Building your brand when you’re an online business can be a real challenge. Without shop shelves to showcase your offering, how do you create consumer awareness?
How do you convince a customer to search for your brand on the web and how do you keep them coming back for more? If you’re not visible on the high street and don’t have the benefit of walk-by customers, gaining traction for your brand is even more essential.
We spoke to 10 online consumer brands to find out the steps they’re taking to build brand equity and increase the value of their businesses.
Nick Segrue, CareToShare
"CareToShare brings people together to share their skills. As we sit firmly in the sharing economy/collaborative consumption space, the most important thing in building our brand equity is trust.
“This starts at the very beginning with a rating system for users to give feedback that is public on their experience with each user. We then communicate this through our PR and associated articles in print and digital media, our advertising both offline and online and extensively through our site.
“Our users know that we monitor feedback and any rogue users of the site will be removed and banned. It only takes one bad incident to quickly tarnish our brand so we constantly communicate about our trust and feedback system to existing users as well as prospective new users and in this way the CareToShare brand has grown from strength to strength."
Christian McAleenan, Christian Benedict
“Christian Benedict is an online shirt retailer that provides men’s formal shirts through a flexible, subscription service. We’re constantly thinking about how we build brand equity.
“First and foremost, building and maintaining simple brand awareness is crucial. Without that foundation, potential customers will not associate any particular values or benefits with our brand as they won’t recognise it. We do this through a mix of influencer marketing, social media (paid and unpaid), Adwords and PR, but I would add that time is also a factor in this.
“Throughout that messaging and thereafter (in retargeting, email and other channels) we try to maintain a certain message, explaining the ‘why’ behind our service – the concept that we want to save our customers time and can do so by removing the need for them to go shirt shopping.
Consistently putting across what Christian Benedict believes in, not just what we sell, helps our customers to understand who we are and this builds our brand equity.
“Finally, when customers or potential customers interact with us we try to help them in any way we can. Providing great customer service that goes above and beyond what is required ensures a strong customer experience, which in turn reflects positively on our brand.”
Andrei Vasilescu, DontPayFull
“At DontPayFull our mission is to help people pay less and save more through coupon codes and online deals. We believe the following measures are the most essential steps to build a strong brand and have helped us grow our business, bringing more than 9 million offers to consumers:
Quality product: A substandard product can never get strong brand equity. So, provide the best quality product or service which can earn the mass acclamation of whoever uses it.
Good presentation: Poor appearance of any good product or service never builds the brand. Present your product or service to the market with a damn smart get-up or appearance.
Influencer marketing: Use social influencers to endorse your product or service regularly. People love to follow celebrities of different fields and get easily convinced to use the brands endorsed by them.
Digital marketing: The fastest and easiest way to have your brand reach the right people is through digital media. Hire professional digital marketing experts to find the right ways to reach more people effectively and regularly.”
Shannon McKinley, TicketCity
“TicketCity strives to connect fans to experiences such as sporting events, concerts or festivals through an easy-to-use platform every day. However, the reason "why" we strive to do this is what we believe increases our brand equity.
“We live in a world where our primary generation of millennials values experiences over possessions, where we place our happiness in cultural experiences, social events and personal pursuits over our job status. To build-out this experience, TicketCity set a plan to take it year-by-year.
“Year one's plan was to embrace the local market by bringing experiences to them. In Austin, Texas, where we’re based, the city is comprised with a mix of locals, “keeping it weird” and millennials moving here faster than any other city in America. To introduce, and re-introduce ourselves to the city we love, we dove into our favorite city and involved ourselves in a calendar year filled with events.
“Title-sponsor of "Amplify Austin Day" which is a city-wide day of giving co-sponsored by Tito's Vodka, Dell, and others. This day raised over $9 million for local non-profits. Then, we decided to host a panel & party at the International SXSW festival right here in our backyard.
“Following the SXSW festivities, TicketCity sponsored Big League Weekend, which is a series of MLB Spring Training Games featuring the Texas Rangers. TicketCity was a sponsor of Blues on the Green, a local outdoor concert series in Austin, Texas that welcomes almost 10,000 people at Zilker Park, once a month over the summer.
“By mixing professional sports, local non-profits, an international festival and the long-standing focus of the live-music capital of the world, we could show the city of Austin that no matter how high it climbs in the Forbes rating, we are still a local company here to support and connect the millennial generation to what they really want; experiences.”
Travis Sevilla, GoShare
“GoShare is a startup company that connects van owners with people who need help moving items on demand. Brand equity is extremely vital to our success. As a young company with limited resources it's very difficult for us to attain customers. We've been able to successfully increase our brand equity through a number of channels.
“One such channel is press coverage. When news publications write about GoShare they allow us to reach their audience and make them aware of our brand. Seeing a trusted publication cover us helps to build our credibility and essentially tells people that we're a brand that should be on their radar.
“Another way we build brand equity is by having businesses that already have great brand equity advocate for us. We can spend thousands on ads that tell people how great we are, but as a small company it's very costly and unlikely to convert them into customers. We've found that people are more likely to become GoShare customers when a company with great brand equity, like Costco, can vouch for us.”
