Brand Differentiation: How Online Retailers Can Stand Out in the Crowd
June 22, 2018
by David Abbou
From personalization and product recommendation engines, to social engagement solutions and AI-powered chatbots, there’s a seemingly endless list of technologies online retailers test and implement at any given time. At the heart of these investments is the goal of intelligently automating and optimizing the retail customer experience at all stages of the online sales funnel.
But as these valuable technologies become the industry norm for online retailers and redefine customer expectations, achieving brand differentiation in the crowded and competitive landscape can be challenging for digital commerce executives.With so many retailers competing for today’s online shopper, carving out your brand’s unique identity remains the most powerful customer experience success factor of them all. Click To Tweet
Magento founder Roy Rubin emphasized why this is such a critical priority in our recent ebook The Customer Journey: A 360° View from Top eCommerce Executives
“Customers today can acquire similar products in many places, so building loyalty is never just about the products, it has to be about your brand,” explains Rubin. “What creates affinity for consumers is the way you tell your brand’s story and how well your customers can relate to that story. Differentiation has always been and will continue to be the main priority.”
Harnessing technology to better understand customer needs is key, but the value of this information can enhance a lot more than just your online sales. Embedding these insights into your and what you stand for is what builds long-term customer loyalty.
Just like there’s no one way to make the perfect pasta dish, adding the individual flavor of your brand’s unique story or heritage may mean stepping outside of the box and making some bold decisions.
Here are a couple of examples of online retailers that have found success in their brand differentiation strategies.
REI stays true to its values and builds a lasting connection with its customer base
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of outdoor and recreational goods retailer REI’s bold #OptOutside brand marketing campaign — where for the past three years they closed their stores on Black Friday, and instead gave their employees a paid day off and encouraged them to enjoy the outdoors.
Not opening on what is undoubtedly one of the top shopping days of the year could be seen as a major risk to most online retailers. But REI’s daringness to tell a unique brand story that reflects company values such as environmentalism and appreciation of nature has resonated with their target audience, garnered them multiple industry awards. While this non-traditional approach may not make sense for every online retail brand, this is one example where not following the industry norm can pay off big dividends for your brand association.
A unique brand identity is most effective when you’re able to deliver that promised online retail experience to your customers, not only before but after they buy your products.
In REI’s case, they’ve invested into educating shoppers on how to care for their products and earned a reputation for hassle-free returns and exchanges that has helped give their customers the confidence to keep coming back.
TUMI investing in heritage built on durability and customer service
One of the biggest concerns for travelers is what happens when something goes wrong with their luggage when their abroad. For many customers, the level of support they get in such predicaments leaves much to be desired. Premium business and travel product retailer TUMI recognized this as an opportunity for both brand differentiation and enhancing their customers’ experience. One way they’ve done this is using their offline footprint to their advantage and investing in international repair centers that their customers can walk into and get help with their product.
In the ebook, TUMI’s chief digital officer Charlie Cole identifies this as a top priority when it comes to improving the customer experience:
“We have got to get back to our roots of how we service our customers because it is a point of differentiation. For global brands, offering a high level of support opens up opportunities to delight customers in a way that no one else can.”
Cole also shared how TUMI is actively investing in sharing their brand story and focusing on producing durable products to online shoppers:
“A big priority is getting our brand’s unique story out there, and letting consumers know what sets it apart from others. Heritage is not something you can manufacture, so we’re looking forward to embracing it more and telling that story in a more impactful way online.”
Every brand has a story to tell. Be authentic and share yours with your customers – you’ll deepen your relationship with them, provide them a better experience, and help your business along the way.