Ecommerce Branding: How to establish your store as a brand (lessons from successful brands)

Ecommerce Branding

Every ecommerce business owner cares deeply about making money through the internet. Conversions and potential leads are considered the big scores of an ecommerce website. Small businesses fight harder to become popular enough so that a customer visits their website at the time of need. There is a special kind of currency that ecommerce businesses can make, which can’t be printed on paper. It’s called branding. People will visit your store when they feel a deep connection to it, when they love your story.

Branding is the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products- Entrepreneur

If you succeed in creating an ecommerce “brand,” half of the job is finished. Just like athletes run to Nike or Adidas stores for supplies, if your story is powerful enough, people will approach your site for purchase. However, in the early stages, a business owner will struggle to stay afloat. It takes time and effort to continue investing in a brand until it ultimately looks credible. We all have seen some amazing brands that were born in front of our eyes, and then gripped our attention so well that we couldn’t live without them. The picture below is an example:


The internet is a wonderful place. It gives customers many ecommerce stores from which to choose. Brand loyalty has been decreasing, and the power has shifted from the seller to the consumer. So how can an ecommerce business owner combat that? By building and nurturing a brand strategy so well that people relate to your story and want to become a part of it.

How do you develop a brand strategy?

For those of you who are not fully aware of the term “brand strategy,” please know that it means more than selling stuff. A successful brand strategy is developed by considering the following:

  • The mission your store will serve.
  • The specific qualities you want people to associate with your store.
  • The way customers think about your store.
  • The solutions you provide to your customers.

To identify these qualities, you can easily perform market research and analyze the results. Just remember that an excellent brand begins with strong foundations. Customers are very interested in the founding story of a brand. Make sure you have an idea, a distinguishing factor to present to the customer.

Let’s take a look at some of the world’s most favorite ecommerce stores and analyze how they climbed the ladder to success.


Amazon’s Story

Amazon is one of the most popular ecommerce stores in the world. Hundreds and hundreds of product pages and global recognition keep it strong. It might sound a bit weird that an ecommerce store can sell everything, but the world’s largest e-store has managed that claim fairly well. While your store may have only a few product pages, you can look at Amazon’s strategy and take some branding lessons.


The start of Amazon is one of the most popular business stories in the world. It has succeeded in making a customer-centric brand position. The founder, Jeff Bezos, left his high-paying job and founded a bookselling company. The company was first run from his garage, and gradually ascended from selling books to U.S. customers to selling everything to the whole world!

With this story, Amazon has always been able to maintain its image as an organization that cares about its customers. The customer-centric approach provides high brand value and still distinguishes its entrepreneurial grass roots from other brands. People really tune into emotions. When your brand tells an emotional story, people feel attracted to it. Listen to Jeff’s story here.

Ask anyone what differentiates Amazon from its competitors and they’re likely to answer, “Product variety, a customer-centric approach and prices.” When Amazon sold books, the tagline was “Earth’s biggest bookstore.” As Amazon expanded, it became “the world’s largest retailer.” Today, a customer can expect to find anything at the store, even some things that they can’t find anywhere else. This enormous product variety will forever distinguish Amazon from its competitors.


Story of Threadless

If you are a graphic designer or love to wear t-shirts designed by graphic designers, chances are you have heard of Threadless. They are an online community where t-shirt designers can upload and use t-shirt designs. Their story is also very simple and relatable.

“When I was growing up, my only options for clothing, especially t-shirts, were to wear big corporate logos and brand names across my chest. Threadless is all about art on tees. There are no logos, no branding… so I find that really exciting, that you can wear t-shirts that just have amazing art on them, you don’t have to wear a logo.” – Teehunter.com – Threadless Co-founder Jake Nickell Interview

What distinguishes Threadless from other brands is their story from the beginning. We all feel restricted in t-shirt options and want to wear something that stands out. Threadless provides a creative solution to that problem.

According to referral candy:

Threadless was started by Jake Nickell and Jacob DeHart in 2000, based on the idea of a community where designers could submit designs, get paid, gain recognition and wear the coolest T-shirts.

The idea proved to be a hit, as more than 10,000 members signed up by 2002, and they sold $100,000 worth of shirts, according to Inc. Four years after their inception, Threadless was reaping in approximately $1.5 million in profits, and this figure jumped to $6.5 million in 2006.

Their idea was unique. It paid people who uploaded their own designs and provided customers with newer clothing options. It was a win-win situation.

They emerged by word of mouth, when the founder went all around the web and commented on blog posts and engaged with Threadless followers. They also held contests on their site. This specific idea, of spreading through word of mouth, became the distinguishing factor for Threadless.