Joani DiCampli, Boobalicious Products
“I like to think I build my brand on honesty, helping others and passion. I founded Boobalicious in 2010 after I was laid off my job. Boobalicious was initially a way to help pay bills until I could find a full-time job, but a couple of years in, its purpose became much bigger.
“My daughter, who at the time was 24, was battling an addiction and she came to me asking for help. I looked up a women’s recovery centre called Miracles Do Happen and got her booked in. The moment she went away I devoted my business to her to pay for flight, board and other expenses that came with getting her in the right direction.
“A year later, I was using Boobalicious to help support my son, who was struggling with alcohol dependency. I’m pleased to say both of them have just celebrated three years and one year of sobriety, respectively.
“I am now in the process of working with Millie, the founder of Miracles Do Happen, to create a charitable foundation to provide support to those in need of recovery. Grants will cover the cost of travel to a rehab facility or sober living house and assist with one month’s rent. I will be donating 3% of Boobalicious sales, and believe this purpose helps set Boobalicious apart from other beauty brands.”
Charles Cridland, YourParkingSpace
“At YourParkingSpace.co.uk we see our customer service team as being the key driver of our brand equity. We’ve always been inspired by the Zappos culture, internally we try to follow the principles and embrace many of the ideas to deliver an exceptional customer service experience.
“Often tech companies can fall into the trap of trying to fully automate everything, including the delivery of customer support, yet in many instances an element of human contact with your customers is the best way to deliver an experience. A personal call does go a long way, and we see this close interaction as a key differentiator with competitors in our industry.
“In order to assist and monitor our performance we use TrustPilot, inviting all our customers to review their experience on the platform. Using this independent review platform helps to keep us on our toes, ensuring that we’re always innovating and improving processes, with the goal of ensuring that every customer that uses YourParkingSpace has a great experience.”
Huib Matt, Pairfum
“In today’s world where every niche is occupied, defining your USP is challenging: Why does the market actually need you? What problem do you solve? What is unique about how you solve it? After much deliberation, we defined Pairfum’s USP as:
Luxury: this means couture perfume quality, beautiful packaging and exquisite product.
Natural: this is fairly self explanatory in that our products must be natural or organic.
Healthy: our products must be healthy to use for the consumer and the environment.
Performance: we use technology and smart formulations to ensure our natural products work better than competitor’s synthetic or natural products.
“As a small company it was difficult to justify the time and resources it took to define the USP but it did become our focus and guiding light. The next challenge was to find ways of communicating this USP to the consumers in a simple way and with emotion.
“This worked best for us when we listened to customers. Which words or stories did they use about products? Through this we found a recurring theme: our customers were most excited when they told us about the compliments they received from friends and families when they used our products. This was the ‘truth’ or ‘benefit’ of our product and what in our customers’ eyes set us apart from our competitors.
“It is on the back of this that we ‘translated’ this and created the storyline for Pairfum: “Fragrances That Compliment You!” This story line should now radiate out from everything that we do: our products, website, brochures, promotions, and last but not least, in the way we interact with our customers (B2C and B2B). This is the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of our brand and it reveals the ‘truth’ behind Pairfum.”
Lisa Chu, Black N Bianco
“Building a brand is very difficult, especially for an online kids’ clothing label like us. Not only do you need a great brand message and products, but you need to be authentic and transparent. Consumers are getting more sophisticated and they expect a lot from the brands they decide to support.
“In order to stand out from the crowd, I knew I had to work on developing a deeper emotional connection between my brand and my customers. Instead of focusing purely on my products, I was trying to showcase our brand personality and our passion for what we were making.
“One of the most popular tag lines we used was "Crafting memories the whole family will treasure." It was very popular because it resonated with our target audience and it helped build an emotional association with our family values.
“However, once they make the purchase that is only the beginning of the relationship. In order to gain their loyalty we provided the same brand aesthetics and message in everything we do. From the packaging down to the little minor things like our wash care label.
“Sometimes we also like to surprise our customers by adding something extra to their order, creating a positive emotional experience with our brand. This bond we created helped us maintain our brand-customer relationship which eventually helped establish our brand credibility.”
Gene Caballero, GreenPal
“I am co-founder of GreenPal, which lets lawn owners seek bids from local lawn care companies and compare prices. We believe that unexpected, exceptional customer service should be every business’s best practice to build up brand equity with their customers.
“After brainstorming, we came up with an idea to tap into our customers’ souls through their pets. When a homeowner signs up for our service we gather information on if they have pets, and, if so, what their names are. We do this so our lawn vendors know to be careful when entering the lawn.
“We decided we could use this info about our customers to send a personalised gift to their pets, addressed to them. This really wowed our customers, we received personal thank you notes, videos of their dog chewing the bone we sent posted to Facebook and thank you tweets, it worked really well for the time and money we invested.”
Creating brand equity for online businesses is harder, especially if you don’t have a large advertising budget. But, as these examples show, creating a concept customers can buy into, providing a quality product, great service and partnering with others to spread the word, provides the foundation for growth.
When it comes to making an impression on your customers, sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference, so pay attention to the detail. A brand that can surprise and delight will be one that succeeds in being recommended.
Having customers that love you enough to recommend you is a cornerstone of brand equity. If you want to measure how much equity your brand has currently, try tracking your Net Promoter Score.