Why a brand-forward and personalized ecommerce experience is essential.

10 Minutes

It’s about connection.

With the rise of ecommerce and an abundance of shopping options, consumers have plenty of choices when it comes to buying products or services online. More than ever, users want to be emotionally connected to the brands they interact with. They care about the company’s principles and backstory almost as much as they do about the products themselves.

When a brand’s digital space can be the first, and sometimes only, interaction point for most people, you need to make sure you stand out and make a lasting impression on your audiences. This is where a brand-forward and personalized experience can come into play

80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences.

Epsilon Research Report

A brand-forward ecommerce experience is increasingly crucial in today’s digital world. If your brand looks exactly like the others, why would a customer want to buy from you? What sets you apart? 

First, let’s look at what it means to be brand-forward in terms of customer engagement vs brand engagement:

  • Customer engagement: The interactions your customer has with a company directly, such as buying something, filling out a survey, or visiting their website.
  • Brand engagement: The emotional connection your customer has with a brand that goes beyond product and service interactions.

If you’re simply focused on customer engagement, there is rarely a connection with your audience. Which is fine if you’re just running and gunning, hoping to catch a sale. But turning one-time shoppers into lifelong customers takes a little more effort.

What makes you, well, you?

For starters, a brand-forward ecommerce experience helps differentiate your brand from competitors. You can showcase the unique aspects of your brand, such as product offerings, brand story, and values that your company is passionate about and isn’t afraid to share with the world. Only then can you stand out in a crowded marketplace and appeal to consumers who are looking for something more than just a product and a transaction. 

When we work with an ecommerce brand, we focus on the bigger brand picture – its values, mission, and personality – to create an online shopping experience that’s not only functional but also memorable and enjoyable. What we try to avoid is cookie cutter, templated soulless sites that might do a lot of talking but not really saying much. These aren’t helpful for anyone and won’t get you anywhere when it comes to your customers’ ecommerce journeys with you.

Check out some of the brands that we admire for their brand-forward experiences. You’re probably familiar with most of them but maybe that’s why we added them in here. If it ain’t broke…

1. Cream of the crop: Nike

Not only is it named the world’s top sports brand year after year by its industry but Nike is beloved by most people you ask just out on the street. So, it’s no surprise it’s top of our list when it comes to their website – a strong brand-forward ecommerce experience. From their humanizing marketing stories to their educational products campaigns that carry more than just a message to buy, buy, buy. The look and feel is always undeniably Nike and their values shine through every effort they put forth. It’s no wonder so many people try to emulate them. 

2. Been killing it for awhile: lululemon

The ultimate lifestyle brand for the last 20 years. Certainly one of the most recognizable in the athleisurewear scene. Their site, and marketing in general, are definitely keeping it tight. Their brand story is clearly defined and shines through as you move through the website and connected marketing. Their photography is professional when it comes to product shots and casual yet still on-brand when it comes to lifestyle. When you click through from a campaign, whether from their social or a Google ad, you’re not surprised by what you find when you arrive because it transitions very well. 

3. Off the beaten path: Rollie Nation

This modern and quirky site’s main goal is to sell you shoes but the selling side isn’t really in your face, which is pretty refreshing in a world of warehouse blowout shoe brands. By using a brand-forward approach, it feels young and fresh, interactive, and entertaining.

Tailored to fit

As ecommerce sales soar to almost $5 trillion worldwide, being able to offer a personalized ecommerce customer experience is more important than ever. Customers have come to expect some level of personalization, whether they’re first-time customers or lifelong brand loyalists.

  • Feeling valued: It’s an easy way to show your customers that you care about them as a person and not just a sale.
  • Increased loyalty: Feeling valued, seen, and understood = customers are more likely to return for future purchases.
  • Improved satisfaction: Tailoring the experience to the customer’s preferences ensures your customer finds what they want quickly and efficiently.
  • Extra sales: Personalization can increase the upsell by showing products and services that are relevant to their interests and needs.

TL;DR: Personalization can set a retailer apart. In a crowded ecommerce market, a personalized experience can make you stand out from the competition.

But what about privacy?

