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5 brand imperatives for holiday (and beyond)

October 23, 2011

jessonline

It’s prime time. The holiday season starts now.

Motivating shoppers is more challenging than ever. Shoppers are more thoughtful about the purchases they make, and far more likely to shop around for the best offers, policies and site experiences before they take out their wallets.

Getting people to your website is just the first obstacle. Next, you need to give them a reason to care about engaging with your brand- and not just because you have the best price or shipping offer. It’s about branding: delivering value on a meaningful emotional level, to make your website a destination worth bookmarking, and returning to, again and again. Your brand is your most significant competitive advantage. Make sure you’re well positioned with these 5 imperatives, and they will serve you well, long after the Holiday season has passed.

1. Play up your intrinsic brand value. Who are you, and how are you differentiating? Is it a philosophy? An aesthetic? Your policies? Your expertise? If you don’t have the answer, your customers are not likely to find it, either. Spend the time to figure out what it is, and develop content, messaging and events to support it.  It can be advice that differentiates you as the expert. It can be your opinion, that positions you as the authority. It can be the aesthetic, with visuals, copy and design that create compelling emotional connection. Consumers need a compelling reason to shop with you. What is yours?

2. Embody the brand, in all that you do. Create a voice and visual language for your brand, and be consistent. Whether it’s a product launch, a sale event, an editorial message, or a customer service email, it should convey a tone and quality that is uniquely you. Shopping is emotional. Any single incongruous communication can create a disconnect that gives your customer pause. Consistency makes your brand believable, dependable, and uniquely appealing.  You can continue to react to external factors like the economy, in a way that is motivating, yet uniquely you.

3. Be consistent at every touchpoint. Brand equity is about trust. Without consistency, customers begin to lose faith in you. Without trust, you will lose customer loyalty. Without loyalty…you risk losing repeat customers and brand evangelists who could bring in new traffic. It takes time to gain your customer’s trust in you as a brand, but a single bad experience can jeopardize it. Brand consistency takes vigilance- and training throughout the organization. Your leaders need to know it, nurture it, and police it. Everyone needs to live the brand, in every role, at every level. Start by looking inward: Shop your own site, stores, and print materials often. Call customer service for help with a size or product question. Look for customer service and read the FAQ’s on the website. Make an actual return. Ask yourself: is this a good brand experience?

4. Listen to your customers. They may not always accurately predict their future behavior, but they can tell you how they feel. And how they feel is an important measure of how your brand is doing. Let’s face it: your brand is what your customers think it is.  Make sure it’s who you want to be.

5. Make it great. Be the best at what you do, and move it forward. What’s great today, is status-quo tomorrow. So push for what’s the next big, great thing you’ll center your efforts around. Solve a problem your shoppers didn’t know they had. Make it ever-easier to shop. Whether it’s a tool, a value proposition- or an event, make sure that you’re keeping it fresh. It’ll give you something to promote that isn’t about price, and creates a reason for customers to keep coming back. And that’s a win-win for everyone.

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