Digital interactions is expected to influence $0.64 cents for every dollar spent in retail stores, to the tune of $2.2 trillion, in 2015.
Now more than ever, the importance of paying special attention to your brand online can't be overstated.
In fact, in a recent study conducted by Deloitte Digital, analyzing over 2 million data points to understand how consumers engage with digital when shopping, it was revealed that 76% of consumers interact with brands or products before arriving at the store.
In other words, even if you do business offline, majority of your potential customers will research you online before visiting your store, and their minds will be made up before getting to your store.
Here are some tips to help take charge of your brand online:
1. Get Your Brand Name, and User Perception, Right from the Start
While there are several brands doing just fine without having stellar names, the biggest brands in the world have names that are easy to remember.
Online, things spread like wildfire in an instant; ensuring that you have the right brand name guarantees that the right message is being spread about you.
Here are some brand name lessons from some of the world's biggest brands:
They instantly convey an idea; think "Talk Talk." It makes perfect sense that this is the name of a major telecommunications company.
"Bing" also comes to mind in this regards; I don't know about you, but to me Bing signifies action; "Bing!" For a search engine, it makes sense that this communicates that you'll get quick and instant results.
The most effective brand names, especially when you don't have big budgets, are easy to understand; upon hearing your name, users instantly have an idea what your brand is about.
They elicit an emotion; consider the emotion you want your brand to convey in users. Apple, for example, got its name during one of Steve Jobs' fruitarian diets. Steve had just come back from an apple farm and he thought the name was "fun, spirited and not intimidating". Ask most Apple fans and they'll agree!
They are simple and catchy; while Google is a household name now, with "Google it!" basically meaning to search for something, this wouldn't have been possible if the name "Google" wasn't simple and catchy.
If you're struggling to find a catchy brand/domain name, try searching for available ones on Brandbucket.com, a marketplace for brandable business names.
Endpoint: If 76% of your users will be deciding about your brand before getting to your store, you better damn well get things right from the start.
2. Be Everywhere
According to Data-Driven Customer Experiences: The New Battleground for Winning Customer Loyalty, a whitepaper published by DataMentors, LLC, "Consumers interact with brands through any number of channels, such as email, customer service departments, social media, in-store visits, and on-line shopping."
This message is further amplified by an age old marketing principle known as the rule of 7; this is the concept that your customers need to hear your marketing message, or be exposed to your brand, at least 7 times before doing business with you.
All those brands we can't seem to forget, that we do business with on an almost daily basis, we've probably heard about them a million times.
It's a silly mistake to constrain yourself to one marketing channel and expect your brand to take off. That just won't happen.
Use every medium possible; email, social media, ads, partnerships with other brands, etc. to get the word out about your brand as best as you can. This solidifies your brand image in users' minds and makes them more likely to do business with you.
3. Involve Your Users
Research has shown that 89% of users will feel more loyal to a brand if they were invited to take part in a group.
User involvement is more important today than ever, and having your users have a say in the direction of your brand will make them more loyal and committed; this makes it more of "their brand" than just your brand, and this alone is a deciding factor when it comes to brand perception.
Coca Cola is one major brand that gets this right, and they've been immensely successful by involving their users.
There are several ways to involve users; you can ask for their opinion and let them know that it'll shape the direction your brand takes, you can ask them to record themselves using your product and share it on social media while tagging you, and you can invite them to come and share their experience on your blog or online portal.
These are a few, seemingly insignificant, steps that can go a long way to instill brand loyalty.
4. Focus on the User Experience
It has been observed that millennials are more "experience-loyal" than "brand-loyal," and considering that they influence the success of a lot of brands today, especially considering we're in the digital age, you'll do well to take note.
Part of growing your brand is cultivating a certain user experience that your users find satisfying; for Apple, this experience is the exclusivity of their devices.
You also shouldn't ignore your website in this process; carefully monitor what users are doing on each page of your website, observe what they interact more with and what seems like a drawback, and focus on improving this.
5. Prioritize Customer Support
Once you've set the foundation for your brand, nothing else is as powerful as quality customer support; negative customer support can destroy a brand overnight, and nothing forms an opinion, positive or negative, in the mind of your customers better than their interaction with your customer support agents.
Research from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs has shown that news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience.
When customers are unhappy, they start to talk; you won't like what they'll say, and it'll go a long way to influence your brand perception in the mind of others.
Zappos, a major brand that made over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales before selling to Amazon, attributes their growth mainly to customer support. This is telling indeed, and shows how immensely powerful prioritizing customer support is.
It's easy to attempt to game search engines, try to manipulate things or use other shady tactics to grow your brand but, eventually, those tactics will damage your brand faster than they grew it.
The above tips will help you build a solid, lasting brand online.
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