Digital Doughnut Contributor
Digital Doughnut Contributor 28 December 2018

Retailer online identity: with brand confidence comes creativity

You’d think by now, over 20 years on from the launch of Amazon and eBay, that retailers would have their digital experiences well refined. But the fast-changing nature of e-commerce means there are often gaps between what shoppers want and what retailers are offering them online, supporting the case for some serious soul searching across the industry.

Recent research from search company EmpathyBroker brought the full effects of retailers’ lack of control over their online personas to light, with its study of 1,500 people suggesting that 40% of consumers are unable to differentiate between one online brand and another.

Here, on behalf of Astound Commerce Samuel Cane explains how this is unacceptable when you consider the large number of retailers talking about the digital transformation they are embarking on.

If the end result is that over one-third of people have got no idea who you are, then there’s something seriously wrong going on with branding and design – retailers must be more confident about who they are, and that requires some self-assessment.

Cause and effect

Amazon with its quick-to-checkout capabilities, ASOS with its social media integration and personalisation, Boohoo with its punchy tone and clear customer demographic, and Fat Face with its solid and confidently-conveyed brand image, are among the businesses so many retailers want to replicate online.

That speaks volumes about this particular quartet of retailers, which incidentally represent some of the clear winners in today’s retail market that is so often defined by sales, profit and margin declines, but it also speaks of a lack of creativity among the wider chasing pack.

Many retailers are looking to replicate rather than revolutionise, and that is a dangerous mentality to find oneself in considering retail is such a competitive and emotive industry.

According to the EmpathyBroker survey, many consumers believe retailers struggle to build an authentic digital brand identity with 46% of respondents saying retailers still convey more of a brand personality in their stores than they do online. In addition, 48% of those questioned felt e-commerce experiences are often more impersonal than when they shop with the same brand in a store.

The reason the aforementioned retailers have made such a positive impact and, probably, the reason they are driving sales growth and customer recruitment is because they know who they are – they are not trying to be somebody else. There’s a lot to be said for establishing that type of strong identity.

Disrespecting dotcom

Brands lacking creativity and those looking to follow others are disrespecting themselves – there are so many different avenues to explore in terms of online positioning and messaging, and every brand has its own unique story to tell.

In the age of experience that so many commentators keep talking about, where being ‘in the moment’, and an emotional attachment to places, people and things can often trump physical ownership of items, it is in brands’ interest to tap into the psyche. They need to give people something to talk about, as well as providing the fundamental transactional function.

When customers converse about ASOS, they say ‘have you used that visual search tool? or ‘did you see that really useful feature for saving favourite items’; when they discuss Amazon, they tend to say something like ‘two clicks and the product was with me the next day’. For Boohoo, it might be ‘it was so easy to navigate their website, I ended up buying everything!’.

I would ask every brand that seeks to work with my design team ‘what do you want your customers to be saying about you?’ and ‘what is it about your brand that resonates with customers?’. This type of consultative approach to ecommerce design and re-platforming, joined up with a compelling marketing message, is crucial if brands are to tell the right stories and ensure people know who they are.

Far too many retailers are going for the cookie cutter approach to online web development and design, in the hope they will catch the eye a la Amazon, ASOS, Boohoo and Fat Face. My view is that retailers need to respect their history and respect what they stand for, before making this message clear for the modern age and shouting about it through the online channel.

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