More than ever these days, people are worried about their data. Customers are so much more informed nowadays. They appreciate a tailored experience, but not at the expense of having their data exploited.

This has led to the inevitable death of third-party cookies, which are targeted ads following someone around the web after they visit a site. Now companies are more inclined to use first-party (performance cookies that collect data about user behavior while they browse a particular website) and zero-party data (when customers intentionally give a company their information).

Both first-party and zero-party help create a more custom feel without the creepiness of cruising your favourite news site and getting bombarded with ads for the couch you were researching last week (and possibly already bought). Sure, there are still people angry that companies have any of their data at all but it’s inevitable that some of your data is available if you’re spending any time and money online. You can certainly limit it but the technology these days pretty much eliminates the ability to not have any digital fingerprints or footprints online.

What puts you on top

When it comes to a superior ecommerce experience, there are a few ways in which your site can deliver:

Don’t drop the shop

One of the biggest drop offs in the ecommerce experience is when a customer is shopping, clicks “Shop Now,” and gets bounced out into a separate, unbranded shop to buy your product. No matter how great the experience was before that, this jolt can be enough to turn a customer away. By building your shop directly into the brand site, using the same look and feel, you’ll be able to offer a clean and seamless experience that your customers will thank you for. 

Smooth and seamless

Ensuring that the design elements stay the same throughout your site is one of the easiest ways to deliver a superior brand-led experience. When we work with a brand, we create a digital style guide that can be easily followed so all the UI components are consistent across your site and other marketing materials. This, plus high quality photos and imagery helps instill user confidence in your brand. 

Say what?

Keeping the voice of your brand personality throughout not just your site but all connected channels and interactions ensures your customers are getting an immersive experience. Your ecommerce-ready site is the main brand and marketing hub for your brand and sets the tone for everything that happens in the entire purchase funnel. From an initial online ad to their first landing page interaction on the site to post-purchase and follow-up communications. 

Treated like a VIP

Not unlike your favourite barista at your favourite coffee shop remembering your name AND your drink order, adding personalization to the ecommerce funnel helps set you apart from the crowd. Treating your customers like they’re at the top of your list can be a very positive experience. Some examples of this could be special offers to first-time visitors, recommending products and services related to what they’ve already bought, or return-to-cart reminders. Personalization can also help you easily identify and understand your repeat customers, and inform them of upcoming relevant offers.

More than just a product

When you shop on somewhere like Amazon, do you ever wish there was more to the product pages? More info, more of a story on what you’re buying, more, well, pizzaz? 

Even the most bare-bones product pages can be brought to life if you have strong branding and a strong sense of your customer’s journey. An example we’ll use is the work we did for Kanto’s product pages.

When we worked with Kanto, we were able to create a strong user experience with a blend of informational iconography, video walkthroughs and installations, and at-a-glance feature lists. It all adds up to a more compelling shopping experience than your average product page. This means a more memorable experience, even on something that normally might be as dry as a highschool history class that put you to sleep in no time.

Transcend the transactional

A brand-forward ecommerce experience can create a more personal connection with customers, even if they don’t intend to buy the first time you interact. Delivering relevant and captivating content that represents and reflects the customer’s values is essential for companies to build an emotional connection with their audience. 

When a brand’s personality and values are at the forefront of the online experience, customers are more likely to feel a sense of trust and loyalty towards said brand. This can lead to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.

Engage your window shoppers

Another benefit of a brand-forward ecommerce experience is that it can increase customer engagement and satisfaction. A well-designed ecommerce site that is easy to navigate and provides a seamless shopping experience from research to add-to-cart can help to keep customers on the site longer and increase their likelihood of making a purchase. Additionally, features like product recommendations, social proof, and user reviews can help to further enhance the shopping experience and lead to higher customer satisfaction overall.

Customize to humanize 

Humanizing your ecommerce site with a brand-forward and personalized ecommerce experience is not only good business but if you do it right, it feels good for your customers too. Whenn they’re happy and loyal, they’ll be more likely to share their love for your brand with friends, family, heck, even strangers on the bus. Statistically, your sales and profits go up, and you stand out in a crowded marketplace simply by building a stronger relationship with your clientele.