e-commerce

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Amid a pandemic-induced recession it’s more important than ever to differentiate your brand from the competition.

At a time when e-commerce adoption is accelerating, it’s more important than ever to differentiate your brand from the competition. However, e-commerce has become synonymous with performance marketing, as businesses focus on consideration and conversion tactics and metrics. While that might be all well and good in the short-term, at some point growth will plateau as brands squeeze out every possible dollar from a limited userbase.

When everything is trackable and measurable, it’s easy to fall into this common pitfall and become purely sales-focused, with similar product-heavy advertising, calls to action, and discount promotions to the rest of the market. But by doing so, eventually, brands will end up looking and sounding the same on e-commerce platforms while racing to the bottom of pricing wars.

Historically, the purpose of brand awareness campaigns was to maintain or improve top-of-mind (TOM) and build brand equity, so people would be encouraged to buy a brand’s products in-store. So why isn’t e-commerce being treated in the same way?

To ensure success, full-funnel marketing strategies should extend to e-commerce too. Focusing only on performance will lead e-commerce growth to eventually plateau. But by coupling upper-funnel brand awareness campaigns with mid-to-lower funnel performance marketing it widens the funnel to generate incremental sales. Indeed, e-commerce platforms operating in the region have already recognized this. For example, Namshi, Net-a-Porter, The Outnet, Noon and Amazon are already using traditional media like TV and out-of-home (OOH) to create brand awareness and grow their customer base.

Here are our top tips for building brand awareness online:

  1. Review your brand messaging and campaign messaging to see how you can adapt or extend for e-commerce.

  2. Review your e-commerce content and creative. It should match your brand’s look and feel, as well as tone of voice. Brand guidelines must extend to all your touchpoints, including your e-commerce presence.

  3. Include your e-commerce URLs/app name on your creative/in your video content so people can remember it. If you’re running a TV ad, have the voice over (VO) mention that you're now online, or include a call to action to visit your site or download your app. And consider media formats that enable people to perform these actions, like online video or smart TV ads that capitalize on OTT streaming audiences.

  4. Run brand awareness campaigns on marketplaces. E-commerce platforms like Amazon, Noon and Jumia offer visibility and key calendar events to generate awareness. Don’t solely rely on deals and pricing as in the long run, this can hurt your brand equity. Instead, generate awareness about your best sellers and new product launches to drive growth. Amazon also allows some non-endemic brands (those who don’t sell on Amazon) to advertise on its network, using its exclusive shopper data for targeting and direct users to your site.

  5. Extend your digital brand awareness campaigns to direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce to capture and re-target throughout the customer journey. This means using brand messaging from your latest campaign and adapting it for e-commerce purposes.

  6. When it comes to measuring success for e-commerce, there are many ways beyond return on ad spend (ROAS) to look at it depending on your category, such as growth in share of market (SOM), as well as measuring brand uplift and purchase intent metrics then analysing how it impacts sales growth over time.

Apple is a great example of brand that has always focused on branding while maintaining a consistent experience and pricing across channels. By building its brand and treating e-commerce as an equal channel to in-store, it continues to generate demand without compromise.

Ultimately, building brand equity on e-commerce is a competitive advantage that will result in higher sales, higher revenues, and lower costs over time.

It’s time for e-commerce players to race to the top.

Nagham Akileh, senior director e-commerce strategy, MENA, OMG Transact.

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