We like the idea of it spreading via word of mouth, organically, naturally. It’s not that we don’t market, we just don’t advertise. I’d rather somebody hears about Threadless through an article in a magazine than an advertisement in a magazine. – Jake Nickell, in an interview with Techradar

When a designer was featured on the site, they automatically urged their friends and family to vote, increasing the recognition. They could also turn the designs to Threadcakes – edible art.


Due to these various contests, they didn’t have to work on marketing or promotion, and they became a hit with a targeted community.

Diapers.com’s story

Marc Lore co-founded diapers.com with his friend Vinit. They refer to their customers as “moms.” They rely highly on their customer service. Their start was really interesting. If you couldn’t’ find a product in the store, they would get it for you from a competitor. The day before yesterday, a mom really needed a car seat for the weekend, and there was no way UPS was going to get there on time, because UPS comes late on that particular day. But UPS comes to the customer service rep’s home in the morning. So the rep had it shipped to her house in the morning, and then she drove it over to the mom’s house. We’re doing 6,000 orders a day, but that stuff still happens all the time.” – Inc.com  – The Way I Work: Marc Lore of Diapers.com


They realized that the potential for diaper business is immense on the web. Orders started pouring in the day they went live. They had losses in terms of shipment money, but they kept going because of the high demands. “Unable to buy from the major manufacturers, Lore and Bharara forged a practical solution. When an order came into the website, DePaola (a college friend of Lore’s) would run down to the local BJ’s Wholesale Club in her minivan to pick up diapers. Then she would ship them out. By the end of the first week, she was shipping 20 to 30 packages a night.

By building that relationship of trust with their customers, or “moms,” they evolved into a successful business which now sells everything for babies on the web. Diapers.com was bought by Amazon in 2012 for $545 million.


Beardbrand’s story

Eric Bandholz has an awesome beard, and this was the sole reason behind his idea of making Beardbrand. He even won over SEO-savvy Rand Fishkin of Moz! I was also involved on various communities online, from Reddit to Beardboard.com and BeardedGents.com. […]  I think it helps that I’m passionate about what we are building and people see that in me. With my YouTube videos, I’ve made a lot of how-to videos that people have really liked. –Eric Bandholz

This simple idea has developed into a successful brand. Eric has built a community of people who maintain a beard and want to make their beard as glorious as Eric’s. The ecommerce store is like no other. Their brand is built around being the pioneer of providing beard-related supplies. It is no longer weird to have a beard because Beardbrand has made it fashionable. Customers love their brand and feel deeply attached to it.

Esquire, New York Times, Yahoo and countless other outlets have covered Beardbrand, which makes the brand even more credible. When a brand is publicized so much because it’s one-of-a-kind, any person who isn’t buying that brand will feel left out. Check their Instagram “Beardbrand.” You will find everything, including tools, combs, beard oils and washes. They have it all.


Birchbox’s story

Birchbox is a popular box service that delivers beauty supplies to customers in a box for a monthly subscription. In April 2016, they made $60 million. The distinguishing factor of Birchbox is that it provides customers with something that is unique. The key to building a successful business is to research the market before launching your idea, understand the flaws of demand and supply and then create a strategy to change that.


“And the reason was because it’s extra challenging to develop an online business for beauty, because it has a touch, try and feel element to it. So that, coupled with the fact that Hayley had a best friend [Mollie Chen] who was a beauty editor, really inspired the idea because [Hayley]’s a very passive beauty consumer, but she always had the best products, and I always noticed it. I would ask, “Why do you have the newly launched Benefit mascara?” And she would say, “Oh Mollie gave it to me.” All the time! – Mashable – Beauty Delivered: How Birchbox Is Disrupting the Cosmetics Industry


People talk about women’s fashion, but nobody really pays attention to beauty. You read about a great product, but can’t lay your hands on it. Birchbox makes sure you get the beauty supplies that you like on Instagram. Editorial departments and ecommerce should go hand in hand, making customers’ lives easy. Birchbox revolutionized beauty by making it more accessible. People love to subscribe to the service because it solves their difficulty of accessing a cosmetic product.

Thus, their brand is built around customer ease.


Last word

You can browse the web for more success stories, and in each story you will find one thing in common: they all had something unique to offer, something so groundbreaking that people had to be attracted. Build a business that is rooted in honesty and trust and tells a great story. Change the rules of the game. Make a customer-centric foundation and go out of the way to help people.

Now that you have learned some basic rules of branding your ecommerce business, get going!

Moosa Hemani

Moosa is a seasoned online marketing professional with a strong interest in SEO, E-Commerce and what makes users flow from visitor to customer. Moosa is responsible for all content on the Awesome Commerce website.

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